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USCIS Expanding In-Person Interviews

So much for efficiency. Earlier this week, USCIS announced that they’ll be conducting interviews on more green card (I-485) applications starting on October 1, 2017.  Specifically, employment-based adjustment of status cases are going to be targeted for interviews and more case types are bound to follow.

Currently, most employment-based cases and some family-based (parent/child), are granted interview waivers. Interview waivers are wonderful things – they allow an officer to review the submitted application and supporting documents and then make a decision on the case without having people come into a USCIS office for an interview. This saves time, money and resources.

What’s the problem with requiring more interviews? First, it’s a matter of timing. Even with nearly all employment-based I-485 applications currently adjudicated without an interview, it’s taking about eight months to get an interview on an adjustment of the status case in Atlanta. If you double the workload, you easily double the time it will take for anyone to get scheduled.

Secondly, most adjudicating officers aren’t trained in employment-based cases. It will take time to get these officers up to speed on the law, policy, and practices.  Figuring out family relationships can be pretty straightforward – heck, sometimes all you need is a birth certificate. But looking at profit and loss statements, reviewing work experience and college degrees, determining if someone is qualified to do the job, that all takes time and expertise – expertise that will take extensive training (and time).

Another issue with requiring in-person interviews will be a matter of location. If you’re a teacher in rural Kansas, for example, you’re now going to have to drive three to five hours to get to the nearest USCIS office. The interview may take 30 minutes, but you’ve just lost a day of work.

Finally, the last problem is going to be cost. Right now, many attorneys (myself included) don’t factor in time for an interview when setting prices for certain cases. Legal fees will have to be increased due to the increased amount of work – from preparing for the interview to spending time at USCIS. For me, that means anywhere between $500 and $800 more for the extra time spent on cases. I don’t want to get more money because of bureaucracy, but we have to get compensated for the work done.

Ostensibly, this is all being done as part of “extreme vetting” – that is, truly ensuring that no one who wants to harm the U.S. gains a benefit. However, this expanded group of interview pertains to people already here. It’s my opinion that this is being done to complicate and slow down the green card process. It’s designed to make it less attractive for people to stay here. It’s being done to make people want to leave and limit legal immigration.

We’ll see what else happens this week…we may be in for a long one.

-Tracie

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