Longer wait times for green card interviews on the horizon

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A USCIS spokesperson confirmed yesterday evening that USCIS will require in-person interviews for those on employment-based visas applying for green cards.  Similarly, in-person interviews will be required for those applying for adjustment of status from asylee (granted asylum) to lawful permanent resident. Previously, these categories only required interviews when convictions for minor crimes are involved. These include shoplifting and DUIs where there was no one injured. What will this mean for those applying in other categories that traditionally require an interview, such as marriage-based green card and naturalization cases?  Longer wait times for interview and approval. Also, longer wait times for adjudications.

Hundreds of thousands of cases that previously did not require interviews will thus be added to the queues for interview, making immigration more complicated for applicants, USCIS officers and immigration attorneys. This may be the administration’s goal – to undermine and erode immigration – in addition to political football.

With regards to how USCIS may handle the coming influx of additional workload, it may hire additional employees. However, when this has happened in the past, it hasn’t seemed to be able to ramp up hiring to meet the needs. The exception is the hiring of thousands of different ICE agents, but that is a different department dealing with detention and removal (the immigration po-pos). USCIS is the customer-friendly branch of Department of Homeland Security that processes and adjudicates applications and petitions for immigration and naturalization. Previously at the Service Centers, which handle application filings, when attention was focused on adjudicating a large number of cases in one area, it cased backlogs in others. The same thing will happen here, but on a more massive scale.

Are these interviews even necessary? Simply put, no. As an example, a typical employment-based green card applicant might be someone who works at Google or Apple. Such applicants are in professional positions, have always had to maintain immigration status to renew their visas or apply for a green card, and have to show that they meet the usual admissibility factors – they are not likely to become public charges, do not have serious criminal convictions, are not a danger to public health and safety, and have not committed immigration fraud. It is similar to asylees, who undergo careful medical and security screening before being approved. Applicants with serious and dangerous criminal convictions are not approved anyway, as biometrics background checks are always performed at every stage of the immigration process – from nonimmigrant visa to naturalization. These interviews will be a monumental waste of time not only for these applicants, but those in traditional family-based categories or those applying for U.S. citizenship. It will do nothing substantive to protect U.S. citizens.

By Grace Alano.  Grace Alano is an immigration attorney at Alano Immigration in San Francisco, CA. Find Grace Alano on Google+

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