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USCIS Expands In-Person Interview Requirements

Bridge Team Member

In a news release issued on Aug. 28, 2017 USCIS announced that it will begin imposing the requirement of an in-person interview across the board for employment-based permanent residence applicants.

At first glance, requiring that applicants for permanent residence who are filing from within the U.S. must attend an in-person interview does not appear to be particularly noteworthy or controversial. But what does this new requirement likely mean on a practical level for these foreign workers and for their petitioning employers? 

Racking up the Mileage

Adjustment applicants are already required to attend a biometrics appointment at a USCISApplication Support Center. However, while these support centers are distributed liberally throughout the country, in-person interviews may only take place at USCIS’s more sparsely located Field Offices.

This means that instead of having to show up to one appointment which could often be squeezed into an early lunch break, applicants now face an additional time-consuming commitment that may involve significantly more travel.

By way of illustration, Nashville, Tenn. and Austin, Texas are both home to growing technology sectors as well as major universities and hospitals. While each city has a support center for biometrics appointments, their residents now face traveling to Field Offices in Memphis (212 miles) and San Antonio (80 miles),respectively, for their final interview. 

So, How Did You Two Meet?

While we await further details from USCIS on what will be expected of employment-based applicants under this new policy, one scenario that may receive far more scrutiny than it has in the past is when a husband or wife is seeking derivate benefits on the basis of a petition filed by their spouse’s employer.

While this has always been a relative formality satisfied by the submission of a valid marriage certificate, attendance at an in-person interview may lead to these applicants having the validity of their marriage closely examined, similar to what marriage-based adjustment applicants have long been subjected to.

Should employees pack copies of their joint leases and some wedding photos before heading to the interview?  Let’s wait and see what specific instructions (if any) are provided by USCIS when sending out these interview notices.

Don’t Wait Up!

It stands to reason that adding an additional step to any process is unlikely to increase its timeliness or efficiency. This is particularly true in the word of immigration, where agencies such as USCIS are financed entirely by the filing fees they charge. As this means its annual budget does not come from congressional budget appropriations, the increased workload inevitably brought about by such policy changes cannot simply be cured by an offsetting request for more manpower and resources.

Ata time when applicants are already experiencing significant delays in processing times, it remains to be seen what effect if any this latest development will have on USCIS’s ability to work through the significant backlogs of cases it is currently experiencing.

What about Premium Processing - I hear you ask?  Unfortunately, while this option is available on most types of I-140 petitions, the guaranteed15-day adjudication timeframe does not apply to any ensuing or concurrently filedAdjustment applications, which the new interview requirements are connected with.

Should you have any questions about how this impacts your business or employees, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at support@bridge.legal.

Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult a Bridge-affiliated partner attorney or another qualified legal professional.

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