USCIS to Expand In-Person Interview Requirements for Certain Permanent Residency Applicants

by Joseph McKeown

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will soon begin the process of expanding in-person interviews for certain applicants seeking permanent residency. This policy change stems from President Trump’s executive order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” which in addition to banning travel for certain citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries also called for uniform screening standards and procedures for all immigration programs. Effective October 1, USCIS will start 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.

During these in-person interviews, USCIS says its officers will verify the application information, discover new relevant information, and determine the applicant’s credibility. “This change reflects the Administration’s commitment to upholding and strengthening the integrity of our nation’s immigration system,” Acting Director for USCIS James W. McCament says. “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.”

While the Trump administration’s focus has been to identify those who
present a risk of harm, some immigration practitioners and experts believe this new policy will only slow the process for obtaining a Green Card and is largely unnecessary. Although the requirement for an in-person interview is not technically new, the agency currently waives the interview requirement “most of the time,” William Stock, a Philadelphia-based attorney and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), tells Politico. “The immigration service realized that most of the time it was a colossal waste of everyone’s time.”  Stephen Legomsky, former USCIS chief counsel, is not sure whether the interviews will be worth the effort. “It probably does add some marginal value, but whether that value is enough to offset that additional work is hard to say.”