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Asylum Frequently Asked Questions

Answers from a Knowledgeable Orange County Asylum Attorney

Obtaining asylum here in the U.S. is one of the most urgent immigration law matters a non-citizen faces. Below, the Law Office of Ashkan Yekrangi, P.C. has provided some reliable answers on asylum, obtaining asylum status, and the application process. If you need more answers or are ready to begin the application process, contact the knowledgeable and proven Orange County asylum attorney at 949.478.4963 today.

What is asylum?

Asylum is an immigration status the can be claimed here in the U.S. by foreign nationals. Those seeking asylum are fearful of persecution in their country of origin and wish to escape the persecution by staying here in the U.S. Persecution means harm because of someone's political beleifs, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, or any other "group" of people sharing a common identity.

What is the difference between applying for asylum and being a refugee?

Generally speaking, asylum status applies to those who are already present here in the U.S and are not already either permanent residents or citizens. Refugee status is usually granted to individuals outside the U.S. who are fleeing dangerous conditions in their country of origin and are applying for U.S. entry through a United States Embassy or the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

When can I apply for asylum?

If you are a non-citizen already in the U.S., you have up to one year to apply for asylum to the USCIS. If you are at a U.S. border or entry point, you can either a) enter the country with a valid visa and wait to apply for asylum, b) tell border officials that you are seeking asylum immediately and submit to the asylum petitioning process. Note that claiming asylum at a US port of entry will likely subject you to immigration detention while your case is pending, although some are granted bond or paroled while their case is processed.

If you are already in the U.S. and you wait more than a year, it is critical that you speak to an asylum law attorney. They can help you approach the USCIS and possibly still gain asylum status. The law allows for exceptions to the one-year rule, most notably due to "changed circumstances."

Do I need a lawyer to apply for asylum?

A 2011 report on representation in NY and NJ showed that and individual was five times more likely to win relief with a lawyer than without. Another study identified counsel as the single biggest factor affecting the outcome of an asylum case. Here's the link to the report.

What are the chances of me winning asylum?

Every case is different. The asylum office evaluates many different factors in every case, including the applicant's background, how they entered the country, and whether or not their fear of persecution is credible. That said, having legal counsel guide you through the process greatly improves your prospects of winning asylum. In asylum law, credibility is everything and your asylum application must be carefully crafted to ensure there is a "nexus" or connection between the harm you face or will face and the five protected groups (race, religion, nationality, political opinion and membership in a particular social group.

What is membership in a particular social group?

An applicant for asylum or withholding of removal seeking relief based on “membership in a particular social group” must establish that the group is
(1) composed of members who share a common immutable characteristic, (2) defined with particularity, and (3) socially distinct within the society in question. Recognized "social groups" include gays and lesbians, families, women facing domestic violence or inability to practice fundamental rights, women facing female genital mutilation (FGM), clans, tribes, and others.

When will my interview be scheduled?

Granting asylum is a slow moving process for the USCIS. As of mid-2016, the organization is just now getting to asylum interviews for applications who submitted in 2011. When your interview is scheduled, it will take place at one of eight asylum offices (although asylum officers sometimes travel outside of these locations and perform interviews at USCIS offices). To determine where your interview will take place based on where you live, click here.

Can I ask that my asylum interview be scheduled sooner?

In certain compelling circumstances, the asylum office may expedite your interview. In addition, asylum applications filed by children are automatically expedited.

What types of questions will they ask me at the interview?

Asylum interviews generally last several hours and even longer depending on how many family members are included in the application. The interview begins with taking an oath regarding truthful testimony, and begins with reviewing your I-589 for accuracy. Then the asylum officer will go through your declaration and ask you questions regarding your asylum claim. The interviewer will also determine whether the applicant is barred from asylum in the U.S. for any reason. It is an important to consult an asylum lawyer because some bars can apply even if the applicant was trying to help someone. Generally, the questions asked are drawn from the declaration provided with your asylum application. The officer is searching for consistency and credibility. Therefore, it is important that you spend a lot of time preparing for your interview. An effective asylum lawyer will schedule a "mock interview" and ask anticipated quesitons, as well as work with you in properly explaining weak aspects of your case. At the end of the interview, your asylum lawyer will ask follow up questions. Usually, these questions help clarify issues that the attorney believes the asylum officer did not understand, or help "save" you from previous answers that hurt your claim. The attorney will also be able to provide a closing statement.

It is important to note that the USCIS asylum office does not provide an interpreter. You must provide your own if needed. Your attorney can also be present during this interview as well (but cannot serve as your interpreter). Many clients believe they can speak English well enough for the interview. However, ensuring that the asylum officer correctly understands you, it is wise to find a competent interpreter. Just as not having an interpret may hurt your case, some interpreters may unknowingly hurt your case by not interpreting or translating correctly. An experienced asylum attorney usually has a list of interpreters he or she feels is competent to interpret during your asylum interview.

When will I receive the results of the interview?

After your interview, asylum officers will review your case and make a determination about the applicant's eligibility. This process can take up to two weeks following the interview—although longer periods have been known to occur, as well. You will need to receive the decision in person at the USCIS office when notified that it is available.interview?

What is "recommended approval"?

Recommended approval means that asylum office has approved your asylum claim, but you are not yet recognized as an asylee until certain background checks are processed. After security and background checks are completed, your recommended approval becomes an approval with all the benefits an asylee is entitled to, including cash benefits, healthcare, tuition assistance and more.

How long must I wait before I can work if I apply for asylum?

Because it can take years for an interview to be scheduled, asylum applicants are allowed to apply for an Employment Authorization Document—but not right away. You can only receive these work permits when a) you are granted asylum or b) 180 days have passed since your application was submitted. You are allowed to submit an application for your Employment Authorization Document 150 days after filing your application so that you can receive the permit as close to that 180-day mark as possible. Speak to a skilled Orange County immigration lawyer to learn more about your work eligibility following your asylum application. It is not uncommon for USCIS to take as long as two months before it issues your employment authorization card.

What benefits will I receive if my application is approved?

If your asylum is granted, you are allowed to stay in the U.S. and even take further steps to establish you and your family's lives here. Asylum status allows you to file Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition, which can bring your spouse and/or children to the U.S. After one year, you can also apply for a permanent residency (green card) status. Four Learn more about your asylum benefits by speaking with an attorney.

When can I apply for citizenship or naturalization?

Usually, permanent residents must wait 3 or 5 years before applying for naturalization (3 years if green card obtain through marriage, 5 years for all other situations). For asylees, however, you must wait 4 years, because the first year following your asylum approval counts toward the 5 year requirement.

My asylum interview was denied or referred to an Immigration Court. What happens next?

The asylum office does not necessarily deny your case, but instead refers the matter to immigration court. Unfortunately, immigration courts also have backlogs, so a final resolution of your case may be years away--even longer if appealed. It is crucial to hire an immigration attorney who is experienced with immigration laws and procedures of immigration court. Sometimes these attorneys are referred to as deportation defense lawyers, or removal attorneys.

Do you have more questions about the asylum process? Ready to file an application? Contact the proven Orange County asylum lawyer at the Law Office of Ashkan Yekrangi, P.C. for a case evaluation.