Changes to Asylum Procedure

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I heard that there was a recent change to how the Government will schedule asylum interviews. Can you tell me more about that?

Applying for asylum has always been a difficult and complicated process, one in which an experienced asylum lawyer is essential.

This is truer than ever, especially with recent changes in asylum procedures that were announced by the Administration at the end of January 2018.

Basically, the changes can be summed up as “last in, first out.” What this means is that those applications which were filed later (i.e. more recently) will be given priority and interviewed earlier, with one minor exception stated below.

What if I already had an interview scheduled, but it got rescheduled?

That is the one exception.

USCIS has stated that the first priority will be given to interviews which were already scheduled, but which had to be rescheduled. After that group, priority will be given to those applications that were pending 21 days or less from the date of the announcement (which was January 31, 2018).

This means that applications filed in from January 10-31, 2018, will essentially be put at the front of the line, jumping over applications that had been filed much earlier in time, and which had not been scheduled for an interview. And after the January 10-31 applications, going forward, the Asylum Office will use a “last out, first in” approach.

The government will essentially be working backwards.

A more recently filed application will be scheduled for an interview sooner than one that has been pending for a long time.

Why is it important to work with an experienced asylum lawyer?

The decision to use the “last in, first out” approach has received criticism, but that is what the Government will be doing for the time being. So it is important to work with an experienced asylum immigration lawyer, because asylum applicants who file now will have significantly less time to prepare their supporting evidence and to prepare for their all-important Asylum Office interview, than people who filed several years ago.

A seasoned immigration lawyer can give you strategies to make sure that as soon as you file, you have all the necessary documents to make your best case, because if you file now, going forward, you may get an interview date quite quickly.

Could this new procedure affect how and when people get work authorization?

This is an incredibly important question, and something that many asylum applicants are concerned about, because they want to work and be able to survive.

Under current law, an applicant for asylum can apply for a work permit 150 days after they file for asylum.

However, it is important to know that at least 180 days have to go by before USCIS can actually approve the request. So although some people call it the “150 day rule,” an experienced immigration lawyer knows that it is really the “180 day rule.” And there is yet even one more important point.

Once an Immigration Judge issues a denial of the asylum application (an orders the non-citizen removed), that “stops the clock.” Under the system used up until recently, many asylum applicants’ cases were still pending at the 180 day mark, with no interview, so they were able to “accumulate” the 180 days, and could file for their work permit and get it approved.

But under the new system, it is possible that an applicant will get an interview very quickly, and may even have their case before an Immigration Judge before the 180 days have run their course. It is so important to work with an experienced asylum lawyer, because some people who need extra time may ask for a delay of their interview, not realizing this can lead to the “clock” that counts the days “stopping.”

What happens if the Asylum Office does not grant my application for asylum?

Under most circumstances, if the Asylum Office does not grant asylum to an applicant, the Asylum Office will “refer” the case to the Immigration Court.

The applicant will be placed into removal proceedings (which is also sometimes called “deportation”), and they will have to appear before an Immigration Judge in Immigration Court. In that court, there is a government prosecutor. No one should represent themselves before the Asylum Office or the Immigration Court.

Hire an experienced immigration attorney before you file for asylum, so that your rights will be defended from the beginning.

What kind of experience does Lightman Law Firm have with asylum procedures?

Guy Menahem, a lawyer at the Lightman Law Firm, has spent his entire legal career in the immigration field. His focus within immigration law is asylum and deportation defense. Mr. Menahem has represented asylum seekers before the Asylum Office, the Immigration Court, and the Board of Immigration Appeals. He is fluent in Spanish, and conversant in Russian and French. He has represented asylum applicants from several former Soviet republics such as Russia, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, in addition to several Latin American and Caribbean countries, China, and West Africa.

Call us today to schedule a consultation: (212) 643-0985.

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