Meeting room for green card interview

Image source: Razvan Caliman via Freeimages.com

For the first time since I began practicing immigration law, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will require an interview for workers seeking green cards.

This requirement goes into effect on October 1, 2017. Until now USCIS had requested interviews on a case-by-case basis and waived the interview most of the time.

USCIS has positioned the requirement as a more uniform and thorough vetting process for all applicants seeking permanent residence. What it has not said is that it multiplies the workload of already overburdened adjudicating officers and that it will extend the backlog of cases and lengthen wait times significantly.

Congress sets the number of employment-based green cards allowed, and the levels have not changed in years. The Department of State issues the visa numbers available each year by employment category (advanced degree professional, skilled professional/bachelor degree holder, etc.) and by country.

Some category/country combinations have been maxed out for a while now, creating a backlog.

For example, advanced degree professionals from China have been waiting since 2013 for more visas to open up. The interview requirement will make their wait even longer. Bachelor degree holders from China and the Philippines, who currently have a two to three-year wait with their visa filing, will see their wait time grow to four years or more.

While this is frustrating for all of us, I urge you to double down on your patience and not get demoralized.

You may be wondering will I need to have a lawyer present for the interview?

If you have a straightforward case, you probably won’t need a lawyer. Make sure you write down the name of the officer who interviews you and take notes in case your lawyer needs to follow up.

If something goes wrong though, such as the officer requesting something you did not think to bring or if you forget something the officer wants, it could take longer for your application to be processed. Having a lawyer there can help you understand what the officer is asking for and can help you follow up to keep your case moving.

This happened to one of my clients who presented a copy of her divorce decree only to have the interviewing officer request the original. I helped forward the original to ensure no further hold up for her green card application.

If you are nervous about the interview, it can help to have a lawyer present. The officers, who are already juggling a tremendous workload, will now be managing many more applicants through their local office. Sometimes nervousness on the applicant’s part and the workload pressure on the officer can lead to a tense atmosphere. As a neutral party, the lawyer can diffuse the tension and advocate on your behalf.

That advocacy can also help if questions arise about your interview responses.

Officers are looking to confirm that your situation is as you stated on your application. But when years pass between your application and the interview, it can be hard to remember details about your work place exactly. Any discrepancies between your application and your interview responses will require explanation.

Discrepancies can also arise when officers interview more than one person in connection with a green card application. If you have a family in the U.S. and apply for a green card, officers will want to interview your family.

Recently a client of mine who is a U.S. citizen asked me to attend her Italian husband’s green card interview. The officer asked what day they got married. My client cited the day they married in a church in the U.S. Her husband mentioned the date of their wedding party in Italy. And their application listed the date they were married by a judge!

I helped the officer understand the discrepancies to assure her that they were truthful.

If you have questions about the new interview requirement or would like help with a green card application or interview, please contact me at 630-262-1435.