By Attorney Nadia Khalid
Updated April 2019
As of April 2019, hundreds of affirmative asylum applications remain, to this day, without an interview after being pending anywhere from 1-3 years. If this situation describes you, here are some important updates, as of April 2019, that are helpful for you to keep in mind:
- Asylum Interview: When do you get an asylum interview notice? Currently a policy called “Last in, First Out: Last in, First Out (“LIFO”) is still being practiced by asylum offices across the U.S. This means that the more recent an application is filed, the more priority it is given to get an interview. However, not all applications that are filed recently receive an interview. There is a percentage of 15-20% of cases that are filed during LIFO, but that do not receive an interview. These cases automatically go into the asylum office’s backlog and remain there. As far as we know, the asylum office has not started working on their backlog of cases yet.
- I filed my asylum application one month ago; how come I don’t have any interview yet even though LIFO is in effect? If you do not hear back from the asylum office within 6 weeks, your case has been moved to the backlog of pending asylum applications.
- I filed my asylum application before LIFO; how come I don’t have an interview? All applications filed before 01/29/2018 are considered “last priority”. First priority is rescheduled interviews; second is cases pending 21 days or less; third is all pending new filings working backwards.
- Asylum Interview Questions: What is the asylum interview experience like? What questions do you get asked when you get an interview? A basic overview of the asylum interview is broken down into three parts. The first part of your interview goes over your I-589 application and confirms that all information is correct or allows you to make updates with corrections where needed. The second part of your interview relates directly to your claim of persecution. The final part of your interview is a standard series of qualifying questions that are asked of every applicant.
- Asylum Interview Decision: After an interview, there is no guarantee on when you will receive a decision. Sometimes the asylum office will employ a “pick-up notice” two weeks after the interview. However, this does not mean that your case will be either denied or approved. The 2 week pick up can result in either decision. Additionally, the case may be held for longer (several months, sometimes close to a year) if your case requires additional consideration.
- Asylum Interview Results: After an interview, your application for asylum will either be approved, denied, or referred to immigration court. An approval means that you are granted “asylee” status and that you are eligible to apply for permanent residency in a year. A denial likely means that you maintained another status while applying for asylum; your claim was not determined to be credible; and that your case was simply denied while you remain valid in your alternative status. A referral to court means that your case was not found credible and that, at the time of the interview decision, you no longer maintained an alternative status.
- Asylum Interview Sample Questions: It is important to meet with an immigration lawyer in Houston, Texas before your interview, so you know what to expect of the asylum interview experience. Most attorneys have a catalog of sample questions they have gathered over years of experience with the interviews. Knowing the questions beforehand makes it easier to understand the purpose of the interview.
- Waiting for Asylum Interview Date: This can be the hardest part about filing a claim for asylum. Because of the backlog, sometimes applicants are waiting over 3 years for interviews. Several applicants request expedites for their interviews because they are frustrated with waiting for an interview. As far as the Houston Asylum Office is concerned, their expedited short list is full as of January 2019. However, the Houston Asylum Office still encourages applicants to submit expedite requests with supporting documents via email. Supporting documents include proof of urgency; an updated statement; and/or proof of imminent danger to your family in the country of persecution. They can be reached at: [email protected].
- Had an interview, but no decision? If you’ve been lucky enough to get an interview at an asylum office, but still have not received a decision, you should begin filing inquiries after the 6-month mark of waiting with no decision.
- Out of status for over a year: If you have been out of status for over year and you file an affirmative asylum application with an asylum office in the United States, some asylum offices will begin to give you the option to waive your asylum interview at an asylum office and take your process straight to court.
At the end of the day, there is only so much you and your attorney can do to get you an interview from the asylum office. The asylum office controls which interviews to issue and it also controls which applications go into their backlog. The best advice an applicant can get is to file compelling expedite requests with persuasive and strong supporting documents affirming the urgency for why they should be issued an interview. If you are interested in learning more about asylum processes, feel free to contact our office at 713-589-2085 or email us at [email protected] to set up a consultation.