Once a family-based petition for a green card is filed, especially in conjunction with an adjustment of status application, an applicant will often wonder how long the case will take to complete. Generally speaking, we have seen a delay in adjudication in 2017 due to a slew of applications for citizenship and green cards that were filed last year. As a result, cases that would ordinarily take four to five months can take possibly up to and sometimes beyond one year. For family-based applications, is it important to understand that most cases will be scheduled for an interview at the local district office. For example, nearly all I-130 spouse petitions filed with I-485 adjustment of status applications will be scheduled for an interview. This makes sense given that an officer will need to meet with the couple to determine whether the relationship is genuine and bona fide. Therefore, it is unrealistic for an applicant to assume that once he/she is married and files for permanent residence, the green card will automatically be mailed without some sort of government vetting, especially in this day and age. On the other hand, not all family based cases will be scheduled for interviews. It is possible that certain cases will be adjudicated without having the petitioner and beneficiary appear personally for questioning.
The USCIS Policy Manual lays out the criteria when an interview may be waived in the discretion of USCIS. For Adjustment of Status cases, interviews may be waived for the following types of cases:
· Applicants clearly ineligible (which presumably means a denial notice will just be mailed);
· Unmarried children of US citizens, if not filed as part of a family pack;
· Parents of US citizens;
· Fiancés of US citizens who married within 90 days, and their children;
· Asylee and refugee cases in which the applicant has previously been interviewed by an asylum or refugee officer; and
· Unmarried children (under age 14) of lawful permanent residents.
There are also provisions that apply to employment-based adjustment cases as well as military personnel and incarcerated petitioners.
While interviews may be waived, this does not mean they will be waived. We have seen certain cases that are interview waiver-eligible nevertheless be scheduled for interviews. There are also cases in the above classifications that may be scheduled due to issues or circumstances where an interview is deemed necessary to clarify, verify or resolve. For instance, with respect to parents, an interview may be scheduled if the documents establishing the parental relationship are insufficient or questionable. For fiancés, a marriage interview may still be scheduled, even if the marriage occurs within 90 days, if the couple seem unordinary or present disparities that warrant a second look.
If an interview is scheduled, it certainly does not mean that the case will be denied. The interview may be randomly scheduled or even turn out to be a formality. One way to mitigate the chances of an interview or ensure that the case goes through, even if an interview is scheduled, is to diligently assemble the required documentation and scrupulously check that everything is in order.
The above is general information only and not to be relied upon as legal advice. It does not create an attorney client relationship nor should it be relied upon as advice in lieu of consultation with an attorney.