Turning Green During COVID-19
Updated: Oct 6, 2020
2019/04/09: Priority Date, PERM filed to DOL
2020/01/15: I-140 Immigration Petition for Alien Worker filed with Premium Processing
2020/01/28: I-140 Approval Notice Received
2020/02/19: I-485/I-765/I-131 filed (Before Public Charge Rules implemented)
2020/03/13: I-485/I-765/I-131 Receipt Notice Received
2020/04/01: Biometrics appointment scheduled (cancelled thereafter due to COVID-19)
2020/04/14: I-485 RFE for medical exam (I-693) issued
2020/05/06: I-693 responded to USCIS
2020/06/02: I-765/I-131 approved without combo card issued
2020/08/15: Rescheduled biometrics appointment done at field office of San Jose, CA
2020/08/26: Combo card for I-765/I-131 received (Valid from 2020/06/02 to 2021/06/01)
2020/09/15: Card is Being Produced (Interview waived)
2020/09/17: Card is Mailed to Me
2020/09/18: I-485 Case is approved
2020/09/24: Permanent Resident cards received
Lessons/Experience I've learned/got from the Process
My green card application journey actually started as early as 2016. However, soon after my first PERM application was filed, the company I was in got some financial difficulties and had a mass layoff, and I was laid off before an I-140 petition is filed and approved even. Therefore, I could not actually get the PERM application priority date secured at all, and all the previous application work was totally wasted.
Even though I wasted my first PERM application from 2016. I was able to get my second PERM filed by my current employer in 2019 and secured by I-140 approval in early 2020. Moreover, because my wife's changeability falls into ROW (rest-of-world), which is current, we are able to file AOS petition as soon as we got our I-140 approval.
NBC vs Regional Service Centers
My case was submitted to National Benefit Center and stayed there throughout the whole process. I guess the difference here is that, if you filed I-485/I-140 concurrently, it should be submitted to regional service centers, and non-concurrent cases will be directly submitted to National Benefit Center. While regional service centers will process your I-765/I-131 petitions much faster and get your combo card earlier even without biometrics, it is NBC still that will make major process forward on I-485. Furthermore, NBC cannot issue your combo card without biometrics appointment done, even though they can approve your I-765/I-131 cases in advance.
It's rare yet possible to get interview waived. After talking with several other applicants, I found USCIS has some specific criteria to waive interviews. Basically, your petition needs to meet several points: (1) Dependent is currently under H4 or dependent equivalent status, instead of H1B or primary working visa equivalent; (2) your whole application process is smooth and I-140 is approved pretty recently; and finally (3) you do not have certain political triggers as Chinese communist membership or sensitive stuff. Also, one pattern I observed that most interview waived cases are staying at NBC and the approvals are directly coming from NBC.
Social Security in COVID-19
It's very possible that your SSN requests won't be processed by local SSN office even though you indicate the request in I-765 form during COVID-19 time. For us, we have to call local Social Security office to ask for it. The local social security officer is kind enough to provide everything we need to prepare, including an additional explanatory letter stating why you need SSN right now. After you gather all the documents ready, you should then directly fax them to your local social security office. Soon after that, they should be able to call you back to arrange an appointment.
I got my green card petition approved by 2020/09/18, which is the exact date for my first master studies class started in the United States 8 years ago.