One of the pathways to obtain permanent residency in the US is through an employment-based green card application. It is permitted to seek a green card while working with an H1B non-immigrant visa, and it is a new expressed intent by the government to focus more on retaining highly skilled resident workers than the H1B temporary foreign worker.
Nonetheless, as part of the new wave of enhanced immigration procedures, there is a new requirement that all green card applicants show up for an in-person interview as part of the process. The face to face interview has always been part of the rules, but was usually waived as unnecessary. In the modern US immigration climate, efficiency has once again given way to ‘fraud and security risks.’
One More Rule to Minimize Fraud and Increase Security
According to the USCIS “The policy is “part of a comprehensive strategy to further improve the detection and prevention of fraud and security risks to the United States.” This is meant to correspond to President Trump’s policy of “extreme vetting” of immigrants, where the assumption is that all foreign nationals present a security risk, unless they can prove that they are not.
Presumably, immigration authorities want to make sure that green card applicants are actually who they say they are, and that all the information is correct and documented. This is similar to the H1B visa consulate interview, where officers will ask applicants questions about the job, location, their education and experience, and double check that against the H1B petition.
Still, it is hard to imagine why suddenly non-immigrants already working in the US who had been through a consulate interview for their H1B petition, are suddenly a new security risk. But, green card applicants will have no choice but to schedule and travel to an interview before approval.
The US EB1, EB2 and EB3 Employment Based Green Cards Subject to the New Rule
There are three different levels of qualifications for employment based green cards, and beginning October 1, 2017 all of them will require a mandatory interview. Obviously in some cases this will be impractical at best, and could present a serious hurdle for others. The most assured outcome is that it will increase wait times for green card application approvals, as the immigration agencies will have to schedule thousands of interviews in different locations.
For example, in 2015 122,000 workers on a non-immigrant visa were given a green card, with many more denied the same. That seems like a significant increase in workload for immigration offices, despite the hiring of many additional personnel that is underway.
For H1B visa workers holding a job some distance from an immigration office, this will mean travel costs and time off work to sit down for the interview. However, if all the information is correct and matches your application, there should not be an issue as long as you don’t seem like a ‘security threat.’ Unfortunately, there is little guidance on what criteria immigration officers are using to vet H1B and other non-immigrants seeking green cards, but it is safe to assume that the country of origin will be a factor.
H1B visa holders applying for green card status should not be too discouraged by this latest rule and step in the process, but need to be aware of what is required and to be prepared to answer questions about work history, travel, family members, foreign affiliations and educational degrees. If you have questions about how to move from an H1B visa to an employment based green card please contact us at any time.
- January 24th, 2018