UPDATE: Green card interviews are being waived for at least some applicants during COVID-19
Unprecedented times call for unusual measures. Recently USCIS announced the closure of field offices nationwide—until May 3rd–to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
This announcement was immediately concerning given that green card applicants (family and employment-based) must attend in-person interviews at USCIS field offices to establish green card eligibility before their green cards can be approved.
USCIS indicated in their announcement that all impacted interviews would be rescheduled at a future time when offices re-open to the public. Of course, the decision to reschedule interviews at a future time would create a backlog, delaying the adjudication of thousands of green cards.
As it appears, to avoid a drastic backlog, USCIS is relaxing the green card interview requirement for employment-based green card applicants during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While there is no official policy or memorandum waiving the interview requirement for employment-based green card applicants, USCIS has been doing just that.
We can report that certain employment-based green card applicants who had their interviews canceled as a result of the COVID-19 office closures, have seen their green card “case status” change to “approved” and have received their green cards in the mail shortly thereafter.
While we have heard that some marriage-based green card applicants have also experienced this phenomenon, we believe that for the most part green card interviews will not be waived for marriage-based green card applicants because these cases must be vetted for fraud, which can only occur at the green card interview.
Instead, we believe that interviews will be waived primarily for employment-based green card applicants. Of course, we cannot guarantee that this will be the case since no official policy exists authorizing such a waiver, but it appears that this has been the case for at least some employment-based green card applicants.
Readers may find it interesting to know that USCIS has also discontinued their normal practice of issuing courtesy notices asking green-card applicants to provide their medical examination forms at the time of their interview. Now, USCIS has been issuing requests for evidence asking green card applicants to mail their medical examination forms to USCIS directly. This move may indicate the very real possibility that USCIS is considering waiving the interview requirement for other green card applicants (such as marriage-based applicants), at least on a case-by-case basis.
It appears that this practice is in line with other recent measures taken by USCIS to reduce delays in adjudication during this public health crisis. For example, in recent weeks USCIS announced flexibility for EAD renewal applications by announcing that the agency will be reusing prior biometrics for renewal applicants to prevent lapses in benefits and delays given the COVID-19 office closures.
In addition, USCIS has relaxed its “wet” signature requirement by accepting reproduced copies of a handwritten original signature for all benefit forms and documents dated March 21, 2020 and beyond. USCIS has also extended the time by which applicants can respond to an RFE, NOID, NOIR, and NOIT if the notice was issued between March 1st and May 1st by a period of 60 days following the date of issuance.
These “relaxed” policies indicate that USCIS is using its discretionary power during this pandemic to avoid delays and disruptions in service to the greatest extent possible for the benefit of applicants and petitioners.
Update Regarding Labor Certifications
For employees in the early stages of the green card process we would like to notify you that the Department of Labor began issuing labor certifications and final determinations by email on March 25th and will continue to do so through at least June 30th. An original wet signature is still required on these labor certifications and must be submitted with the I-140 petition. The Labor Department is still requiring original “wet signatures” on these documents, unlike USCIS.
We would like to hear from you! If you have experienced a waiver of your green card interview, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have any questions, concerns, or would like to schedule a phone consultation please contact our office at 619-819-9204. We look forward to serving you.