Expect Delays: USCIS To Interview Employment-Based Adjustment of Status Applicants

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced today that it will begin to conduct in-person interviews for employment based adjustment of status applicants. The agency explicitly cites an Executive Order from President Trump as the reason for this new policy. The intention is to better detect fraud in the process.

As this is the President’s order, he can take the credit or hit for the measure’s outcome. In theory, it sounds like a good idea to ask a few questions and lay eyes on all applicants for green cards. The concern is that this will really backlog the permanent resident application process. The agency is already slowing down in its handling of a number of applications. While national security has to be the paramount concern with every immigration process, I’m skeptical the agency is exacting efficiencies from the various application processes it administers. Most of the cliches about red tape and endless bureaucracy apply with USCIS. Nonetheless, similar concerns were expressed after 9/11 when the Department of State started interviewing all visa applicants.  Nonimmigrant visa processing since then has worked out, more or less. Hopefully, in time, this enhanced interview process will work out as well.

Here is USCIS’s announcement:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin expanding in-person interviews for certain immigration benefit applicants whose benefit, if granted, would allow them to permanently reside in the United States. This change complies with Executive Order 13780, “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.

Effective Oct. 1, USCIS will begin to phase-in interviews for the following:

• Adjustment of status applications based on employment (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status).
• Refugee/asylee relative petitions (Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition) for beneficiaries who are in the United States and are petitioning to join a principal asylee/refugee applicant.

Previously, applicants in these categories did not require an in-person interview with USCIS officers in order for their application for permanent residency to be adjudicated. Beyond these categories, USCIS is planning an incremental expansion of interviews to other benefit types.

“This change reflects the Administration’s commitment to upholding and strengthening the integrity of our nation’s immigration system,” said Acting USCIS Director James W. McCament. “USCIS and our federal partners are working collaboratively to develop more robust screening and vetting procedures for individuals seeking immigration benefits to reside in the United States.”

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. USCIS will meet the additional interview requirement through enhancements in training and technology as well as transitions in some aspects of case management.

Additionally, individuals can report allegations of immigration fraud or abuse by completing ICE’s HSI Tip Form.

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on Twitter (@uscis), YouTube (/uscis), Facebook(/uscis) and Instagram (@USCIS).