USCIS Expands Interview Requirements for Some Immigration Applicants

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it will be expanding in-person interview requirements for certain categories of applicants for permanent residence, affecting people throughout Illinois. The expanded policy was effective as of Oct. 1 and may increase the waiting periods before people are approved for their green cards. Immigrants who are applying for adjustments of status based on their employment and those who are applying as relatives for principal asylees or refugees will all be affected by the new policy. Having representation from an immigration attorney during in-person interviews with the USCIS may help immigrant applicants to protect their rights.

The Expanded Interview Requirements

For many years, the USCIS used a policy under which certain categories of immigrant applicants did not require in-person interviews for the agency to adjudicate their applications for permanent residence. Under the new policy, people who are applying for permanent residence through an adjustment of their statuses, as well as those who are applying as relatives of principal asylees, will be subjected to in-person interviews. Over the past few decades, nearly all applicants who applied for employment-based status adjustments received their green cards without being interviewed, saving substantial time and monetary resources.

Several policies will be unaffected by the new interview requirements. Work authorizations and advanced parole policies will remain while the applications are pending. Applicants will also still be able to apply for adjustments of status and for immigration visas simultaneously. Applicants will still also be able to change jobs without filing new I-140 petitions for immigration visas through adjustment portability.

Reasons for Expanded Interview Requirements

According to the USCIS, the government’s new policy requiring more in-person interviews is ostensible to help to reduce immigration fraud and security risks. However, the agency is already overburdened, and it is unclear how the policy will achieve either stated goal. Families and employers should expect to face increased wait times under the new policy.

Importance of Representation

While applicants are not required to have immigration attorneys at their in-person interviews, having representation may be important. Attorneys may help to protect their clients from systemic abuses. They may also identify errors made by well-intentioned immigration officers that could potentially lead to further problems and possible deportation. The end results of the new policy are not yet known, but people should expect longer waits at a minimum. Applicants should prepare for their interviews and educate themselves about what to expect.