On August 28, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced that it will expand in-person interviews of foreign nationals applying for permanent residency in the United States. Currently, individuals seeking green cards through their relationships with family members by filing an I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and an I-485, Application to Adjust Status, are required to attend in-person interviews at local USCIS offices. Applicants seeking employment-based green cards through the filing of an I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, and an I-485, Application to Adjust Status, are not, however, generally required to appear for interviews at local offices. Relatives of asylees and refugees are also generally excused from attending in-person interviews with USCIS under the current system. USCIS does have the authority to conduct in-person interviews in these cases when deemed necessary, but it is not required to do so in all cases. Instead, employment-based applications and refugee/asylee relative petitions are adjudicated at a handful of Service Centers located throughout the United States, rather than at local offices. This model was implemented decades ago in order to streamline adjudications and increase efficiencies.
According to USCIS’s new announcement, the Service will begin phasing in local, in-person interviews for these additional applicant categories on October 1, 2017. This change is expected to further increase USCIS’s already lengthy processing times and lead to an even larger backlog of cases. Green card applicants should expect increased processing and wait times for these applications.
Melanie Gurley Keeney, a founding Shareholder of Tueth, Keeney, Cooper, Mohan & Jackstadt, P.C. , practices in the areas of Employment, Immigration, and Education law. Melanie represents institutions of higher education, corporations and individuals in immigration law matters, including obtaining nonimmigrant and immigrant visas and handling employer sanctions issues, I-9 compliance, E-Verify issues, consular processing and naturalization. She frequently speaks on immigration, labor and education issues. Her experience in education law includes representing numerous Missouri school districts and institutions of higher education regarding a wide range of personnel and student matters. Melanie also specializes in First Amendment issues, ranging from free speech to religion in the schools, and she regularly advises school districts on these issues. She is also a popular speaker on the local and national level. Melanie has extensive experience litigating both federal and state cases. Melanie is a past board member of the National School Board Association’s Council of School Attorneys and is past Chairman of the Missouri Council of School Attorneys.
Melanie has been listed in St. Louis Magazine’s “St. Louis Best Lawyers” and “The Best Lawyers in America,” from 1997-present, and in “Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers,” 2005-present editions as a top lawyer and one of the top 50 female lawyers in Missouri and Kansas and in Kansas City Magazine as one of the “Top Missouri Lawyers.” Best Lawyers has named Melanie Gurley Keeney as the “St. Louis Best Lawyers Immigration Law Lawyer of the Year” for 2012 and 2015, and she has been selected for inclusion in the Martindale-Hubbell ® 2012 Bar Register of Preeminent Women Lawyers™. In 2014, Washington University School of Law presented Melanie with the International Women’s Day Award for Employment Law.
Mollie E. Hennessee practices primarily in the areas of school, higher education, labor and employment, and immigration law. She represents school districts throughout Missouri with respect to employment and termination matters, student discipline and student rights, and civil rights. Mollie also represents colleges and universities and private employers in employment and immigration matters. Prior to joining the Firm, Mollie worked for the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement as an Assistant Chief Counsel, representing the federal government in deportation proceedings. While in law school, Mollie served as an intern for the Honorable Catherine D. Perry of the United States District Court in Eastern Missouri.
Immigration – The firm represent businesses, institutions of higher learning, and individuals with respect to immigration-related matters, including obtaining visitor visas, temporary and permanent work visas, consular processing of visas, obtaining citizenship, advising employers on employment sanctions issues, and defending employers faced with INS I-9 audits and investigations.