The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the United States Department of State almost never issue green cards without first interviewing the applicant in person. A green card may be issued without an interview in extremely exceptional circumstances. The difference between an immigration petition and a green card application is crucial to comprehending the procedure at hand.
What Is a Petition for Permanent Residence?
A green card in the United States can be obtained by a noncitizen by filing a petition with USCIS to prove the existence of a qualifying relationship and that they meet other eligibility requirements for permanent residency. Common petition types include the I-130 (used for green card applications based on family ties), the I-140 (used for green card applications based on employment ties), and the I-360 (used for special immigrant cases).
Sponsorship of an immigrant family member requires a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
However, if an employer wants to bring a foreign worker to the United States permanently, they must file Form I-140, the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. Special immigrants, such as Amerasians, US citizen widows and widowers, and victims of abuse or violence, file the I-360 petition.
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Green Card Immigration Application
Foreign nationals either apply for a green card via the adjustment of status process using Form I-485, found on USCIS’s website or through consular processing via an immigrant visa application using Form DS-260, found on the US Department of State’s website. Those who can finish the green card process in the United States submit an application for adjustment of status, while those who must go through a U.S. consulate in their home country submit an application for an immigrant visa. Both scenarios have different procedures and require multiple forms to be filed besides the I-485 or DS-260, along with supporting documents.
The Necessity of an Interview
For consular processing cases, applicants must always appear for an interview at the U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country. In most adjustment of status cases, applicants must also appear in person for an interview with USCIS officers. USCIS may, however, on a case-by-case basis, decide not to require an interview of a particular applicant. During the interview, USCIS agents will ask you questions to confirm your identity, review your paperwork, clarify any questions they may have, and discuss any changes that need to be made to your application.
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Waiving The Interview
In some cases, after reviewing the applicant’s file extensively, USCIS officers may decide to forego the interview. Those who are obviously ineligible for adjustment of status, children under the age of 14 and parents of US citizens may be exempt from having to attend an interview.
Additionally, USCIS may waive the personal appearance of the petitioner but still require the adjustment applicant to attend the interview if the petitioner is a member of the armed forces, an inmate, or is otherwise unable to attend the interview due to illness or disability.
Trends and Changes in USCIS Policy
Note that USCIS does not officially recommend or require that you request a waiver of the interview. In recent months, some adjustment of status applications have been approved without an interview by USCIS, but this is not always the case. USCIS officials evaluate each case independently based on the available information.
Recently, USCIS has been increasingly granting employment-based and family-based green card applications without an interview. This may have arisen because of past practices where interviews were not always required for cases involving employment. Certain employment-based visa applications may be approved by USCIS without an in-person interview being required. Lately, if USCIS has enough evidence that a marriage is bona fide and the applicant legally qualifies, it has been waiving marriage based green card interviews in the United States. However, some cases involving family ties may still be subject to additional scrutiny and require an interview before approval. Every case is unique and depends on its particular evidence.
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Assistance during the Pandemic
USCIS continues to process green card applications and make decisions, including the possible waiver of interviews, despite the difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many USCIS offices have closed or are still operating at reduced capacity due to the pandemic, which has resulted in longer wait times for applications. In spite of the difficulties, it is comforting to know that USCIS is making efforts to process green card applications as efficiently as possible by beginning to waive interviews.
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Although it is highly unusual for a green card to be issued without an interview, USCIS may decide to do so on a case-by-case basis. The USCIS considers a number of factors when deciding whether or not to waive an interview, including the nature of the petition, the applicant’s circumstances, and the applicant’s eligibility.
Green card applicants would do well to keep abreast of developments in immigration law and practice and to work closely with a knowledgeable immigration attorney as they go through the often convoluted application process. Individuals can improve their chances of obtaining a green card and becoming lawful permanent residents of the United States by familiarizing themselves with the requirements, assembling the required documents, and monitoring any policy changes.
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