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