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Asylum interview in America

asylum seekers in immigration center with officials
Photo: US Customs and Border Protection

An asylum interview can make you nervous if you don’t know what to expect.

Here is the story of my friend, an asylum applicant from Iraq, and his experience with the US asylum interview.

People who come to America on a non-immigrant Visa, such as for work, study or to for the purpose of visiting a friend or relative in the country, are eligible to apply for asylum. They can apply if they are personally facing danger and persecution in their home countries to the extent that makes it really hard for them to get back there. Applying for asylum in America can be a lengthy process. It depends on the applicant’s individual case, that requires hard work and patience as well as the well-established reason(s) for wanting to stay in the U.S. It is always best to get a legal consultation from an immigration lawyer before starting the application process. Its good to be well-prepared and know what to do. Here is the story of my friend, an asylum applicant from Iraq. 

My friend came to America on a 90-day visitor visa in 2015. The situation then in his home country, Iraq, was increasingly deteriorating.

This was following the advances of ISIS into northern Iraq. They mainly targeted residents from religious minorities in the area. He decided to apply for asylum following his arrival in California. To start the process, he had to hire an immigration lawyer in order to fill out an application form (I-589) and submit it to the immigration office in the state. 

Generally speaking, you must file the asylum application within one year of your arrival in the USA. 

After submitting the application, he had to provide biometrics. This included fingerprints and photograph at the immigration office, for the security background check process. Three months after submitting his asylum application, he was given an appointment for an interview at the immigration office. 

In the interview, he had to answer all the questions by an immigration officer who had read his application. He reviewed the statements he had provided to support his claim of facing dangers in his home country. However, no decision was made at the interview. Around two months following the interview, my friend received the approval to his case from the immigration office where he attended an interview. They also mailed him a work authorization permit. Starting at that point, he was able to start working legally in America. 

One year later, he was eligible to apply for a permanent resident card. This is also known as the Green Card. 

It is worth noting that the immigration office didn’t make a decision on his case until after they obtained a security clearance of my record from the U.S. Embassy in my home country. An asylum seeker is eligible to apply for work permit 150 days after his application. It should be received by the immigration office in case he/she is not granted asylum yet at that point. 

If your asylum application is rejected by the immigration office, you have the right to appeal in an immigration court. How skilled the lawyer you hire for the process is important in increasing your chances of getting approval for your asylum application. There are many lawyers in the U.S. who are specialized in the asylum application. 

The challenges my friend had faced in the U.S. included the inability to work before his application was approved. He also had to spend a big amount of money on hiring a lawyer to apply for asylum in the U.S. 

There was a high level of uncertainty that accompanied the process. Nothing is guaranteed.  

You have to do your best in stating convincing, and true, reasons to support your case in your application. 

Most of the questions you are likely to be asked in the asylum interview are about the points you state in your asylum application in supporting your case. For example, what makes your life at risk in your home country? Expect to be asked at the asylum interview to talk about the details you mention in your application regarding the reasons that push you to apply for asylum. Honesty, even when it comes to small details, is important throughout the asylum application process to increase your chances of proving your case. 

Your answers at the asylum interview must match everything you state in your application form that you give before the interview.  

Some applicants try to avoid giving certain details that they think might negatively affect their application. They only end up losing their case as chances are high things they meant to hide will be disclosed at some point along the process.

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