What Is The Asylum Interview Process?
Our offices get asked frequent questions by our clients about the asylum interview process. We have decided to give an in-depth explanation about how the asylum interview works, what to expect and how to prepare.
How to Prepare
1. Review your asylum application and supporting documents
Being knowledgeable and familiar with your documents will allow you to answer questions more easily and have a smoother interview. You should be able to accurately convey in detail your personal story and why you should be granted asylum. If you have any additional documents you wish to submit, make sure to call your designated asylum office to see how they prefer to be sent additional documents. They may ask to have them mailed or bring them the day of your interview.
2. Have a confident interpreter
If you are fluent in English, then this advice is not necessary. If you are not fluent in English, you must bring an interpreter to the asylum interview as the asylum officer does not provide one.
- The interpreter must: (1) be at least 18 years of age; (2) have lawful immigration status; (3) be fluent in both English and a language in which the applicant also speaks fluently.
- Your lawyer cannot act as your interpreter and lawyer at the same time as they have given up their role as a lawyer to become your interpreter.
- It is strongly discouraged to have family members serve as interpreters.
Prepare with your interpreter
The interpreter should be familiar with the way you speak and your dialect so they can translate word-for-word. Having your interpreter be familiar with your asylum application and relevant documents can help with the interview.
3. Do a practice run of the interview.
Reviewing the sample questions listed down below will allow you to feel more comfortable and not be surprised by any questions.
4. Ask for any necessary accommodations.
Asylum officers are aware that traumatic events and experiences may lead to psychological issues such as memory loss, PTSD, anxiety, etc. If this is the case, then notify the officer before the interview so they can accommodate you. You will have to provide information about your condition such as a psychological evaluation. You may request a female officer to conduct the interview if you are uncomfortable with a male officer due to past trauma.
Make sure that all applicants are in the U.S.
All applicants, such as spouses and children, have to be in the U.S. in order to be interviewed. Family members outside of the country can be added later after the principal applicant is granted asylum in the U.S.
What to Expect
When you arrive at your designated asylum, you and those accompanying you must clear through security. When this is done, provide your interview notice and ID to the counter to verify your identity. If you have any additional documents you wish to submit, make sure to do this when checking in. You must have your photo and fingerprints taken and fill out a questionnaire.
Your lawyer and interpreter will also need to sign in and fill out a questionnaire. The asylum office might be ready to conduct the interview within minutes or hours of your arrival depending on the workload of the asylum office. Offices allow water, but no food when in the waiting room.
When the asylum officer is ready to conduct the interview, you will be put under oath and explained the confidential nature of the interview. At the start of the interview, the officer will bring a translation monitor. The translation monitor is a member of the asylum office who will not act as your interpreter but is there to ensure correct interpretation.
There are a few important things to keep in mind during the interview.
Do not lie if you are caught lying to the immigration officer, you will be barred from asylum and other immigration relief. Ask for clarification. If you do not understand the question, ask for clarification or for the officer to repeat themselves. If you do not know the answer, say you don’t know. If you cannot remember an answer or do not know the answer, answer truthfully that you do not.
Here are the general categories and some examples of questions you may be asked during your interview.
1. Information About How You Learned About Asylum
In the beginning of the interview, the asylum officer will ask you why you are applying for asylum, how you learned about asylum, and if anyone helped you in preparing your application.
2. Information On Your Asylum Application Form
The officer will then verify the information you provided on your I-589 form, Application for Asylum. Make sure to inform the officer if there are any corrections that need to be made for your application. The officer will ask questions to verify your biographical details such as name, current and past addresses, place of birth, marital status, previous immigration history, familial relationships, educational/professional background, etc. Here are some example questions:
- What is your full name? Have you used other names or aliases?
- Have you ever been in immigration removal (deportation) proceedings?
- What is the name of your spouse? Where is your spouse now? Is your spouse applying with you?
- How many children do you have? What are their names and ages?
- Where did you live before coming to the United States? Provide your address for the last five years.
- Where did you work (or go to school) for the last five years? Provide the dates of employment (or attendance) and relevant addresses.
3. Information About Your Journey
The officer will ask about your arrived into the U.S. They will want to know how you travel (land, air, or sea), if you stopped in any countries before reaching the U.S., and if you had a visa when entering. If you had entered with a visa, the officer will have access to your visa application and will ask about any information within it. They may also ask question s about any statements you made to Custom and Border Patrol at the border. Here are some example questions:
- How did you travel to the U.S.? Who bought your ticket?
- Did you travel to any countries before seeking asylum in the U.S.?
- When and where did you last enter the U.S.?
- Did you come with a visa? What type of visa? How did you get your visa?
4. Your Asylum Claim
The officer will ask many questions about your asylum claim, including country conditions in your native land, the harm that you suffered, and the perpetrator of the harm you suffered, and the harm you fear if you have to return back to your country. They will also ask questions to determine whether you fall within the asylum protected grounds.
- What is the reason you are fleeing your country? Why can’t you return?
- Why were you harmed? How do you know that you were harmed for that reason? What happened or what was said that makes you believe you were harmed because of that reason?
- Have any of your friends or family members experience harm, mistreatment or threats in the past for the same reasons that you did? From whom and why?
- Who are you in danger from? If you are not in danger from the authorities, but from a non-government actor, you will need to explain why you can’t get protection from the authorities. If you are describing events that have already happened to you, did you report what happened to you? If not, why not?
- Would you be safe if you lived elsewhere in your country? If you have already tried going to another area of your country to escape from danger, explain why you could not stay there.
- Are you still in danger now? How do you know this? Have you or your family members continued to receive any threats since you left your country?
- If you were physically injured, do you have a medical report? If you don’t, why not?
- Have you ever been tortured, imprisoned, detained or interrogated in your country? If so, explain the circumstances.
- Do you fear you will be subjected to torture, imprisonment or detention if you were to return to your native country?
- Have you or your family members ever been a member or been associated with organizations or groups in your home country (e.g. political party, student groups, labor union, religious organization, ethnic group, human rights group, press or media)?
The asylum officer will determine if you are credible and if you have enough evidence to grant you asylum. You will receive a written decision two weeks after the interview. If you are not accepted, it is not the end. Your case will be referred to an immigration court, allowing you a second chance to prove your asylum eligibility in front of an immigration judge.
If you have any further questions about the asylum interview process, reach out to our professional team to help you through this!