On Monday, August 28, 2017 USCIS confirmed by memo what had been swirling as a rumor in the days prior – the policy of AOS interview waiver is being eliminated in favor of a new “extreme vetting” standard effective October 1, 2017. For the past several decades, applicants for employment-based green cards (who had filed an I-485 application) would generally be waived the requirement of an in-person interview, unless there was an unusual issue in their process that suggested an interview was warranted. Under that policy, less than 1% of AOS applicants were subjected to an interview. Additionally, USCIS had the option of waiving refugee/asylee relative petition interviews. In this change, this option is also being eliminated. Under the guise of keeping America safe, the administration will now require all 485 applicants to be interviewed at a local office. Based on the language of the memo, it is suggestive that all applications will be subjected to this new guidance and we anticipate that it will apply to all cases in the existing queue. However, the language is also imprecise, so we are unsure as to whether every I-485 will be interviewed after October or if they will slowly increase the volume of interviews. In any event, if you are a current 485 applicant and your case is not approved prior to October 1, 2017, it is best to assume you may receive an interview notice.
We are awaiting further clarification following this announcement and will keep clients updated on what we learn. From a policy perspective, we believe that this decision is in a similar vein as the decision to deny pending Advance Parole requests when an applicant travels internationally. While both policy changes are legal and available, they do nothing to advance our security interests while creating significant additional workload for USCIS. As an agency, USCIS has already shown signs of stress in the past few years, as processing times have generally continued to increase and RFEs have been on the rise. We expect this decision will create additional delays in the green card process and we will shift our approach to monitoring how local offices handle this additional workload.
~This newsletter/memo is provided for informational and discussion purposes only. It does not act as a substitute for direct legal contact on an individual basis. ~