USCIS Asylum Process

If you do not have a case in immigration court, you may be able to apply for asylum with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This is sometimes called the “affirmative” asylum process. You can apply for asylum by submitting an asylum application to USCIS.

Scroll down or click on the links below to read questions and answers from the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP).

What are the steps of the asylum process with USCIS?

Here is what the asylum process with USCIS looks like:

  1. Prepare and submit your asylum application to USCIS.
  2. Receive a receipt notice for your asylum application.
  3. Receive a notice for a biometrics appointment, and go to your biometrics appointment, where the government will collect your fingerprints.
  4. Apply for a work permit. ASAP members can apply for a work permit 150 days after they submit their asylum applications.
  5. Wait for your asylum interview. The wait time can be very long. While you are waiting, you can continue to renew your work permit.
  6. Receive an asylum interview notice.
  7. Go to your asylum interview and explain your story to the asylum officer.
  8. Receive a decision.

If USCIS grants you asylum, you and any family members that you included in your asylum application will receive asylum.

If USCIS decides not to grant you asylum, what happens next depends on your situation.

Who can apply for asylum with USCIS?

If you are an adult, you can apply for asylum with USCIS if you do not have a case in immigration court, and it has been less than one year since you arrived in the United States. If it has been more than one year since you arrived in the United States, it may still be possible to apply for asylum in some circumstances.

If you are under 18 years old and you are an “unaccompanied minor,” you can apply for asylum with USCIS. It does not matter if you have a case in immigration court. It also does not matter if you have been in the United States for longer than a year.

If you are under 18 years old, but you are not an “unaccompanied minor,” you can apply for asylum with USCIS only if you do not have an immigration court case. It is best to apply within one year of the date you arrived in the United States, but you may still be able to apply for asylum even if you have been in the United States for longer than one year.

How do I check the status of my application with USCIS?

You can check the status of your application with USCIS by entering your receipt number into this online USCIS case status tool. Your receipt number is located in the top left corner of your receipt notice. The receipt number usually begins with three letters.

If you have questions about what the USCIS case status tool says, you can also call USCIS at 1-800-375-5283. When you are asked to explain what you are calling about, you can say “InfoPass” in order to speak with a representative.

Where is my asylum office and how do I contact them?

If you received your asylum interview notice, you will find the address for your asylum office on the notice.

If you need to contact the asylum office, you can find the contact information on this USCIS webpage.

You can also check if your local asylum office is open by going to this USCIS webpage.

When is my asylum interview with USCIS?

After you submit your asylum application, USCIS should send you an interview notice in the mail with the date, time, and location for your asylum interview. If you move, make sure you update your address so that you do not miss any notices.

If you have not yet received an interview notice, you can check the status of your asylum application with USCIS by entering your receipt number into this online USCIS case status tool. Your receipt number is located in the top left corner of your receipt notice for your asylum application. The receipt number usually begins with three letters. The case status tool will show if an interview notice has been sent to you, but it will not show you the date for your interview.

If the case status tool shows that an interview notice has been sent but you have not received it, you can call USCIS at 1-800-375-5283. When you are asked to explain what you are calling about, you can say “InfoPass” in order to speak with a representative.

What should I do if I cannot attend my asylum interview on the scheduled date?

If you cannot attend your interview, you can request to reschedule your interview. To make this request, you can write the reason why you cannot go in the bottom left box on your asylum interview notice. When you are done, make a copy or take a photo for your records. Then, you can mail it to the asylum office listed on your notice. Your request to reschedule your appointment needs to arrive before the date of your scheduled interview.

It can be hard to reschedule your interview. It can also delay your application for a work permit. So if possible, you should go to your interview at the scheduled time. If you already missed your interview, please read about the steps that you can take.

How long will I have to wait before I am scheduled for my interview? Can I make the process faster?

Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this question. It is possible that you will have to wait a long time to be scheduled for your asylum interview. 

Currently, USCIS does not process asylum cases in the order they came in, starting with the oldest cases first. Instead, in January 2018, they started prioritizing cases that were filed most recently. In other words, USCIS is now processing the newest asylum cases first, and the oldest asylum cases last. This system is called “Last In First Out.”

If you filed your asylum application before January 2018, you may be waiting for a long time before you are scheduled for your interview.

If you filed your asylum application after January 2018, you may be scheduled for an interview more quickly.

If you have been waiting a long time for your asylum interview and you want to know if you can make the process go faster, read here about steps you can take.

