Asylum Interview Do-s And Don’t-s
New York Immigration lawyer Alena Shautsova helps asylum seekers to submit their claims for asylum, prepare for the interview, assist with further processing of the asylum claims if the case is referred to Immigration court.
It is no doubt that official immigration interviews such as an Asylum Interview can be gruesome and nerve -wrecking to say the least. This is because often people do not know what to expect at the interview, are not sure if they prepared in the best possible way, and, normally, an ordinary person, appears for such sort of interviews only once their life and hence it is a new stressful experience. Asylum officer, or an attorney, on the other hand, handle interviews on a regular basis, and are familiar with the process, potential issues, time expectations, etc. So, on the date of the interview, there is only one party in the room that is stressed and anxious: the asylum applicant...
If you intend to apply for an asylum in the Unite States, there is a sequence of process that you would be following in order to secure an interview, if you are falling into what is known an Affirmative Asylum process (when you are not in the Immigration court). This would be a typical situation for someone who entered the United States legally and later applied for asylum in the United States.
You need to keep in mind the following:
- You must be physically present in the U.S.A in order to apply for an Asylum. It is impossible to apply for US asylum from overseas.
- You need to file your application for asylum form I 589 with USCIS within one year of your entry into the United States (certain exceptions may apply)
- Once USCIS receives your application, you will receive a Receipt of Acknowledgement and a Notice to visit the nearest application support center for biometrics. This step may take several months currently, due to COVID-related delays.
- You will be called for an affirmative asylum interview with an Asylum officer (not a judge!) within several months after you submit your application. The several months estimation is only valid for the recent cases. Some cases, filed in 2015-2018 are pending for years in the United States. Since it is the US government that determines the priority of the cases that are called for the interview, and since the priority changes from time to time, it is impossible to predict when exactly you may be called for an interview. And all this time, perhaps years, you must remain ready and aware, and in good memory as to the facts you are expected to testify on the date of your interview.
- If you move while waiting for your interview, you must update your address within 10 days of your move with USCIS and local Asylum office. The jurisdiction of your case may change if you move to an address that relates to a new jurisdiction. This may cause delays in your asylum case processing.
Now, let’s talk about how to prepare for the interview and what to do and what not to do on the date of your interview.
- Review your form I-589 application for asylum and all the attachments that were mailed to USCIS on your behalf. If for any reason you do not have a copy of your file, order it immediately via USCIS FOIA request.
- On the date of the interview, you have a right to amend and supplement your asylum filings. Note: currently, most asylum offices will require that you submit additional materials 14-7 days prior to the interview.
- If you do not speak English fluently, currently, the US government will provide a free interpreter for you. Keep in mind that the interpreter may make mistakes in translation, and you have to be extra patient and testify slowly, so that interpreter has time to translate your testimony.
- Unfortunately, you cannot take notes during the Asylum interview, even though the officer can. Your attorney, however, can take and should take notes. Prepare that you will not be allowed to refer to any materials you may have with you, and all the facts, dates, names, etc. must come from your memory.
- Prepare that you will not be able to travel outside of the United States, nor will you be able to unite with your family who is overseas for as long as your case is pending, until it is approved.
- Do not file asylum case for improper reason: for example, just to get a work permit. This is wrong, you will end up in removal proceedings, and may be punished for frivolous asylum filing. Please understand that asylum is not an option to prolong your stay in the United States.
- Do not send requests to expedite your asylum interview unless you have a very good reason for it (urgent humanitarian or medical reason, usually).
- Do not leave the United States without an advance parole if you have a pending asylum case.
- Do not ask for your interview to be rescheduled more than once. First, an asylum office may deny even the first request if no good reason is articulated for the request. Second, if you ask the interview to be rescheduled again, very often, you will be denied. However, some offices are more flexible than others, but you need to be prepared for the possibility of being referred to an Immigration court each time you submit a request to reschedule your interview.
- Do not be late for the interview, and do not be too early: you will not be allowed to the building, especially currently, during COVID. During the COVID: you must bring your mask, and your pen when you are called for the interview with USCIS, including Asylum interview.
- Obviously, do not make up anything that did not happen, be complete, truthful, and on point. When testifying, you should concentrate and answer the question that was asked. If you do not know the answer, do not guess it. Do not think about what the officer would like you to say. Just state what you know, and what happened. There are no “extra points” for being evasive and non-responsive.
If you have any questions related to asylum, consult with New York Immigration lawyer Alena Shautsova at 917-885-2261 and find out about your options. (Consultation fees apply).