As discussed in an earlier post, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on August 28, 2017 that it will cease waiving interviews of applicants applying for “adjustment of status” (AOS) to U.S. permanent residence (green card) based on employment. As part of the Trump administration’s plan to apply “extreme vetting” to would-be immigrants (and others), employment-based AOS applicants will be required to undergo an in-person interview at a USCIS field office. Approximately 130,000 applicants are expected to be affected per year. Prior to this new requirement, interviews of employment-based AOS applicants were usually waived unless there were criminal or other observable issues affecting AOS eligibility. (Note: In addition to the acronym “AOS,” an adjustment of status application is also referred to as an “I-485” application, after the central form used to make the application.)
To clarify the new interview requirements, the USCIS Ombudsman held a Stakeholder Call on September 28, 2017. The following points came out of the call (but were not released in written form by USCIS, and are subject to change):
- The interviews will be required for any employment-based AOS applications filed on or after March 6, 2017.
- The interviews will occur at local USCIS field offices, where interviews for certain employment- and family-based applications as well as naturalization applications already take place.
- In addition to conducting the interviews, the USCIS field offices will be responsible for making final decisions on the AOS applications (including decisions on whether a change in employment described on the applicant’s “Supplement J” qualifies for “porting” of the green card process). However, the USCIS field offices will not “readjudicate” the underlying Form I-140 immigrant petition supporting the AOS application. With respect to the I-140, the USCIS field offices will be assessing the validity of the supporting documents, but final adjudication of the I-140 is to remain with the national USCIS Service Center. The national USCIS Service Centers will also remain responsible for deciding AOS applicants’ applications for advance parole (AP) and employment authorization documents (EADs), including renewals.
- In the interview, employment-based AOS applicants (“principal applicants,” as distinguished from their spouse and minor children) can be expected to be asked questions about anything pertinent to their basis for immigration, including where they will work, what their job entails, their educational background and experience, whether the employer still intends to employ the applicant, and whether the applicant still intends to work in the specific position upon which the green card application was based.
- An applicant’s spouse and minor children (“derivative” applicants for AOS) will also be required to appear for interviews, though there is the potential for interview waivers for children under 14 years of age. USCIS will aim to schedule interviews for family units at the same time if the underlying applications were submitted together. Family members can expect to be asked questions regarding their relationship to the principal applicant and the bona fides of that relationship.
© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2017