An asylum interview is the third stage of the asylum process, and is extremely important. Once you started an affirmative asylum process, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will appoint an asylum interview. If you are going to attend such an interview for the first time, you should be prepared to convince a USCIS asylum officer that you are eligible for asylum.
What Applicants for Asylum Must Know about Asylum Interview
We are going to discuss several important aspects of an asylum interview that all applicants for asylum must know about.
How long does it take to get an asylum interview?
USCIS does not specify the time frame during which an asylum seeker must wait before the interview. Nevertheless, USCIS has defined several principles when they prioritize asylum interviews. USCIS gives the highest priority to the most recent applications for asylum.
Here is how the asylum interview are prioritized (the priority is set from highest to lowest):
- Applications for asylum that are pending for 21 days or less.
- The rescheduled interviews.
- Other applications, from the latest to the oldest.
Depending on the current workload, it may take a month or more for USCIS to analyze your case.
Still, there is no exact time frame, and applicants cannot ask for earlier interview dates unless their asylum interview was already scheduled. We will give more details about rescheduling asylum interview in a later section.
How to Prepare for Asylum Interview
You should be prepared to answer any kind of questions related to the reasons for your application. And you should also prepare your story even if it is genuine.
You will have to answer the following two questions during the asylum interview:
- How exactly were you persecuted (beaten or injured) in your country?
- Why are you scared or unwilling to come back to your home country?
You must be very prudent when you tell your story to an asylum officer. Even the slightest difference in your story can lead to denial of your application. For example, if you initially tell that you were forced to live in a small empty room, and then you mention that you had a chair in that room, an asylum officer may not believe you. How you explain the facts of your story and what details you mention matters a lot for USCIS asylum officers.
Because an asylum officer tries to find proof that you ‘lack credibility’, you must:
- Only tell the truth; and
- Be consistent when telling the facts.
A general recommendation is to write down all the facts that matter and memorizing all the details. We also strongly recommend you to hire a professional attorney or immigration lawyer to help you with the preparation to an asylum interview. A lawyer will be able to suggest what facts are important to USCIS. Besides, a lawyer or an attorney can help you at the interview by correcting your responses.
Do I Need an Interpreter for My Asylum Interview?
If you do not speak English fluently, then you should hire an interpreter. Although USCIS specifically says that the applicant must bring an interpreter if the applicant does not know English, your interview can be held without an interpreter. And USCIS does not provide an interpreter for asylum seekers.
What this means is that without an interpreter it will be more difficult to convince the asylum officer that you are telling the truth. For example, if you first claim that you were punched in your face, and then that you were kicked in your head, a USCIS officer will pay attention to such details. There were cases when USCIS refused to grant asylum to an applicant who used different words to mean the same thing even if the applicant did not speak English natively.
May I Ask to Reschedule the Asylum Interview?
When USCIS settles the date for your interview, they do not consult with applicants to set a convenient date. In other words, if the asylum interview date does not suit your schedule, you should contact an asylum office as soon as possible to set a new time for your interview.
You can ask an asylum office director to reschedule your interview to a later or earlier date if you need to. But, as we have already mentioned, you are allowed to ask for shifting the interview date only if was already settled by USCIS.
It is vital for you to explicitly request to move your asylum interview if you cannot attend it at a designated time. If you miss the interview, USCIS will reject your application for asylum, and you may not get another chance to stay in the United States as an asylee. To set another date for an interview, simply write a letter and mail it to the asylum office that is working with your case.
We mentioned many important aspects of how to handle an asylum interview. Here is a short conclusion:
- Lay out your entire story on paper.
- Memorize all facts and stick to them.
- Memorize the sequence of events.
- Try to sound as credible as possible.
- Tell only the truth.
- Hire a professional lawyer or attorney to help you prepare for the interview.
Follow our recommendations, and your chances to have a successful asylum interview will dramatically increase.