04 Sep New USCIS Policy: In-Person Interviews Required for Employment-Based Adjustment of Status
August 28, 2017 – USCIS today notified the public that it will require in-person interviews for all employment-based adjustment of status applicants (Form I-485), and all refugee/asylee relative petitions (Form I-730). The effective date for these changes is October 1, 2017. The stated goal of the new policy is detecting fraud.
Presently, USCIS generally waives in-person interviews for adjustment of status applicants who are obtaining work-based green cards under the EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, EB-4 or EB-5 classifications. In the rare instances where USCIS interviews an applicant under a work-based green card, it is usually to verify certain information in the application. Most work-based green card applicants in the EB-1 to EB-5 classifications obtain approval of their green cards in a written USCIS letter delivered by regular mail.
By contrast, all marriage-based green card applicants seeking I-485 adjustment of status are asked to appear in-person for an interview by USCIS.
New Interview Requirement
Starting October 1, 2017, all persons seeking I-485 adjustment of status pursuant to an employment based green card petition will be given an interview appointment before receiving green card status. Interviews are held at the local district offices of USCIS. The applicant’s appearance at the USCIS interview will be obligatory. USCIS will issue interview appointments by letter to the applicant. Though USCIS typically provides an opportunity to request a change in the date of the interview appointment, such changes must be requested in writing ahead of time and submitted to USCIS.
Given the expansion of in-person interviews, the effect on I-485 processing times are concerning. David Morris, Of Counsel to I.A. Donoso & Associates, warns that this new policy will add months to USCIS processing of I-485 adjustment of status applications for employment-based green card petitions. Current USCIS processing times for I-485 adjustment of status applications are approximately 8 months. As applied to EB-5 investors, Morris averts that the new policy will require an interview at the I-829 stage, which could take the total USCIS processing times from the current average of 2+ years to nearly 3 years. Further, USCIS has not addressed when additional trained personnel will be available to process new interviews, and has not explained whether steps are being taken to avoid longer waiting periods for visa interviews in the family-based green card categories.
Ignacio Donoso, Managing Attorney at I.A. Donoso & Associates, expects that employers and applicants will need to prepare diligently ahead of time for interviews. Two factors add additional complexity to interview planning: (a) USCIS rules allow an individual who has an employment-based application for an I-485 adjustment of status pending for at least 180 days to change jobs without restarting the green card process, and (b) the years-long visa backlog for employment-based green cards in the EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 classifications for citizens of India, China and Mexico. Together, these two factors mean that employment-based adjustment of status applicants will be asked about jobs and employers that they may have left years ago.