Workers Seeking Green Cards Will No Longer Be Able to Waive Interviews


Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer August 29, 2017
Workers Seeking Green Cards Will No Longer Be Able to Waive Interviews

Foreign nationals working in the United States with employment-based visas will be required to sit for an in-person interview to adjust status to permanent residency beginning Oct. 1, likely lengthening the green card application process for workers.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) publicly announced the change Aug. 28.

"While details are still forthcoming, it appears that all foreign nationals on work visas who have applied on Form I-485 to adjust their status to lawful permanent residence will now be interviewed before their applications are approved and green cards issued," said Sameer Khedekar, a partner with the Pearl Law Group, an immigration law firm in San Francisco. "The new policy will likely include all pending I-485 green card applications filed by employment-based visa holders. Employees on work visas and in the green card process who have not yet reached the I-485 stage will not be required to interview until they file the I-485 application."

Interviews are already technically part of the vetting process but are often waived, according to immigration attorney Greg Siskind, a partner at Siskind Susser, based in the Memphis, Tenn., office. "While interviews for those transitioning from employment-based visa status to green cards were standard a decade ago, waivers have been regularly granted since then," he said.

Waivers will no longer be granted, according to USCIS. The change stems from President Donald Trump's travel ban executive order signed in January and revised in March asking federal agencies to develop "a uniform baseline for screening and vetting standards and procedures, such as in-person interviews."

The policy is "part of a comprehensive strategy to further improve the detection and prevention of fraud and security risks to the United States," said Carter Langston, a spokesperson for USCIS.

However, "the lack of any pervasive fraud in the [affected] categories, the fact that the beneficiaries are already in the U.S., the continuing use of fingerprint screening and extensive security checks, and the new I-485, Supplement J to confirm the continued presence of a bona fide job offer, make [the] policy change even more unnecessary," Siskind said.

"The result will likely be over a hundred thousand more USCIS in-person interviews per year, which will certainly lengthen wait times for green card applications, especially since USCIS is already taking a very long time to process several types of petitions and applications," he added. Langston explained that the agency plans to streamline the interview process to speed it up, including offering increased training for officers.

USCIS confirmed that the in-person interview mandate will be expanded to additional categories of visas in the future.

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