On March 6, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 12780, which, among other things, called for the implementation of standardized vetting procedures for immigration benefits, including in-person interviews. Based on this Executive Order, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”) now requires that all applicants for employment-based green cards and their family members applying for derivative green cards appear for an in-person interview. Prior to this Executive Order, the majority of employment-based green card interviews were waived by USCIS as these applicants were considered a lower security risk. Given the recent change in policy, any applicant who had an I-140 filed after March 6, 2017 will be called for an interview at a USCIS Field Office.
While an in-person interview with an immigration official may seem daunting, there are many things you can do to prepare for the interview, as described below:
- Read the Interview Notice & Organize your Documents – You will receive an interview notice that provides the date and time of the interview, as well as a list of documents to bring. Read the notice carefully and make sure you bring all requested documents with you to the interview to avoid any delays or Requests for Evidence. Note that you must bring originals and a copy of all the documents, which often amounts to hundreds of pages of personal documents. The officer will likely ask you to provide them with originals and copies of relevant documents during the interview, meaning it is important to make sure your documents are well organized so you can find everything quickly and efficiently.
- Obtain Updated Documents from your Employer – Make sure to bring proof of ongoing employment with your sponsoring employer, including a current letter from your employer confirming the job offer, all paystubs received since the application was filed, your most recent W-2 and your tax returns.
- Review your Entire Immigration Record – Generally the most relevant information to study will be the PERM Labor Certification, I-140 and I-485 petitions, however you should review your entire immigration history with your attorney prior to the interview to make sure you are prepared to answer questions about prior petitions and trips to the U.S. The officer may ask about anything in your immigration history to make sure you have not violated your status, worked without authorization or engaged in any other activities that would make you ineligible to receive the green card. If you have a long history of visiting the U.S. and do not recall the details of your prior entries, you should make every effort to track down this information by reviewing old passports and possibly even filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain your records.
- Practice for the Interview – During the actual interview you may be nervous, so it is a good idea to practice answering interview questions with your attorney or with friends and family. You should be very familiar with your I-140 and I-485 applications and should be able to answer questions about your employer, your job duties, your experience and education and your employment history with the company. If your spouse and children are applying with you, they should also prepare to answer questions about their immigration history and spouses should bring evidence documenting the validity of the marriage. Even in employment-based interviews, some officers ask for proof of photos and joint financial documents to demonstrate that the marriage between the principal applicant and spouse is legitimate. If you have children, they will also receive an interview notice and should appear for the interview, although the officer may choose to waive their interview.
An important thing to remember is that by the time you attend your interview, the I-140 has already been approved and the I-485 green card application has been reviewed by the National Benefits Center. The purpose of the interview is to allow the officer to determine whether the information in the application is accurate and credible. Interviews are now an important part of the employment-based green card process and you should make sure to prepare carefully and thoroughly, under the guidance of an experienced immigration attorney. Your attorney is permitted to attend the interview with you and while the field offices adjust to handling employment-based green card interviews, it is highly recommended to have an attorney represent you at the interview to make sure your rights are protected. An attorney could assist with any questions that arise regarding the underlying I-140 petition, PERM or other technical aspect.
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