Unsurprisingly, the current administration continues to explore options to target all forms of immigration for singular attention. Unfortunately, employment based immigration, which has largely escaped scrutiny is now under the magnifying glass! For as long as I can remember, USCIS has been increasingly overwhelmed by their workload contributing to slower and slower immigration processing times.
Even after the Visa Numbers become current, it takes approximately 10-12 months longer for final adjudication of a pre-adjudicated Application. Waiving the interview process for employment immigrants who have already spent years in the limbo and undergone several rounds of biometrics and medical scrutiny would seem logical. However, this new policy, announced this week targets Employment Based (EB) immigrants. USCIS has announced that as of October 1st, it will begin phasing in interviews for all employment-based green card applicants as well as asylees and refugees who are petitioning for a spouse or child to join them in the United States.
Unfortunately, current interviews are almost always scheduled by the National Benefits Center (NBC). The Service Centers (Nebraska and Texas) where most of the EB cases reside are not equipped to handle the additional burden of scheduling interviews, or handling the additional workload effectively. This will mean a chaotic roll out of an ill-conceived plan through an underprepared agency, already extremely burdened with cumbersome procedures.
More importantly, the local field office where the interviews are likely to be scheduled have traditionally handled family immigration and naturalization. Officers are not trained to handle complex business immigration issues. Recently, for instance, I had the misfortune to go before an Officer who was ready to deny an EB applicant who had traveled on a valid H-1B Visa (which is perfectly legal and permitted by both USCIS and CBP) after filing the Adjustment of Status Application. I had to scramble to provide the Officer with USCIS guidance related to travel for EB applicants. The Officer, who was undoubtedly using his Family Based Immigration training, was clearly ill-equipped to handle the EB interview.
Far from rooting out fraud and protecting national security and public safety (as the Service claims as justification for the change), scheduling interviews for EB applicants is likely to bog down the process for those who have already cleared rigorous background and security checks and have no fraud indicators.
This new and enhanced administrative procedure will cripple the already lengthy and excruciatingly slow immigration process for EB applicants from India and China who have already waited 10-12 years for the final stage of processing. This policy will needlessly complicate matters and irreparably damage the already unworkable immigration system.
I see this as the “final straw” that has the proverbial effect of breaking the back of EB applicants. With an ever expanding global economy EB immigrants will start looking at either going back, or moving elsewhere. This will adversely affect U.S. businesses, our local communities, and our national economy. As the American Immigration Lawyers Association put it,
It is indefensible that the president and his advisors are trying to do an end run around Congress and dismantle the legal immigration system by imposing insurmountable processing hurdles.