The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that, effective October 1, 2017, it will begin expanding in-person interviews for certain immigration benefit applications that currently do not require interview for approval.

The in-person interview requirement will initially be limited to two categories of benefit application:

  1. Applications for lawful permanent resident (LPR or “green card”) status through an offer of employment; and
  2. Petitions filed by asylees/refugees for their spouse and/or childr(en) to join them in the United States.

USCIS also indicated it will incrementally expand the in-person interview requirement to other as-yet unidentified benefit types. No time frame was provided.

The press release indicated that the new mandate is to comply with Executive Order 13780, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” and is intended as a measure to root out fraud and protect national security and public safety. USCIS already has the authority to conduct in-person interviews when deemed necessary. The agency explained it will enhance training and technology and adjust its case management processes to meet the additional interview requirements.

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.

Jennifer Cory, the head of Womble Carlyle’s Business Immigration Solutions practice, recommends that companies review their employee rosters and identify any foreign nationals for whom they currently are or in future will be sponsoring for LPR status to advise them of this policy change and prepare them for potential delays in final approval of their applications.