By Attorneys Brittany M. Milliasseau & Nancy E. Miller
On October 2, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began implementation of its new mandatory in-person interview requirement for certain applicants seeking permanent residency.
Under this new directive, USCIS will require in-person interviews for all individuals applying for permanent residency (a green card) based on employment (i.e. where the underlying petition is under the EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 category). Refugee/Asylee relative petitions for beneficiaries who are in the United States and are petitioning to join a principal asylee/refugee applicant will also be subject to the in-person interview requirement.
All employment-based Adjustment of Status (AOS) applicants who filed on or after March 6, 2017 will be called into a local USCIS office for an in-person interview. Generally speaking, the interview requirement will apply to both principal and derivative beneficiary applicants, but USCIS may consider waiving the interview for applicants under 14 years old. Under prior procedures, USCIS typically allowed employment-based AOS applications to be adjudicated and approved absent an in-person interview and only about five to ten percent of employment-based AOS applicants were actually called in for interviews.
Employment-based AOS applicants are expected to be asked questions regarding their admissibility and eligibility for permanent residency and will likely need to articulate specifics about their anticipated position and discuss their educational background, experience, and qualifications. Applicants will also likely be expected to confirm whether the employer still plans to employ them in the position and that they still intend to take up the employment as described in the petition. It is possible that a representative from the employing-firm will be required to attend the interview.
One particular concern that has resulted in response to the new requirement is the depth of the interview and how review of the underlying (already approved) petition will be handled. Will adjudicating officers re-examine and re-evaluate the petition or will they simply defer to the approved decision? While it is not certain how every interview will be conducted, officers have been instructed and trained not to re-adjudicate the petition. Officers will however, still assess the validity of the documents submitted in support of the petition and will assess whether the evidence was credible, accurate, consistent, and bona fide. And, since fraud and misrepresentation is always a ground of inadmissibility, the officer can assert that he or she can question the applicant about their knowledge of the job duties and their qualifications for the job. In exploring grounds of inadmissibility, the applicant may be asked whether s/he has ever made a false claim to US citizenship,
including on an I-9. Further, derivative family members will also be interviewed and should expect questions regarding their bona fide relationship to the principal applicant.
The interview requirement comes in response to President Trump’s Executive Order titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” which was signed in March. USCIS states that during interviews, officers will verify the information provided in applications, discover new information that may be relevant to the adjudication process, and determine the credibility of the individual seeking permanent residency, with the ultimate goal being to detect fraud and protect national security and public safety. As with any application for an immigration benefit or appearance in front of an adjudicating officer, it is important to make sure you are represented by competent immigration counsel.
Due to the sheer number of green card applicants that will now be called in for interviews, massive backlog and processing delays are anticipated. There have also been reports that USCIS will expand beyond these categories and will begin an incremental expansion of the interview requirement to other applications.
If you or a family member has an employment-based or refugee/asylee relative green card application that is currently pending or are seeking to file one, it is essential that you consult knowledgeable and experienced immigration counsel to
discuss exactly how the new requirement will impact your case. Hiring an experienced immigration attorney to prepare and submit the application is just the beginning but it is essential. The attorney should also prepare the applicant for and accompany the applicant to the interview. Therefore, make sure that an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney is by your side during every phase of the application process.