IN the past few months, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that, beginning October 1, 2017, it will expand in-person interviews for employment-based adjustment of status (“AOS” or “green card”) applicants. Historically, since the 1990s, USCIS adjudicated employment-based green card applications at service centers, without in-person interviews. The recent change in policy and practice is part of USCIS’s efforts to comply with Executive Order 13780, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” Now, all employment based AOS applications will be scheduled for in-person interviews at local field offices.
The USCIS Ombudsman’s Office held a teleconference with USCIS on September 28, 2017 to discuss this new policy. Below are some FAQs:
I am an Employment-Based green card applicant. Should I expect to be interviewed? Yes, if your adjustment application was filed after March 6, 2017. All employment-based AOS cases based on an approved Form I-140 petition will be scheduled for an interview if the AOS was filed after March 6, 2017. However, it is possible that some AOS cases filed after March 6, 2017 may still be approved without interview until this new policy is fully enacted. Notably, USCIS specifically mentioned only Form I-140 based AOS applications in the EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 categories.
What will the interview be like? What kinds of questions will be asked? The purpose of the interview is to verify the supporting documentation and information presented in the approved I-140 petition, not to re-adjudicate the petition. Nevertheless, applicants must accurately describe their employment, explain their job duties, and how they meet the experience and education requirements that qualified them for the Form I-140 petition. Officers will seek to ensure that the approved Form I-140 petition was credible. Additionally, as with all other AOS interviews, applicants must demonstrate they are otherwise admissible and do not have any criminal issues, immigration violations, or other facts that would preclude becoming a permanent resident.
Will this affect processing times? Will it take longer for my case to be approved? USCIS estimates that these cases will represent a significant increase in the Field Office workload. Despite optimistic statements that USCIS will adjust staffing as needed, the increased number of interviews will necessarily lengthen processing times for all types of AOS applications. Premium processing service is only available for certain Form I-140 petitions but not for any Form I-485 applications. Monitoring underlying visa validity, employment authorization documents, and advance parole documents will be increasingly important.
Will nterviews appen across the board, or just the “big cities”? The areas of the country with large immigrant populations, particularly in the high-tech industries, will see a disproportionate increase in the number of employment-based adjustment interviews. Specifically, USCIS expects the San Jose, San Francisco, Newark, New York City, Houston, Seattle, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, and Los Angeles Field Offices will be the ten most affected offices.
No two cases are exactly alike, and we encourage people to seek the advice of a licensed and experienced immigration attorney for questions regarding this new USCIS policy.
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Atty. Lilli Berbano Baculi is an associate attorney with Chua Tinsay & Vega, A Professional Legal Corporation (CTV) – a full service law firm with offices in San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento and Philippines. The information presented in this article is for general information only and is not, nor intended to be, formal legal advice nor the formation of an attorney-client relationship. Call or e-mail CTV for an in-person or phone consultation to discuss your particular situation and/or how their services may be retained at (619) 955-6277; (415) 495-8088; (916) 449-3923; firstname.lastname@example.org. For general information visit www.chuatinsayvega.com.