A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration lawyer. We serve clients in all U.S. states and overseas countries. (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Asylee Adjustment Interviews Much Less Likely to be Waived

If you have been granted political asylum or refugee status by the US government, you may generally apply for a green card through the adjustment of status process after being in the US for one year.  You must continue to meet the definition of a refugee and has not firmly resettled in another country.  

To apply for adjustment of status, you must also not subject to other grounds of inadmissibility (e.g., criminal background).  For many years, interviews have not been required when asylees or refugees apply for adjustment of status. However, this will change soon. 

Following a December 15, 2020 change in USCIS policy, asylees and refugees applying for adjustment of status are much more likely to have to attend an interview. Previously, asylees that had already been interviewed by an officer were extremely likely to have their adjustment interview waived. This change removes them from the list of waivable adjustment interviews, leaving them open to being selected based on officer discretion.

Officer discretion on selecting adjustment cases for interviews is guided by several general criteria. Overall, issues with the applicant's identity and concerns of national security, fraud, and other grounds of inadmissibility that arise during background checks necessitate an interview. The officer can also request an interview if there is insufficient information to establish eligibility through just documentation. 

Other reasons include residence or citizenship in a country deemed a State Sponsor of Terrorism or if an applicant benefitted from an approved I-730 petition but was not interviewed. The decision to call for an interview is ultimately down to the officer.

USCIS explains that under the previous policy less than 5% of asylee adjustment applicants were interviewed. This figure will rise significantly following this change, something USCIS acknowledges as part of an effort to increase screening and vetting. 

Interviews are a standard part of many application procedures. Anyone, asylee applicant or not, feeling unsure about an upcoming adjustment interview can seek the guidance of an immigration attorney to help prepare for it.

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