Immigration Update – Interviews for Employee-Based Visa Holders Will Begin in October 2017

In the April 2017 blog, I discussed the impact of the Hire American executive order on American business. The Departments of Labor, Justice, Homeland Security and State were tasked with studying the existing laws and procedures and recommending changes. The Department of Homeland Security announced last week that they will begin:

  • Requiring holders of employment-based visas to be interviewed prior to updating their visa status
  • Requiring interviews for refugee/asylee relative petitions for beneficiaries who are in the United States and are petitioning to join a principal asylee/refugee applicant

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) estimates more than 130,000 applicants per year would be required to be interviewed beginning in October 2017. According to a USCIS spokesperson, a multi-year phased-in approach will be necessary to allow the agency time to increase its staffing levels to accommodate the interview volumes.  Additionally, the categories of visas that require interviews will incrementally expand in the future. According to officials, this new policy is the first step to be taken to increase the scrutiny of visa applicants. Previously, applicants in these categories did not require an in-person interview with USCIS officers.

Critics raise significant concerns that these changes will slow down the entire visa process which could impact the economy.  Approximately 85,000 visas are issued each year and It is estimated that 600,000 – 900,000 immigrants are here in the United States on H1-B visas working in the high tech, industrial, medical and science fields. According to the National Law Review, “USCIS is charged with adjudicating more than six million applications for immigration benefits each year. The Service Centers currently used to handle large volumes of cases in centralized processing locations are not equipped to handle individual interviews. Those are handled at USCIS Field Offices, which do not have the space or staffing levels to accommodate large volumes of interviewees”.  Some immigration attorneys are encouraging clients to begin the green card process for employees they wish to sponsor at least two years in advance of the individual’s max out date to ensure adequate time for green card processing.

I will continue to follow the roll-out of these new requirements and provide a future update.

National Law Review (August 2017). USCIS Expands In-Person Interview Requirements for Certain Permanent Residency Applicants.

Contributed by: Amy Noel


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