What Should I Expect at My Asylum-Based Adjustment of Status Interview?

After filing Form I-485 for adjustment of status in the U.S., here's what an asylee should prepare for in terms of questions and issues with regard to green card eligibility.

If you have lived in the U.S. for one year or more after being granted asylum, you are eligible to apply for what's called "adjustment of status." It's the U.S.-based process for someone to become a legal permanent resident (get a “green card”).

It's definitely in your best interest to apply for a green card as soon as possible after you are eligible. After five years, green card holders are eligible to apply for naturalization. Asylees are also given one year of credit for their time as an asylee, so most will be able to apply for naturalization only four years after getting their green card.

In addition to the one-year physical presence requirement, an asylee must continue to meet the definition of refugee, not be firmly resettled in another country, and not be subject to certain grounds of inadmissibility to the U.S. (or if they are, qualify for a waiver).

After you submit your complete adjustment of status application, you will be issued a notice for a fingerprint (biometrics) appointment. You must attend this.

Later, you will be sent an appointment notice for an interview at a local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office.

Planning for the Day of Your USCIS Interview

Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled interview time. If you cannot make it, contact the USCIS office as soon as possible. You will likely be able to reschedule for another date.

Prepare to bring your original I-94, birth certificate, and passport with you. Also be ready to sit in a waiting room for a long time; the interview doesn't always take place exactly when planned.

The USCIS officer will begin your interview by reviewing the information in your adjustment of status application. Let the officer know if anything in your application has changed, for example you have changed your address or have had a child.

Throughout the interview, be polite and respectful to the officer. Answer all questions directly. Do not give information unrelated to the questions asked.

What the Officer Will Base the Decision On

Although much of the USCIS interview will be a routine review of your application, the officer has some important decisions to make regarding whether you are eligible for a U.S. green card.

Determining Whether You Still Meet the Definition of Refugee

The interviewing officer will look into your files for your Form I-589 (application for asylum). You will not be expected to prove your case again (like you did in court or before an asylum officer).

But there is a small risk associated with this portion of the officer's review: If the officer has become aware of new evidence demonstrating that you did not qualify for asylum when it was granted (for example, that you submitted fraudulent evidence to support your case), your asylee status could be terminated and you would be placed into removal (deportation) proceedings.
Your asylee status could also be terminated if the officer finds that changed country conditions make it safe for you to return home.

Determining Whether You Are Subject to a Ground of Inadmissibility

Asylees cannot be found inadmissible to the U.S. on many of the grounds that other noncitizens are. These grounds include public charge, labor certification (someone who entered the U.S. to work without the proper authorization), and documentation (someone who entered the U.S. without proper documentation).

Asylees should not, therefore, be concerned about new USCIS public charge rules expanding the scope of this ground when applying for adjustment.

Still, asylees are subject to other grounds of inadmissibility including health-, criminal-, and security-related grounds. The officer will need to determine that you are not barred on one of these grounds before approving your application. Specifically, if the USCIS officer determines that you match the description of any of the following grounds of inadmissibility, your case becomes much more difficult:

  • controlled substance trafficking
  • espionage
  • terrorist activities
  • adverse foreign policy impact, or
  • having participated in Nazi persecution or genocide.

You will not be granted adjustment of status and will be ordered to attend removal (deportation) proceedings. If you believe you could be subject to any of these grounds, contact an immigration attorney before applying for adjustment of status.

Determining Whether You Submitted and Passed the Medical Exam

If you did not submit your medical exam report (on USCIS Form I-693) with your adjustment of status application, you will need to visit a USCIS-authorized doctor to get this done, and take the completed exam to your interview.

As of November 1, 2018 the medical exam will be good for two years after it is signed by a civil surgeon. Under the new policy, the medical exam cannot have been completed more than 60 days before filing for adjustment of status.

If you submitted a medical exam that took place more than two months before you filed for adjustment, you should bring another medical exam report with you to your interview. From the results of the medical exam, the officer will decide whether you are subject to any health-related grounds of inadmissibility.

Determining Whether You Have a Criminal Record

If you have had any contact with law enforcement anywhere in the world, including arrests, charges, or convictions, you will need to bring the police and/or court records with you to your interview. You should also hire an attorney to evaluate your record before you set foot in a USCIS office; you could be subject to removal from the United States.

The officer may take testimony under oath from you in your interview if you he or she believes you may be subject to a criminal ground of inadmissibility.

Many of the criminal grounds of inadmissibility are waivable for asylees, using Form I-602. You will need to demonstrate to the officer that humanitarian, family unity, or public interest concerns merit a waiver in your case. Bring a copy of this waiver request to your interview if you are subject to a criminal ground of inadmissibility. This, too, is best prepared with a lawyer's help.

Approval for a Green Card

If the USCIS officer conducting your interview determines that you meet all the requirements for adjustment of status, you will receive a decision in the mail soon after your interview. Your green card will arrive by mail soon after that.

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