What is asylum?
Since 1975, Americans have welcomed over 3 million refugees from all over the world, helping them build new lives, homes and communities in towns and cities in all 50 states. Historically, the United States welcomes almost two-thirds of these refugees, more than all other resettlement countries combined. Recent government policy changes have made applying for asylum more difficult. However, these challenges should not deter individuals and families fleeing their native countries due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on religion, race, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
Many of our clients have asked us what they should expect during their asylum interview and what questions they will be asked. We have provided some pointers and sample questions to help you prepare for your asylum interview.
What to expect on the day of your interview?
CHECK-IN. After you clear through security, you will need to provide your interview notice and show your ID at the counter to verify your identity. If you have any additional documents to submit, you can do that when you check in (however, check with your local office to see if they prefer you mail in additional documents in advance). Your photos and fingerprints will be taken and you may be asked to answer a questionnaire. Your interpreter will also need to check-in and complete a form.
BE PREPARED TO WAIT. Depending on the workload at your local asylum office, your wait time until you are called by the interviewing officer may take minutes to hours. Most offices do not allow food, apart from water, to be taken into the waiting room.
INTERPRETER. If you are not fluent in English, you must bring your own interpreter. 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. The interpreter cannot be your attorney or representative of record, a witness testifying on your behalf at the interview, or a representative or employee of your native country. Additionally, it is strongly discouraged to have family members serve as interpreters. Before the start of the interview, the officer will call a “Translation Monitor,” whose role is to ensure correct interpretation.
What questions will I be asked during the interview?
After your identity and those accompanying you (lawyer, translator, etc.) are verified, the interviewing officer will put you under oath and explain the confidential nature of the interview. We have listed below the general categories and some examples of specific questions that you may be asked during your interview.
INFORMATION ABOUT HOW YOU LEARNED ABOUT ASYLUM. The officer may ask in the beginning very generally why you are applying for asylum, how you learned about asylum, and if anyone helped you in preparing your application.
INFORMATION ON ASYLUM APPLICATION FORM. The officer will begin the interview by verifying the information you provided on the Form I-589, Application for Asylum. Take the time to review the information you provided on your application and let the officer know if there are any corrections that need to be made. The officer will verify your biographical details (name, address, date of birth, place of birth, marital status, previous immigration history, familial relationships, educational/professional background, etc.)
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.
INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY. The officer will inquire into how you came to arrive in the United States. They will want to know the manner of your travel (air, boat, land) and whether you entered the country with a visa. They also would like to know whether you stopped at any countries before landing in the United States. If you entered with a visa, they will have access to your immigrant visa application from the Department of State and will inquire about any information within it. Likewise, they may question you about any statements that you made to Customs and Border Patrol at the border.
When and where did you last enter the United States? Did you come with a visa? What type of visa?
Who bought your ticket to the United States? How did you get your visa?
Did you travel to any other countries before seeking asylum in the United States?
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)?
What else should I know?
Remember that these are only a few possible questions you may be asked during your asylum interview and that interviews generally last around two hours or more. An asylum officer may ask the same question in a variety of different ways, so it is important that you extensively prepare for your asylum interview. It is also important to be able to fully explain what happened to you in detail and also describe specifically what you fear would happen to you if you return to your country and why.
If you have been scheduled for an asylum interview and need an experienced attorney to prepare you and attend your interview, please contact us. We are here to help. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Tumblr for up-to-date immigration news.
Rasoulpour Torregoza is the law firm for immigrants, by immigrants. We are founded on the motto of LegalEase: we do away with the legal jargon and make law easy to understand, so you can focus on what’s important to you – going for your American Dream.
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