Changes in Employment-based permanent residency processing

Interviews required for all employment-based immigrant applications, as of October 2, 2017  

Most noncitizens immigrating through employment are already in the U.S., usually working with professional nonimmigrant (temporary) visas.   Their process of gaining permanent residency typically involves two steps: the employer’s “I-140 petition” that includes evidence of its good faith (but ultimately unsuccessful) effort to find a qualified, available, and willing U.S. worker; and the employee’s application for “adjustment of status” from nonimmigrant to immigrant, contingent upon approval of the employer’s petition. The employee’s spouse and unmarried children under twenty-one can also file to “adjust” if they are in the U.S. with her/him.

For over twenty years, except in a small percentage of cases, “adjustment of status” interviews for employment-based immigrants have been waived. Instead, these applications have been approved once all background and security checks have been completed, based on the documentary evidence included with the I-140 petition and the adjustment application.

Following President Trump’s Executive Order 13780, mandating increased vetting of noncitizens planning to come or immigrate to the U.S., effective October 2, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began requiring interviews of all employment-based adjustment of status applicants who filed their applications on or after March 6, 2017. Interviews will include spouses and children, although USCIS can waive the presence of children under age fourteen.

Instead of the I-140 petition and adjustment of status application both being adjudicated at one of USCIS’s Service Centers, the paperwork will be filed there, and later be transferred to the USCIS office nearest to the employee’s residence.  That office will interview the employee and decide whether or not to approve the adjustment of status application.  USCIS says that the local USCIS office should not re-adjudicate the I-140 petition, but will examine all the evidence submitted with it to determine its “credibility”.

This change means two things: immigrants through employment will now face delays because of the need for an in-person interview, and they will need to involve their immigration attorney to prepare for and attend the interview, increasing the cost of the process.  Fortunately, in Maine, the local USCIS office in Portland does not have exceedingly long backlogs for interviews.   Nonetheless, the interview requirement can be expected to add several months to the process.