'It's now a new administration. Everything has changed.'
The U.S. government has announced measures that will slow down the green card process and make it tougher for tens of thousands of immigrants who came here on work visas, or are fleeing persecution, to obtain permanent residency.
Citing President Trump’s Executive Order 13780, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry,” the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said Thursday that in-person interviews will be required for approximately 130,000 immigrants nationwide seeking green cards. In the past, immigrants already here on work visas could apply by mail or on line for permanent residency. The interviews will be required along with forms 140 and I-485.
Refugees or immigrants who have been granted asylum who are seeking green cards for their relatives will also be affected. Those family members, even if they are already in the U.S., will be required to have face-to-face interviews before their form I-730s can be approved. And immigrants with pending green card applications will no longer be able to leave the country until they are granted permanent residency.
The in-person interview requirement, effective Oct. 1, will be expanded to a variety of immigrants seeking legal residence, USCIS said in a press release.
“These interviews will provide an additional layer of screening to evaluate the credibility of the applicant and will further strengthen USCIS’ ability to identify fraud and security concerns,” said USCIS public affairs officer Sharon Rummery. “The agency is being called on to do more of what it does best – interview, detect fraud and make a fair and accurate adjudication.”
The agency did not release Sacramento numbers, but as of Sept. 30, 2016, 2,535 cases filed in Sacramento were pending, according to USCIS..
The use of expanded interviews began in April 2017 with adjustment of status cases for K-1 fiance’ visa applications, Rummery said.
Applicants “can initially anticipate longer processing times,” Rummery said, adding the agency is working to add resources and improve the way it adjudicates applications “to minimize the impact on processing times.” Before the interview requirement, processing averaged about six months.
USCIS did not provide example of immigrants who have been caught for immigration fraud or terrorist related offenses while applying for green cards.
The new requirements encompass visitors with H1B or H2B visas and any type of business visa, said UC Davis School of Law Dean Kevin Johnson. “They’re just tightening the process without showing how the process needs to be tightened, and the only explanation is to slow the number of people coming in by making it harder to get in.”
Unlike some of the 9-11 attackers who came on student visas, “these are people have employee sponsors who want them to be here,” Johnson said. “If they go out of status and become undocumented, they are subject to deportation and can’t work.”