USCIS to Conduct Interviews for Employment Based Adjustment of Status Cases

by:  Ashik Jahan, Esq & Carolin Esterl

On August 28, 2017, USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) made an announcement stating that they will begin to “phase-in” interviews for employment-based cases effective on October 1, 2017. The announcement stated that “adjustment of status applications based on employment”—i.e., categories EB-1 through EB-5—will be affected.  At this time, USCIS has not provided direction on how the “phase-in” process will proceed. Thus, it is unclear whether or not applicants who have already filed for an adjustment of status will be included in the “phase-in” process.  The interview mandate is part of the Trump Administration’s efforts to implement “extreme vetting” of immigrants in accordance with the “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” –  Executive Order, popularly known as the “travel ban,” released earlier this year.

Historically, USCIS has waived the interview requirement for most employment-based adjustment of status applicants due to associated delays created in adjudication.  This change will likely result in over 100,000 additional in-person interviews conducted each year.  It is possible that the addition of the interview for such a wide range of categories will delay the adjudication of adjustment of status applications, as District Offices are likely not staffed properly for the sudden increase in interviews.  Hopefully, this change will not directly affect I-140 petitions and the issuance of employment authorization documents (EAD) and advance parole documents, but the increased interview workload could impact adjudications here and in many other areas throughout USCIS.

The forthcoming changes will include the development of a uniform screening standard and procedure, such as in-person interviews; a database of identity documents proffered by applicants to ensure that duplicate documents are not used by multiple applicants; amended application forms that include questions aimed at identifying fraudulent answers and malicious intent; a mechanism to ensure that the applicant is who the applicant claims to be; a process to evaluate the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society and the applicant’s ability to make contributions to the national interest; and a mechanism to assess whether or not the applicant has the intent to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States.

USCIS has indicated that it is working to implement “enhancements in training and technology” to accommodate the added caseload, but employers and beneficiaries should expect that the change will cause delays on current employment-based immigrant petition processing times.  Additional security checks and clearances may be done post-interview as well, which could add further delays.

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