In yet another controversial move, the Trump administration has recently adopted a new policy change that will require an in-person interview for individuals wishing to obtain lawful permanent residency based on employment sponsorship. The new policy will be implemented beginning October 1st.
Previously, foreign nationals applying for permanent residency, based on employment sponsorship, were not required to attend an in-person interview, although this allowance was discretionary. In recent years, the in-person interview requirement was typically reserved for individuals applying for permanent residency based on a qualifying familial relationship, and not for individuals applying based on employment sponsorship.
A USCIS spokesperson announced the new policy change on Friday August 25th, a change that will delay the process of obtaining a green card significantly, given the increased number of individuals that will be required to attend an in-person interview. According to USCIS this change in policy will apply to any individual adjusting their status to legal permanent residency from an employment-based visa category.
What’s more, family members of refugees or asylees, holding a valid U.S. visa, will also be required to attend an in-person interview when applying for provisional status.
Earlier this year, the President signed the controversial Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry,” which among other things directed federal departments to establish “uniform screening and vetting standards” that would help immigration officers identify persons of interest that “present a risk of causing harm” to US citizens, including terrorists. As part of enhancing these procedures, the in-person interview was proposed. The Trump administration has been gradually enforcing these enhanced vetting procedures over the last few months. In keeping with the order, a waiver of the in-person interview requirement will no longer be granted for individuals seeking permanent residency based on employment sponsorship, refugee and asylee status.
This new interview mandate comes as no surprise. The Trump administration has vowed to implement additional security measures to prevent terrorists from entering the United States. As part of that plan the President has called on the Department of Homeland Security to implement “extreme vetting” and make the visa application process more difficult.
According to estimates, out of nearly 168,000 immigrants who obtained lawful permanent residency in fiscal year 2015, about 122,000 obtained a green card on the basis of employment sponsorship.
A spokesman for USCIS indicated that the agency will gradually increase the categories of visas for which an in-person interview will be required describing the move as “an incremental expansion.” He added that the policy is “part of a comprehensive strategy to further improve the detection and prevention of fraud and security risks to the United States.”
Due to this policy change, individuals applying for permanent residency can expect wait times to increase significantly, given the growth of the agency’s workload, and an increase in interviews that will need to be scheduled. To alleviate the workload, the agency has stated that they plan to speed up the interview process by increasing training and streamlining operations.