Updates on USCIS Operations: Premium Processing Reinstated for All H-1B Petitions, In-Person Intervi

Premium Processing Reinstated for All H-1B Petitions As expected, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced today that it is reinstating premium processing for all H-1B change of employer and extension petitions. We will notify our clients of all pending change of employer and extension petitions that are eligible for premium processing upgrades over the next few days. USCIS to Expand In-Person Interview Requirements for Certain Permanent Residency Applicants Starting October 1, 2017 On August 28, 2017, the USCIS announced that it will be expanding in-person adjustment of status interviews to include all employment-based applications. This is part of its new “extreme vetting” procedures to screen for fraud and national security risks under the President’s March 6, 2017 Executive Order, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” The announcement marks a significant change in USCIS policy, which previously waived the in-person interview requirement for most employment-based adjustment of status applications. The new policy took effect on October 1, 2017. The Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman stated in a stakeholder meeting on September 28, 2017 that USCIS will take an incremental approach in implementing the new in-person interview requirement to maximize visa allocation. For adjustment of status applications filed within fiscal year 2018 (October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018), the workload will be shared between the USCIS Service Centers and the local USCIS Field Offices nationwide. The new policy will be phased-in in the following manner:

USCIS began issuing interview appointment notices on September 1, 2017, with all local USCIS Field Offices nationwide conducting in-person interviews for employment-based adjustment of status beginning October 2, 2017. Notices for interview appointments are mailed to applicants approximately 30 days prior to the scheduled interview date. Attorneys with a Form G-28, Notice of Appearance as Attorney, on file with USCIS will also receive a copy of the interview appointment notice. Goeschl Law Corporation has provided detailed FAQs on the USCIS in-person interview policy below.

FAQs for Employment-Based Adjustment of Status In-Person Interviews

Does this new interview requirement affect me?

If you have filed or will file an employment-based adjustment of status application on or after March 6, 2017, and an I-140 petition is the basis for adjustment (EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3), you will be scheduled for a mandatory interview at the local USCIS Field Office nearest to your home address.

If my adjustment application was filed prior to March 6, 2017, will my interview be waived?

Very likely, yes. Application filed before March 6, 2017 will continue to be processed at the USCIS Service Centers. The USCIS always reserves the right to schedule any adjustment applicant for an interview. However, it is very likely that applicants who filed prior to this date will have their interview waived by USCIS.

When will the mandatory in-person interviews begin?

The USCIS has already started scheduling interviews in September 2017. Local USCIS Field Offices began conducting in-person interviews on October 2, 2017.

How will I know when I am scheduled for an interview?

You will receive an appointment notice in the mail approximately 30 days in advance of the appointment. The USCIS will mail an appointment notice to your home address, as well as to attorneys who are designated as attorney of record in the USCIS file. Employers connected to the underlying I-140 petition will not receive notice of the interview appointment.

What if I am unavailable to appear at my interview?

We highly recommend that you appear as scheduled at the interview. The USCIS will permit you to reschedule for good cause, but rescheduling can delay the process by months.

Do my dependents have to appear at the interview?

Yes. Any dependents who have filed derivative adjustment applications will be scheduled for an interview and will receive separate appointment notices. The USCIS has stated that it will endeavor to schedule family groups together, so long as those family members filed their adjustment applications at the same time. Note that the USCIS will consider waiving interview for applicants under the age of 14.

Your dependents should bring documents establishing their legal, familial relationship to you (e.g. marriage certificate for spouse, and birth certificates for children).

I’m Canadian, will my interview be waived?

There are no country-specific waivers for the mandatory interview.

What should I bring to the interview?

When the USCIS mails the interview notice, a list of required documentation will appear on the notice. Goeschl Law Corporation will assist you in preparing the necessary documentation for your interview.

Will USCIS re-adjudicate my approved Form I-140 petition?

USCIS stated that interviewing officers have been instructed to not re-adjudicate the approved I-140 petitions. However, interviewing officers will review the evidence used to support the underlying petition, and evaluate whether the continuing offer of employment (where required), is bona fide and credible.

If the interviewing officer finds gross error with the approved I-140 petition, the interviewing officer will return the case back to the USCIS Service Center for re-opening and re-adjudication of the Form I-140 petition.

How will the mandatory interview requirement affect overall processing times?

The USCIS does not expect this new requirement to significantly delay overall processing of employment-based green card applications for fiscal year 2018 as the workload will be shared between the USCIS Service Centers and local Field Offices. However, applicants subject to the mandatory in-person interviews should expect longer processing times as the scheduling of interviews will be based on the availability at the local USCIS Field Office. USCIS anticipates the hiring of new staff to accommodate the shift in burden to local Field Offices for applications filed for fiscal year 2019. The USCIS reiterated its goal is to exhaust annual employment-based visa numbers, and that managing the workload would be based on visa availability, not processing times. It is the goal of the USCIS to make sure that immigrant visa numbers are used up before the end of the fiscal year.

Which USCIS Field Offices will be impacted the most?

The USCIS expects that San Jose, San Francisco, Newark, New York, Houston, Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles field offices will be hit the hardest by the new interview requirements. Applicants who reside within the jurisdictions of these local Field Offices should expect longer processing times.

Will other types of immigration filings be impacted?

Yes, because officers are being pulled from other departments, the USCIS expects that interview scheduling times for family-based adjustment applicants and naturalization applicants will be impacted.

What will Goeschl Law do to assist me with the interview?

Once your appointment has been scheduled, Goeschl Law will set up a phone consultation with an attorney to prepare you for the visa interview. We will review, in detail, the required documentation that you should bring to the interview, as well as prepare you for what to expect during the interview.

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