On August 25, 2017, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) confirmed that, as part of President Trump’s “extreme vetting” directives, potential legal immigrant workers will be required to undergo in-person interviews with USCIS. The interview requirement will apply to anyone moving from an employment-based visa to lawful permanent residency. The new mandate will also require visa holders who are family members of refugees or individuals who receive asylum to undergo an in-person interview when they apply for provisional status—a stage that precedes permanent residency. USCIS announced that the interviews will be “phased-in” starting on October 1, 2017. There is not yet any additional guidance as to how long the phase-in period will be. It will also take time to determine the extent of the impact that these new interviews will have on overall processing times.
Interviews are already part of the immigration process, and, in the past, USCIS conducted them for all cases as standard policy. However, decades ago, USCIS started routinely waiving in-person interviews for employment-based cases at its field offices to avoid duplicating the efforts of USCIS Service Centers, which vetted the cases. Under the new policy, USCIS will not grant such waivers.
The added interview workload and field office training will certainly lengthen wait times for permanent resident applicants. Employers and employees should plan accordingly for these delays.