The asylum process offers legal status to individuals who have fled their country of origin, should they meet the eligibility criteria.
If you are seeking asylum in the United States, you will be required to apply (Form I-589 Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal) to your local USCIS field office. Shortly after submission of the application, you will get a notice of interview appointment from your local USCIS office.
The purpose of the interview is primarily for the applicant and their attorney to meet the USCIS officer and review their application accordingly.
An asylum interview gives an applicant a rare opportunity to explain to the Asylum Officer (AO) the past persecution they suffered or the impending persecution they escaped in their country of origin. The AO will review the evidence and documentation submitted by an applicant. Their attorney will have ample opportunity to make arguments supporting your asylum claims and why the USCIS office should approve the application according to the United States immigration and refugee law.
Process for an Asylum Interview
After an applicant submits their application (Form I-589) to their local USCIS field office, they’ll receive a mail notification from the USCIS office scheduling them to report to that office on a specific date and time to meet with the Asylum Officer.
Usually, an asylum interview is completed within one sitting, but it could take longer, depending on the asylum claim. Since the Asylum Officers might have several questions to ask an applicant to ascertain their eligibility, an asylum interviewer might take between 30 minutes to 3 hours.
A second asylum interview might be necessary though this happens on rare occasions. For instance, if an AO is convinced that an applicant is eligible for asylum but lacks enough evidence, the AO might request them to corroborate their claim during the subsequent interview.
Preparing for the Asylum Interview
Applicants should review the I-589 application form they filed and attach personal statements and documents. Applicants should ensure they have a clear picture of the dates listed in their application documents submitted to the USCIS office for review.
Secondly, applicants must arrange and organize various documents for the asylum interview. Ensure you bring the following documents to the interview:
- USCIS notice informing you to appear for the asylum interview.
- A complete copy of your asylum application (Form I-589).
- Originals of all document copies submitted with your asylum application. This might include photographs, witness statements, medical records, or marriage certificates.
- Originals of document copies you submitted to prove your identity like National Identification Card, passport, travel documents, birth certificate, political or religious sect cards, etc.
- Documents showing any changes from when you completed your initial application, which might include a marriage certificate.
If you have children or a spouse who is included in the asylum application you submitted, you need to bring with you the above original document that pertains to them to solidify your claims.
You will be required to get a translator if you don’t speak English. There are no restrictions on the interpreters applicants can bring for their interview. You can have your friend or a family member present as an interpreter.
However, make sure the person you have chosen to do the translations for you is fluent in both your native language and English. An interpreter’s mistakes have led to the rejection of otherwise genuine asylum claims.
Final Tips Before an Asylum Interview
- Determine your transportation arrangements ahead of time to avoid a last-minute rush. If you are unfamiliar with your local USCIS office, you can make a prior visit to know the exact location.
- Lay out the clothes for the interview and ensure that they are neat, clean, and comfortable for you.
- Prepare emotionally and rest well the night before the interview since you will be asked difficult questions about your situation.
Get a Lawyer’s Help with an Asylum Interview
Like any other interviews, asylum interviews are bound with stress and anxiety. You have the right to bring along an Attorney to help you argue your case. Hire an experienced and knowledgeable one.