NEW YORK – The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will, from October 1, interview in-person certain visa holders and others seeking a Green Card, including those on H-1B visa who are approved for permanent residency, and also family members of refugees and those receving asylum.
The new requirement, which was confirmed Friday by a spokesman for the USCIS, will apply to anyone moving from an employment-based visa to lawful permanent residency, which will also include L visa holders, as well as O and F-1.
visa holders who are family members of refugees or people who receive asylum will also be required to undergo an in-person interview when they apply for provisional status, a stage that precedes receiving a green card, according to USCIS, according to a report on Politico.
In fiscal year 2015, nearly 168,000 immigrants in these categories obtained lawful permanent residency, according to annual statistics from the Department of Homeland Security. Most (roughly 122,000) moved from an employment-based visa to a green card.
The interview mandate is part of President Donald Trump’s plan to apply “extreme vetting” to immigrants and visitors to the U.S.
The travel ban executive order signed by the president in January and revised in March called for federal departments to develop “uniform screening and vetting standards” to identify terrorists or people who “present a risk of causing harm.” The standards could include an in-person interview, the order stated.
Carter Langston, a spokesperson for USCIS, told Politico that the categories of visas that require interviews will expand in the future, calling it “an incremental expansion.” The policy, Langston said, is “part of a comprehensive strategy to further improve the detection and prevention of fraud and security risks to the United States.”
The requirement for an in-person interview is not, technically, new. But the agency currently waives the interview requirement for these visa holders “most of the time,” according to William Stock, a Philadelphia-based attorney and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Under the new policy, such waivers won’t be granted.
Stock said requiring more interviews would take the agency “back to the future.” Until about 10 years ago, in-person interviews for people moving from employment visas to green cards were standard. Waivers became ubiquitous during the past decade, he said.
“The immigration service realized that most of the time it was a colossal waste of everyone’s time,” he said.
The added interview workload will almost certainly lengthen wait times for green card applications.
Stephen Legomsky, USCIS chief counsel from 2011 to 2013, said it’s difficult to say whether the interviews will be worth the effort, reported Politico.
“It probably does add some marginal value,” he said, “but whether that value is enough to offset that additional work is hard to say.”
Langston said the agency plans to take measures to speed up the interview process, including increased training and streamlining operations.
The agency did not provide details about where the interviews would take place.