Asylum Interview Dates Update

Asylum Interview Dates FINALLY Move Up

The Asylum office is badly behind on scheduling interviews for prospective asylees. It usually took 3 months to hold an interview after applying for asylum affirmatively with USCIS. The process has exceeded 2 years and has encroached beyond 2.5 years at times.

One little victory: the interview dates have moved from October 2013 to January 2014 in the Arlington office’s jurisdiction (Pittsburgh is in the Arlington jurisdiction). If you filed an application in January 2014, they are finally scheduling your asylum interview.

This could be Pyrrhic. Future releases of the interview schedule may stall at January 2014, much like the past few months of scheduling have remained on pause. Perhaps this could augur the beginning of the normalization of the scheduling process.

Refugee and Asylum Statistics

Refugee and Asylum Report for 2014

The Office of Immigration Statistics for the Department of Homeland Security released information on the Refugee and Asylum programs for 2014. Here are some highlights:

  • 69,975 people were admitted as refugees. Iraq, Burma, Somalia, and Bhutan were the leading countries of nationality. 74% of all refugees came from those four countries. The refugee cap was 70,000 for the year.
  • 23,533 people were granted asylum. DHS granted asylum to 14,758 of them. The Executive Office for Immigration Review granted asylum to the remaining 8,775 people.
  • 55% of admitted refugees live in ten states. Texas, California, New York, Michigan, Florida, Arizona, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Illinois are the states in order of highest number of arriving refugees.
  • China, Egypt, Syria, and Ethiopia had the most granted asylum cases. China accounted for over a third of all asylum grants. Mexico was number 7, Haiti was number 9, Guatemala was number 10.
  • 47% of those individuals granted asylum in 2014 reside in California.

Asylum Interviews Wait Time

The Backlog Continues: Long Wait Times for Asylum Interviews

Affirmative asylum is an important part of the US immigration system, in which people fleeing persecution in their home country can seek protection in the United States. Asylum is an ancient concept, in which persecuted peoples sought sanctuary in religious places. The number of granted asylum cases is limited and the number of applicants is high. The asylum offices are swamped with the number of cases that they are adjudicating. That is apparent through the release of the most recent backlogs. Here are the current wait times.

The Asylum Division held a meeting for stakeholders today. The blog will share information from the meeting once the minutes are released.

Asylum can also be obtained from an Immigration Judge in immigration court.

Asylum Schedule

USCIS Asylum Schedule Released

USCIS has released its scheduling priority dates for affirmative asylum interviews. A cursory glance reveals that the eight asylum offices are backlogged, with Los Angeles even being four years behind. At the end of 2014, the Asylum Division decided to prioritize interviews in the following order: 1) applications already scheduled for an interview but needed to be rescheduled; 2) applications filed by children; 3) all others based on the order they were received. The majority of the offices are around two years behind, meaning they are just scheduling interviews currently for applications received in the summer of 2013. The interview is the final step in the affirmative asylum process.

Attaining asylum is a pathway to permanent residence and if desired, naturalization. While the standards for asylum and refugee status are deeply steeped in international accords and UN guidelines, United States case law on the subject has helped to develop what qualifies for asylum. A foreign national who is facing persecution in her home country, either having suffered it already or fearing it in the future, may apply for asylum affirmatively in the United States. That application must be filed within a year of arrival. It is a difficult and arduous application that requires corroborating evidence and persecution based on statutorily enumerated grounds. Just living in a country with civil war, epidemics, or violence is not enough to win asylum. Each year, the president asks for a certain number of asylees and Congress approves that number (“Refugee Ceiling“). The number this year is 70,000.

The two year wait can be difficult on applicants, who can apply for employment authorization only after the application has been pending for months. The nature of the backlog may be attributed to the surge of unaccompanied minors who crossed the border in the summer of 2014, many of whom are asylum seekers. Their opportunity for asylum is prioritized, as per the scheduling bulletin. Asylum and refugee status have been in the news lately because of Syrians fleeing Syria for asylum in European countries.



Modern Trends in Asylum for 2014

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Asylum is addressed in Article 14)

The 1951 and 1967 UN Conventions on the Status of Refugees

United States Refugee Act of 1980 

Office of Refugee Resettlement

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

More USCIS Asylum Statistics

Refugee Council Statistics