USCIS Announces Major Changes to Green Card Application Process

Immigration law has always been fluid and clients and lawyers alike need to be prepared for ever-changing regulations and processes, especially in this political climate.  USCIS recently announced new changes to the Green Card application process, impacting both family-based and employment-based green card applications. These changes add greater complexity, more scrutiny, and longer wait times to the process, requiring excellent legal representation and thorough analysis and preparation for each application package. We have already explained how the government has been applying greater scrutiny to irregularities in applications and has increased the length and complexity of Form I-485 as part of the Green Card application.

In addition, USCIS has recently announced they will expand in-person interviews for certain Green Card applicants. In-person interviews have always existed for family-based Green Card applicants, but will now be required for employment-based green card applicants as well. USCIS states that the purpose of the interview requirement is to root out fraud and protect national security and public safety. However, the agency has not identified any specific risks or threats that justify the need to bog down the process by interviewing those who have cleared rigorous background and security checks and have no fraud indicators.

Effective October 1, 2017, USCIS will begin to phase-in interviews for employment-based Green Card applicants, and will likely require interviews of spouses and children. USCIS is planning an incremental expansion of interviews to other benefit types.

While a significant change in the process, conducting in-person interviews is not entirely new, as this was agency practice over 10 years ago.  However, it will likely slow down the processing times significantly and require far more people to appear at USCIS offices.  The agency does not currently have the capacity to conduct these interviews. Fortunately, Dayzad Law has decades of combined experience in preparing for and representing our clients at these types of interviews at USCIS and in immigration court.

Furthermore, Dayzad Law already actively manages cases for our clients that must wait a long time for an immigrant visa number to become available and remains the attorney of record for the entire permanent resident process. For example, we frequently check our clients’ applications to ensure that the government is timely processing the case and inform clients of significant changes in immigration law that may impact their pending cases.  Accordingly, we have expanded to all types of cases a small annual maintenance fee after the first year of submitting the application, so we can continue to provide these annual maintenance services while applications pend over a year.

When Green Card applications pend for more than one year, you can also expect USCIS to issue Requests for Evidence more frequently.  For example, they will ask for another round of medical exams because the exams expire after one year. Also, USCIS will more often issue Requests for Evidence asking employers to re-confirm that they still want to petition for the employee (Supplement J) after the long passage of time.  As always, Dayzad Law will continue to monitor any changes to the Immigration process, in order to keep our clients informed and ready for whatever comes next. As these processes become more complex and time-consuming, a deep understanding of Immigration law and a thoughtful approach to each process becomes even more critical.

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