AILA Doc. No. 16112144 | Dated June 16, 2020
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There are also a number of steps you can take on your own to determine whether a new policy that you hear about from an officer, attorney, or adjudicator is truth or rumor, including working with your local agency offices and your local chapter officials and liaisons. For more information, see AILA’s Member Alert, Communicating Rumors and Policy Changes in a New Administration.
What We Are Hearing About USCIS Processing of Adjustment of Status Applications
Updated June 16, 2020, at 4:30 pm (ET)
According to Roll Call reporter Tanvi Mistri in an email on June 16, 2020, USCIS officials informed staff that they are “resuming processing of all I-485 applications.” AILA has yet to confirm if this guidance has reached the National Benefits Center or local USCIS field office personnel. AILA and the USCIS Field Operations Liaison Committee will continue to monitor this issue and alert members of any updated guidance.
On June 11, 2020, reporter Hamed Aleaziz tweeted that internal USCIS guidance stated that many green card cases of individuals within the U.S. would be put on hold due to President Trump’s April 2020 Presidential Proclamation. Subsequently, a Roll Call article dated June 12, 2020, by Tanvi Mistri explained that USCIS claimed that “the hold on processing green card applications from current U.S. residents stems from the temporary suspension of in-person services during the COVID-19 pandemic.” In that article, USCIS acknowledged that the material discussed in Aleaziz’s tweet was posted on “an internal webpage used by headquarters staff to maintain records of guidance,” but said it incorrectly referenced the proclamation and was taken down.
AILA has been in contact with USCIS, Hill staff, and reporters to obtain additional information on USCIS’s current guidance for the processing of adjustment of status applications. From what we have surmised, the hold on adjustment of status cases applies to cases that are pre-processed by the National Benefits Center before being sent to local USCIS field offices and specifically the following cases:
- “I-485 interviews”; and
- “I-485 interview waiver cases not already distributed”.
However, “emergent or sensitive” cases, such as those related to COVID-19, may be referred by officers to leadership to determine if the cases can move forward. It is also important to note that some adjustment cases are adjudicated by SCOPS (including for example, asylum, diversity visa, EB-4, T, U and VAWA cases).
Based on member reports, adjustment of status applications continue to be approved in instances where interviews have been waived. Therefore, the “hold” seems to be in reference to those cases that require in-person interviews before a final decision can be issued.
A hold on adjustment of status interviews could appear to be consistent with the information that USCIS has released concerning its phased reopening of in-person services. Although USCIS began reopening field offices for non-emergency services on June 4, 2020, the agency announced that “offices will reduce the number of appointments and interviews to ensure social distancing.” As local USCIS field offices begin reopening, USCIS has prioritized in-person services for naturalization oath ceremonies and naturalization interviews and continues to handle emergency services. AILA expects that as more social distancing protocols are lifted, USCIS should begin resuming other types of interviews and appointments.
However, given the hold on “interview waiver cases not already distributed” it seems to indicate that USCIS has stopped actively making interview waiver determinations and adjudicating those cases. Based on conflicting reports we have received it is unclear whether this is a temporary pause on interview cases or on all adjustment of status cases at field offices.
AILA and the USCIS Field Operations Liaison Committee will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that the “temporary hold” on adjustment of status interviews is not held in place for an unnecessarily lengthy period of time.
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Members can find more information about the procedures at each local USCIS Field Office in this spreadsheet that is being regularly updated by AILA’s local USCIS liaisons, as well as AILA’s USCIS Field Operations Liaison Committee. If you have information to share with AILA about the approval of adjustment of status applications, field office procedures, or inordinate processing delays of adjustment of status cases, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.