What to Expect During Your Asylum Interview
Throughout the United States (U.S.), thousands of people hope to receive political asylum. They’ve fled from their homes and countries due to fear of persecution, serious injury, or even death. Within America, applicants face a long journey to asylum, including intricate application processes and long wait times. Perhaps the most important part of the application procedure is the asylum interview.
At Nanthaveth & Associates, we want our clients to feel empowered and knowledgeable. Today’s article covers what you can expect during your asylum interview. Once you know some of the basics, you can better prepare for what lies ahead.
Today, our article will review:
- What you should bring to your asylum interview;
- How long your asylum interview will be;
- What types of questions you should expect; and
- When you should hear your final decision after your asylum interview.
In truth, your best resource and strongest ally during your asylum interview will be your immigration attorney. Expert legal representation is essential during any asylum application. This is because your attorney will prepare you and protect you each step of the way. Nanthaveth & Associates’ team is highly skilled at asylum law – contact us today for a free initial consultation.
Applying for Affirmative Asylum
The formal asylum interview is an essential part of the affirmative asylum application process. In the U.S., there are two types of asylum which have two very different application procedures.
First, there is affirmative asylum, which is processed through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Affirmative asylum applicants are free to continue their lives during consideration and begin their asylum journey by submitting Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal. If a person applies for and does not receive affirmative asylum, they may be subject to deportation. At that time, they can seek defensive asylum, the second type of U.S. asylum.
Defensive asylum can be sought to avoid deportation, including expedited removal (think of it as a final type of defense against removal). When any person facing removal expresses a fear of harm and a need for asylum, they will undergo a “credible fear” screening. Put simply, U.S. authorities confirm “credible fear” if it is more likely than not that a person will experience harm or persecution upon return to their native country. If credible fear is established, defensive asylum proceedings begin, but they are very different than affirmative asylum proceedings. For example, defensive asylum seekers may be detained. Additionally, defensive asylum is processed through immigration courts, and final decisions are made via immigration judges.
This article refers to the interview experienced during the affirmative asylum process. (You can read more about defensive asylum here.) In general, to be eligible for consideration for affirmative asylum, you should:
- Not be in removal proceedings;
- Be physically within the U.S. during the time of your application; and
- Apply for consideration for asylum within one year of arrival.
Your Asylum Interview: Essential Materials
In order to adequately prepare for your asylum interview, you should gather and organize documents important to your case. Ideally, place these documents in a folder or binder to ensure they are protected. Your immigration attorney can also help you prepare these materials.
Required materials include:
- Travel documents
- Identification documents, like passports
- Birth certificate(s)
- Marriage certificate(s) (if applicable)
- A hard-copy of your asylum application (Form I-589)
- Any written evidence for your claim
If any of your records are not in English, you will need to have your documents translated and certified. You will need to bring both the originals and the certified translations with you to your interview. You can read more about how to prepare for your interview via the USCIS’s website.
Who Should Come with You to Your Asylum Interview?
There are certain people who should always accompany you to your asylum interview. These include attorneys, interpreters or translators (if necessary), and derivative family members. Derivative family members include close family members like spouses and children. In addition to accompanying you, they should also bring with them all relevant materials discussed above.
You have the right to bring an attorney to your asylum interview. In order to do this, though, you must submit Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative. This formally notifies the USCIS that you possess legal counsel.
During Your Asylum Interview
Your asylum interview will last roughly one hour. You’ll meet with a USCIS official often called an “Asylum Officer.” Your asylum officer will review your application and all relevant case materials before arriving at your interview. It is their job to talk with you during your interview to establish eligibility for asylum and uncover any inconsistencies on your application. They will sit with you, listen to your story, and ask you questions about your background and history.
Again, during your interview, your asylum officer will determine if:
- You are fully eligible for asylum;
- You can be classified as a refugee based on the Immigration and Nationality Act;
- Your fear of persecution is factual and credible; and
- Any bars to asylum disqualify you from eligibility.
When the asylum officer asks you a question, answer it truthfully and to the best of your ability. If you are unsure what they are asking or need clarification, you may ask the asylum officer to repeat the question. You can also ask them to slow down if they are speaking too quickly. If you have a lawyer, they can help you at any time during the interview.
Questions You Should Expect
As discussed, the asylum officer will ask you a series of questions. In fact, they may ask you similar questions in order to ensure your story is truthful. While it will likely be painful to discuss your experiences and fears in detail, it is necessary. By telling your entire story, you help the asylum officer understand your reasoning for seeking asylum and establish “credible fear.”
Your asylum officer may ask you questions like:
- Who are you? What is your name?
- Where do you come from?
- Did anyone physically harm you?
- Do you have any proof of persecution?
- Can any living person validate your story?
- In the past, have you committed any crimes?
- Who harmed you or threatened you?
- Why are you being persecuted?
At the end of the interview, you have a final opportunity to make a statement. Your interviewer will consider everything said in this final moment, so make sure that you address anything that has not been discussed about your application or situation. If you have a lawyer with you, they can make the statement for you.
After Your Asylum Interview
Once your interview is over, your asylum officer will review all materials and information acquired during your meeting. After careful review, they will determine whether or not you have met all eligibility requirements while also demonstrating credible fear. A supervisor will then review the officer’s decision to ensure it is in agreement with all laws. Sometimes, further evaluation may be required, which can delay your final decision.
In most cases, you should receive your final decision within two weeks of your interview. For more information, you should review the USCIS’s website.
Contact an Experienced Asylum Attorney Today
If you are seeking asylum, it is paramount that you have an expert immigration attorney to help you. Potential asylees face a slew of challenges during their application process. During this time, you may be required to relive terrifying or upsetting memories, which can cause stress. Your attorney will help you manage your application and ensure there are no errors. Errors can, at best, cause significant delays and at worst, denial.
While your affirmative asylum interview will likely be stressful, it’s a necessary step during the application process. The presence of an attorney will significantly alleviate fear and anxiety. Your immigration lawyer will protect your rights and ensure you receive fair consideration during your interview. For countless people, asylum brings peace. Don’t leave your future to chance – work with an experienced and compassionate immigration attorney!
Nanthaveth & Associates passionately serves immigrants in Austin, Texas. Our qualified legal team has experience in assisting asylum seekers. For your comfort, we always provide free initial consultations. That way, you can sit down with one of our qualified attorneys, discuss your case, and leave with action steps. Call us today to schedule your appointment. We are ready to help you!