Asylum in USA: 2018 change to USCIS process

There is a new process for asylum in the USA. Starting in 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) changed its process. New applicants will receive their hearings first. People who are already waiting for a hearing will have to wait longer.

Photo: Hector Silva – courtesy of Customs and Border Protection

A new process for asylum in the USA started in 2018

More than 300,000 people are waiting to hear about their asylum applications in the USA. It will take a long time to process all those applications and interview all the applicants.

To address the problem, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) changed its process for interviewing asylum applicants in 2018. It is interviewing new applicants first and working back through the list in reverse order. Read the USCIS information about asylum interview scheduling.

This is the new order:

  • First priority: Applicants who were scheduled for an interview, but the interview had to be rescheduled at the applicant’s request or the needs of USCIS.
  • Second priority: Applications that have been pending 21 days or less.
  • Third priority: All other pending affirmative asylum applications will be scheduled for interviews starting with newer filings and working back towards older filings.

Why is USCIS making this change to asylum in the USA?

If you apply for asylum, you may apply for a work permit 150 days later. Then you can work until you are accepted or refused. USCIS says the new process will reduce the number of people applying for asylum just to get a work permit. If new applicants are dealt with first instead of waiting for years, USCIS believes they probably won’t apply unless they have a good case. This is because when asylum applicants are turned down, they may be removed from the USA

What if I have been waiting for my interview, and my case is urgent?

USCIS says it will consider urgent requests to be scheduled for an interview outside of the priority order listed above. Please submit any urgent interview scheduling requests in writing to your USCIS asylum office.

What about my family?

Some asylees have been waiting for up to four years to be approved so they can bring their children or spouses to join them. It will be very hard for them to have to wait even longer. Human rights advocates are asking USCIS to find a fair process for these applicants. If you are not already working with a lawyer, we recommend finding a lawyer to help you.

Learn more

Other resources

The information on this page comes from USCIS and other trusted sources. It is intended for guidance and is updated as often as possible. USAHello does not give legal advice, nor are any of our materials intended to be taken as legal advice. If you are looking for a free or low-cost lawyer or legal help, we can help you find free and low-cost legal services.

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