August 29, 2017

Yesterday, USCIS announced that it intends to schedule in-person interviews for all employment-based green card applicants, along with refugee and asylee applicants, with a phase-in period to begin October 1. USCIS plans to expand interviews incrementally to other benefit types, as well. The press release indicates that these additional interviews will be accommodated through enhancements in training and technology, along with transitions in some aspects of case management.
This change in policy complies with the March Executive Order, "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States," and is part of the agency's comprehensive strategy to further improve the detection and prevention of fraud and further enhance the integrity of the immigration system. By regulation, in-person interviews are required for all adjustment of status applicants unless USCIS waives the interview; however, since the late 1990's, it has been USCIS policy to waive most interviews for employment-based applicants. In announcing its new policy, USCIS indicates that "conducting in-person interviews will provide USCIS officers with the opportunity to verify the information provided in an individual's application, to discover new information that may be relevant to the adjudication process, and to determine the credibility of the individual seeking permanent residence in the United States." 
What does this means for our clients?
This policy change means that employment-based applicants for permanent residence whose applications have not been adjudicated by October 1 may be required to attend an in-person interview at a local USCIS office prior to the adjudication. Given the large volume of I-485 applications adjudicated by USCIS each year without interview based on the existing interview waiver guidelines, we anticipate that there will be significant delays in processing of these applications, beginning almost immediately.
Why is this happening?
As instructed in April's "Buy American and Hire American" Executive Order, the Trump Administration is evaluating all USCIS policies and practices to determine what changes can be implemented without Congressional action. Their goal is to reduce fraud and abuse in the immigration system, and seems to also be to increase scrutiny on all immigrants and nonimmigrants to the U.S. Over the past several weeks alone, we have seen a number of policy changes which will make legal immigration much more difficult and time-consuming (you can read about some of these in our August newsletter).
It is important to note that mechanisms already exist within the current employment-based system to check for fraud and program abuse. Moreover, all adjustment of status applicants must be admissible to the United States and undergo fingerprinting and criminal and security background checks, among other screening, prior to adjudication of the I-485. Most were also subject to in-person interviews prior to nonimmigrant visa issuance outside the United States.
If you have questions about how this interview requirement may affect your employees, please contact our office.

Please note that this News Flash is provided for informational purposes only.  It does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for consulting with an attorney.

The Attorneys at RSST Law Group