What Happens During an Asylum Interview

Do you have any family in your home country? Has anyone in your family ever applied for asylum before?” “What are the names of your children?” Did you return to your home country after suffering persecution there?

How to Answer Questions at Your Asylum Interview

asylum interview questions

Once you enter the asylum interview office, the asylum officer will greet you and ask you to stand and raise your right hand. The asylum officer will then swear you in. You will then take a seat and the asylum officer will begin asking you questions. If you don’t understand a question, say “can you please repeat the question” and if you still don’t understand the question, you can say “I am sorry but I don’t understand the question.” If you get emotional during the interview, that is absolutely fine. However, your interview is not the time to hide or be shy about telling your story.

What to expect during your personal meeting with an Asylum Officer.By

When you apply for asylum affirmatively by preparing and submitting Form I-589, within 21 days after you submit your asylum application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), it will send you a Notice to Appear for your interview with an Asylum Officer (“AO”) at your local asylum office. (For more details, see Timing of the Affirmative Asylum Application Process.) Here, well describe exactly what takes place at that interview.

First, youll want to make sure to arrive at the location and the time specified in the Notice. (If you need to reschedule your interview, see What to Do If You Cant Make Your Asylum Interview.)

During the interview, the AO will ask you questions about your identity, information you had provided in your asylum application, any applicable bars to your eligibility for asylum, and any documents you had submitted in support of your application.

SPECIAL PROCEDURES DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC: You might encounter changes to whats described below, for health and safety reasons. Read any instructions that you receive carefully. As of late 2021, the safety guidelines include requiring you to wear a mask, and meeting with an asylum officer whos behind a plexiglass barrier. Another rule requires you to use a DHS interpreter rather than bringing your own, unless your language is not one of the 47 listed on the “GSA Schedule.” You will communicate using iPads, on televideo.

What Will Happen During the Asylum Interview

The AO assigned to your case will take you into his or her private office. Your attorney and interpreter (if any) will also come along. No other officials will be in the room where you are interviewed. Everything you discuss with the AO will remain confidential, and will not be recorded (other than the officers note-taking).

You will be asked to take an oath stating that you will only tell the truth. Your interpreter will also be asked to take an oath. If your religion does not allow you to “swear” or take oaths, you can explain this to the officer and ask that you be allowed to “affirm or promise” that your testimony will be truthful.

If you have any additions or corrections to your asylum application (for example, correcting a factual mistake or adding new supporting documents), make sure to tell the AO at the beginning of your interview.

The AO will have reviewed your asylum application and your immigration file before interviewing you. AOs are trained to conduct asylum interviews, and are familiar with country conditions in your country.

The AO will most likely begin by asking you about your identity and background, and will review your original identity documents that you have brought with you.

Then, you will be asked to explain why you are applying for asylum. The AO might ask you a general question about it (such as, “So, tell me, why are you seeking asylum?”) or might ask specific questions about information you had included in your asylum application or in any supporting documents.

If any bars to eligibility for asylum might apply to you (such as the possibility that you were involved in the persecution of others or have a criminal record), the AO will also likely ask questions about them.

If you do not understand a question, whether because of language or other issues, its better to ask for clarification than to attempt to answer. For instance, you can:

  • ask the officer to repeat any question you are not certain you understand, or
  • ask the officer to speak more slowly.
  • Do not be concerned if the AO asks you the same question several times or in several different ways. This is done to test your credibility (that is, believability).

    Also, the AO might act like he or she does not believe you, and might even be unpleasant. Do not let that affect you, and do not get aggravated. The AOs role is to test your credibility and your legal claim to asylum.

    Always be honest, detailed, and consistent with what you had stated in your application. Do not exaggerate. In order to be granted asylum, you must be found credible. For details, see Chances of Winning a Grant of Asylum.

    Some of the information you will be asked about will be very personal, and you might find it hard to discuss. You can ask for a short break to compose yourself, and then try your best to tell the AO all the important facts. Your ability to obtain asylum depends on that.

    The entire interview will likely take at least an hour, depending on the particular facts of your case, and on what questions your AO decides to ask. The more facts your asylum application and your personal declaration contain, the longer your interview will probably last. The length of the interview, however, is not indicative of whether or not you will be granted asylum. Answer only the questions that you are asked.

    Your attorney will also have a chance to make a short statement to the AO, and to clarify any concerns that the AO might have.

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