On March 18, USCIS closed its offices to in-person services to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. This suspension of in-person services included cancelling any applicant interviews that were previously scheduled. However, unofficially, word of mouth is beginning to spread that USCIS has been waiving the in-person interview requirement in certain cases.
The official policy on the USCIS website remains unchanged. The website states that USCIS domestic field offices will send instructions to applicants and petitioners with scheduled interviews who have been impacted by the closure. USCIS will automatically reschedule the interviews when the offices re-open. Applicants or petitioners who had InfoPass appointments at a Field Office are required to reschedule their own appointments through the USCIS Contact Center.
Anecdotal cases, however, tell a different story. The American Immigration Lawyers Association is starting to receive reports that USCIS is occasionally waiving in-person interviews in adjustment-of-status (I-485) cases related to family and employment-based entry into the country. Many employment-based green card applicants are finding that their interviews have been waived instead of rescheduled: Without an interview, their case statuses are changing to “approved”, and they are receiving their green card in the mail shortly afterward.
There has also been a (much) smaller number of marriage-based green card applicants reporting the same thing. Sources report that this is probably less likely to occur often because marriage-based green card interviews are necessary to weed out fraudulent relationships.
Again, it’s important to reiterate that there has been no official USCIS announcement or policy change regarding in-person interview requirements. If your interview was cancelled during the coronavirus pandemic, do not expect USCIS to waive it as some kind of blanket policy.
However, if you fall under either of the categories discussed above—primarily, employment-based green card applicants—you might perhaps want to check your case status once in a while to see if it has changed. It’s highly probable that USCIS is trying to avoid an insurmountable backlog of interviews once offices re-open.
Additionally, instead of sending notices asking green-card applicants to bring their medical examination form to the interview, USCIS is beginning to request that applicants mail these forms directly to USCIS. They have also begun accepting reproductions of a handwritten, original signature instead of a “wet” signature for benefit forms and documents dated on or after March 21, 2020. These unofficial policy adjustments suggest that USCIS is attempting to avoid unnecessary delays and accumulations of work to be done once things return to normal.
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