Back in March 2017, the Trump administration announced that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will tighten scrutiny of employment-based applicants for permanent residence. In years past, the policy was that regional Service Centers of the USCIS would process the majority of the employment cases without interviews, while approximately five to ten percent of the cases were selected for interviews at local field offices. Just last week, more specifics of the new policy surfaced. Employment permanent residence cases filed before March 6, 2017 will be adjudicated by the USCIS Service Centers under prior procedures, meaning only five to ten percent of these cases will be pulled for interviews. All permanent cases where the underlying I-140 immigrant petition is filed on or after March 6, 2017 will now be subject to mandatory interviews. USCIS has already started implementing this new interview requirement. Answers to the most common frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the new interview requirement are found below:

When will my interview be scheduled?

You will have your interview scheduled after the I-140 immigrant petition has been approved and when USCIS is ready to process your I-485 adjustment of status application. For applicants subject to the visa wait list, the interview will be scheduled after the applicant’s priority date becomes current and visa numbers become available.

What is the purpose of the interview?

The primary purpose of the interview is to determine whether you are inadmissible to the United States. You will be asked many of the same admissibility questions that you would have already answered in writing on the permanent residence application. Some of these questions include:

  • Have you ever been denied admission into the United States?
  • Have you ever been denied a visa into the United States?
  • Have you ever worked in the United States without authorization?

The other purpose of the interview is to verify that you are actually going to do the job described in the permanent residence case and whether you are qualified for this job. You should be able to explain the details of your offered job position, and how your educational background and experience fit the job requirements.

What documents should I bring to the interview?

You should speak to an experienced immigration attorney to determine what documents to bring to the interview.

Do I need to bring financial or other business documents about my company?

No. The interviewing officer will focus primarily on your background and intentions.

What about my family?

You will be interviewed along with all of your family members who also seek permanent residence as your dependents. Your family members may be asked questions about their relationship to you. They should be ready to present documents confirming their family relationship to you such as original marriage and birth certificates, as well as evidence of bona-fide marriage for your spouse.

Could I be exempt from the interview requirement?

The US Government’s intention is that every employment-based principal and derivative applicant must appear for an interview, and USCIS will only consider waiving interviews if the applicant is younger than 14. However, this is a tall order. USCIS filed offices are already stretched to the limit and it is very possible that they may not be able to handle the additional workload. In practice, some applicants may not be scheduled for interviews.

Will I have to wait longer for my permanent residence case to be processed now?

Unfortunately, yes. USCIS expects that processing times will be impacted in the short-term. Long-term impact will depend on their ability to add additional staff, streamline procedures and implement processing improvements. We project that employment-based cases will not be affected by longer processing times to the same degree as family-based adjustment cases because USCIS has stated that employment cases will be given priority.

Where will my travel document and employment authorization applications be processed?

It depends on your particular case. If your permanent residence application goes directly to the National Benefits Center (NBC), the NBC will adjudicate your advance parole and employment authorization documents. If your permanent residence application is filed with a Service Center, the Service Center will handle those adjudications.

What does this mean for other types of immigration cases?

The entire immigration system will most likely slow down even further. Other types of immigration cases, such as family-based cases, will take longer to be processed. It is unclear how much longer processing will take at this time.