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Interview for asylum in the United States

Asylum interview is one of the most integral parts of obtaining political asylum in the United States. Beginning January 30, 2018, due to recent changes, the invitation to interview process has accelerated. If previous asylum applicants had to wait from 2 to 5 years, depending on the state in which they are applying, now they are called in for an interview within 2 months. This has created a problem for applicants who applied before the change came into effect. 

So, what happens to those who have been waiting for their interview for 2-3 years? The immigration service cannot answer this question yet. But the hope is that their turn will come soon.  

You should treat your asylum interview as a conversation of the asylum seeker with an immigration officer. The interview takes place in an asylum office not in court. Even a well-prepared case will not help you if during the interview you are confused with the events you set out, contradicted your testimony, bothered to answer detailed questions or answered the same question differently.

Who goes to Interview with you

Your lawyer and interpreter are allowed to attend the interview with you. You are required to bring your own interpreter. We recommend that applicants hire a qualified professional interpreter. A good interpreter will make your life much easier since, in the process of your interview, you may get confused or you may have difficulties in forming your thoughts.

A lawyer does not have to attend the interview with you, but we highly recommend our clients to go to the interview with a lawyer. Do not underestimate the help of a lawyer during the preparation for the interview and preparation of your asylum package. Good lawyers will help you to correctly prepare your asylum package, will assist you in preparing a competent statement and make sure you know everything that awaits you at the interview.

Go to your interview with a lawyer. Even though the lawyer does not have the right to change, correct or supplement your testimony, he primarily monitors the legality of the interview. In the presence of a lawyer, the officers will conduct the interview in the proper matter and avoid asking provocative questions. Also, the lawyer may spot inaccuracies in the interpretation and correct them before they cause confusion

What happens on the day of your interview

So, this is one of the most important days in your life. You are at the doorsteps of your asylum office. Before the interview begins, you will need to register. You must bring the interview notice, identity documents, and documents confirming your case. At the asylum office, you will need to hand over to the registrar your interview notice, identity document and all supplemental evidence.  Then, you will be photographed, your fingerprints will be taken and you will receive a document which notifies you of the duty to tell the truth and that you have the right to invite an interpreter with you.

The interview takes place in several stages. First, the officer will ask you and your interpreter to take the oath. The officer will also have an interpreter on the phone who will monitor the correctness of the translation and if your interpreter makes a mistake, the monitor has the right to correct your interpreter.

Then the officer will review your form I-589, application for asylum. He will ask clarifying questions about your biography and your family members, if they are included in the case. Then the officer will allow you to add or change information provided in the form I-589. Then the most important stage of the interview will begin.

What questions they will ask you

The questions the officer asks will depend on the substance of your case. But there is a set of questions the officer will probably ask you, including:

  1. Why did you apply for asylum in the United States?
  2. Who persecuted you?
  3. How were you persecuted?
  4. Why were you persecuted?
  5. Why are you afraid to return to your country?
  6. If you and your family members have suffered persecution, describe the details?
  7. Is the government of your home country able to protect you from non-state or terrorist organizations?
  8. Can you feel safe in any other territory of your country?

The officer will ask many questions and you want to answer them clearly and concisely.

Before ending the interview, the officer will ask questions of a legal nature, such as whether you underwent military training and at what position; did you take part in persecution of others; were you a member of any terrorist group; did you commit crimes; have you been detained and so on.

The officer will also ask about your desire to add something to your testimony. We strongly recommend that you do not tell stories about your troubles and severe condition, as it usually happens, but you just need to thank the officer for the interview and complete the interview.

There are important interview rules that you should follow:

1. Do not answer a question that you do not understand. The officer, who already reviewed your case, may formulate the question incorrectly. Do not be afraid to ask the officer to repeat or explain the question.

2. If you do not know how to answer the question, do not try to guess. You can answer that you do not remember or do not know. Do not try to guess the answer, as it may vary from your previous statements, and the officer will think that you are lying.

It should also be noted that if you are applying for asylum based on your religion, the officer may ask about the principles of your religion, and if you are applying based on membership in a particular political party, the officer will decide to test your knowledge of your party. It is also worth noting that the officer will be interested in the countries you visited. In this case, if you were persecuted in your country, but you left the country and returned, the officer may ask the reasons for your return and why you cannot return to your country now. You need to be well prepared for these kinds of questions.

Duration of the interview

It is hard to predict how long the interview will last. In most cases, the interview lasts from 3 to 5 hours, but for certain reasons it may last longer. It depends on how the officer will conduct the interview, on the number of documents and evidence provided, on the volume of your testimony, on how your interpreter translates and most importantly on how you answer the officer’s questions.

The decision to approve or deny your application for asylum will not be made immediately. As a rule, the decision is made 14 days after completion of your interview. You will receive the decision in mail or you will need to come to the immigration office to receive your answer in person.

A set of rules on how to behave during an interview.

You should not forget that the immigration officers may have psychology training and could determine that someone is lying according to their behavior. In this regard, we recommend that you follow the generally accepted rules of adhering to a dialogue with a person. You should apply the generally accepted norms of leading a conversation. Speak clearly, do not be aggressive, do not make inappropriate gestures. During the conversation, do not interrupt the officer. Let the officer finish asking a question and only then begin to answer. Even though you will have an interpreter, answer the officer looking him straight in the eyes.  The American culture is famous for its eye contact.

Tips on how to prepare for the interview.

So, you received an invitation to your interview. You need to prepare as best you can. First, we advise you to memorize the information on the form I-589, Application for Asylum. Make sure you know all the information provided on the form. Then make sure you know all the contents of your statement. Do mock interviews. 

An experienced immigration attorney on the eve of an interview usually holds a rehearsal with the client as if it was a real interview. Acting as an officer, the lawyer asks common questions according to your testimony, questions regarding incidents you underwent and so on. Thanks to these preparations, you will learn to clearly express your thoughts, get better acquainted with your history and most importantly you will gain experience of what you must go through at the interview. It is important to note that rehearsals with a lawyer are good, but your independent preparation is also important since the interview will first be between you and the officer.

Russian Lawyer Brooklyn, New York

We hope that you find these tips helpful. Please feel free to contact us for help. Our highly qualified lawyers will help you prepare your case correctly and make sure you are ready for your interview. We will help you gather all the necessary documents to assure a positive outcome in your case.

For additional information please visit the USCIS websites: 

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