During the summer, significant changes have been made to several important immigration procedures, including a new requirement for in-person interviews for all employment-based adjustment of status applicants. The J-1 exchange visitor visa program may also be targeted for substantial change. The changes in both areas are outlined below, but if you are affected in any way by any of the recent changes in immigration laws and procedures, you should discuss the details of your own situation personally with an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney.

In August, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that in-person interviews will now be required for employment-based adjustment of status applicants (that is, those filing Form I-485, “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status”). Employees in temporary nonimmigrant status who have submitted an I-485 application to adjust their status to permanent residence will now be required to appear at a local USCIS office for an in-person interview prior to the final approval of the permanent residence application.

WHEN WILL THE NEW INTERVIEWS BEGIN?

In-person interviews will also now be required for individuals filing a Form I-730, the “Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition.” The interviews will be phased in beginning on October 1st. Applicants in the two categories were not previously required to appear for in-person interviews with USCIS, although in-person interviews have been a standard requirement for marriage-based adjustment of status applicants.

In fact, USCIS personnel have not conducted interviews for employment-based I-485 applicants in more than fifteen years. USCIS so far has provided no guidance regarding the format of the new interviews, and there has been no word or indication that USCIS offices will obtain additional personnel, training, or funding to support the additional work that the interviews will generate. The lack of new funding or personnel will probably mean even more delays for scores of foreign nationals employed in the U.S. who are awaiting permanent residence. Many have already waited for several years.

HOW MIGHT THE J-1 EXCHANGE VISITOR VISA PROGRAM BE CHANGED?

Possible changes may also be in store for the J-1 exchange visitor visa program. This is a program which offers cultural and educational exchange opportunities in the United States to about 300,000 foreign visitors each year through a variety of programs in cooperation with the State Department. J-1 exchange visitor visa program participants have been predominantly entrepreneurs, students, and professionals who want to improve their English, build personal and business relationships, and learn more about the United States.

The changes to the J-1 program that are being suggested by the Trump Administration are reported to include a reduction in the number of available J-1 visas, the elimination of some intern and trainee programs, and more audits and site visits – that is, heightened enforcement of the J-1 program’s terms and conditions. At this time, however, no changes have been formally made to the J-1 program by the State Department.

2017 has been a year of many changes – often confusing and chaotic changes – in the overall immigration picture. If you’re confused, you are not alone. Even more changes should be expected in the coming months. An experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney can help employers, families, visa holders, and visa applicants meet their legal challenges, stay in compliance with the law, understand what the changes mean for your own situation and circumstances.