U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") has announced a major change of policy that will impact employment-based green card applicants. According to its announcement dated August 28, 2017, USCIS will phase-in interviews for adjustment of status applications based on employment. Adjustment of status is the final step in green card sponsorship for individuals already in the U.S. in some form of non-immigrant status. Typically these individuals are on valid work visas when they are sponsored by their employers for green cards. During this final step, USCIS reviews the individual's personal and immigration history, conducts background checks and ensures the applicant is eligible for permanent residence in the U.S.
While it has been standard agency practice for marriage-based applicants and several other types of applicants to be called for interviews, for more than two decades USCIS has waived interviews for individuals applying for permanent residence in employment-based categories. Per this recent shift in policy, effective October 1, 2017, applicants for adjustment of status based on employment may receive notices from USCIS requesting them to appear for in-person interviews. Immigration officers conducting these interviews will likely seek to verify information provided by the applicants during the process to ensure they continue to be eligible for a green card.
It is unclear from the USCIS announcement whether this change will impact applicants who have already submitted their Forms I-485 based on employment for processing, or whether only future applicants in those categories may expect interview notices. Also, the wording of the announcement that USCIS "will begin to phase-in interviews" does not clearly indicate all applicants will be called for interviews. We will provide future updates when USCIS provides additional details on this significant change in policy. Without question, however, applicants in all green card categories (both employment and family-based) should prepare for delays in adjudication, as the local USCIS offices will see a significant increase to caseloads without an accompanying increase in staffing.