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Trump administration introduces green card hurdle

Washington, Aug 26 (IANS) US immigration authorities will soon require an in-person interview for certain applicants for green cards, a change that is likely to slow the process of obtaining one and may jam the already-backlogged visa application system, a media report said.

The new requirement, which was confirmed on Friday by a spokesman for the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), will apply to anyone moving from an employment-based visa to lawful permanent residency, Politico reported.

Visa holders who are family members of refugees or people who receive asylum will also be required to undergo an in-person interview when they apply for provisional status, a stage that precedes receiving a green card, according to USCIS.

The new policy will take effect from October 1, the report said.

In fiscal year 2015, nearly 168,000 immigrants in these categories obtained lawful permanent residency, according to annual statistics from the Department of Homeland Security.

Most (roughly 122,000) moved from an employment-based visa to a green card. The interview mandate is part of President Donald Trump’s plan to apply “extreme vetting” to immigrants and visitors to the US.

The travel ban executive order signed by Trump in January and revised in March called for federal departments to develop “uniform screening and vetting standards” to identify terrorists or people who “present a risk of causing harm”. The standards could include an in-person interview, the order stated.

Carter Langston, a spokesperson for USCIS, told Politico that the categories of visas that require interviews will expand in the future, calling it “an incremental expansion”.

The policy, Langston said, is “part of a comprehensive strategy to further improve the detection and prevention of fraud and security risks to the US”.

The requirement for an in-person interview is not, technically, new, said the report.

But the agency currently waives the interview requirement for these visa holders “most of the time”, according to William Stock, a Philadelphia-based attorney and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Under the new policy, such waivers won’t be granted, he said.

The added interview workload will almost lengthen wait times from green card applications, according to the report. As of June 30, the office was processing applications received more than six months earlier, according to a tracking tool on the agency’s website.

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