What happens at the asylum interview?

During the asylum interview, an asylum officer will ask you questions to determine whether you qualify for asylum. The interview can take a long time — between 1 hour to more than 4 hours.

When you arrive at the asylum office, you will first go through a security check. Then you will check in with a receptionist. If you have any documents that you have not submitted before but you want the asylum officer to look at, you can give it to the receptionist. You will wait in a waiting room until an asylum officer calls your name and takes you to a private room for your interview. Your interpreter and attorney can come with you.

Once you are in the interview room, the asylum officer will ask you to swear that you will tell the truth in the interview.

The officer will go over your asylum application with you, including information such as your name, address, and phone number. The officer will then ask you questions about your case. Some questions the officer may ask you could include why you left your country of origin, what kind of harm you suffered, whether you tried to get help from the police or the government, and what might happen to you if you returned to your country of origin in the future.

At the end of the interview, if you have an attorney, your attorney will be allowed to speak. Your attorney can explain to the officer why you should win asylum. Lastly, the officer will explain how you will receive your decision. Then, the interview will end and you will exit the room.

It is important to be honest at the interview. Inaccurate or inconsistent information can cause problems for your immigration case. You can review your asylum application before the interview.

If you feel confused at any point during the interview, you can ask for clarification. If you do not know the answer to a question, it is okay to say that you do not know the answer. If the officer asks about when something happened, you do not have to give an exact date. You can give an approximate date (for example, you can say “around April or May last year” or “last spring”). If you are having difficulty understanding your interpreter, you should tell the asylum officer.

It is okay to feel nervous or stressed during your asylum interview. It can be very hard and very emotional to talk about your past and your fears. It is okay if you cry during the interview. You can ask the officer for a break if you need one. The information you share during the interview will be kept confidential and secret, so you do not have to worry about somebody else finding out about your story. The process of seeking asylum can be difficult, but remember that you are not alone.

What should I bring to the interview?

You should bring:

You should not bring:

  • Food and beverages.
  • Electronic devices. You can leave your cell phone and other electronics at home or in your car.
  • Any weapons or sharp objects. You will go through a security check when you get to the asylum office.

The following are not required, but may be helpful:

  • You can bring something to keep you and your family occupied while you are waiting. Sometimes, after you arrive at the asylum office, you will need to wait for a while before your interview starts. You cannot bring electronic devices, but you can bring things like books and magazines. If you have a small child, you should bring something to keep them occupied, like a toy or coloring book.
  • You should dress in neat, clean clothes. You do not have to wear a suit. You can bring a sweater or a jacket because some asylum offices can be cold.
  • Arrive early (about 30 minutes before your scheduled time).

Do I need to bring my family to the interview?

Yes, if you have family members who are included in your asylum case, they need to come to the asylum interview with you, but they will not be interviewed themselves.  If they are not included in your asylum case, they do not need to come.

Please note that you may need to bring someone to sit with your children while you are being interviewed. Your children who are included in your case need to come to the interview with you, but they will most likely sit in the waiting room while you are being interviewed by an asylum officer. Young children are not allowed to sit by themselves in the waiting room, and you may need someone to watch them while you are being interviewed.

Please review the instructions in your interview notice thoroughly, as some instructions may have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Do I need to bring an attorney to the interview?

An attorney is not required for the interview, but if you have an attorney, you have the right to bring your attorney with you.

Your attorney is not allowed to speak during most of the interview. The attorney can take notes during the interview, nswer any questions that the asylum officer asks them, and also say something at the end of the interview to explain why you should be granted asylum.

Please note that your attorney may be able to attend the interview remotely, over the phone, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If I do not speak English, do I need to bring an interpreter to the interview?

Yes, if you do not feel comfortable doing the interview in English, you should bring an interpreter. If you need an interpreter but you do not bring one, your interview could be canceled and rescheduled.

Please note: make sure to read your interview notice carefully for instructions! During the COVID-19 pandemic, some asylum offices have been providing interpreters for some languages. They may not allow you to bring your own interpreter in that case. You can also read the latest updates on this USCIS webpage, under “Asylum Appointments.”

If you are deaf or hard of hearing, and you need help finding an appropriate interpreter, you can contact the local asylum office where your interview will take place. Find your local asylum office here.

If you bring an interpreter, the interpreter must be at least 18 years old and fluent in English and the language you prefer.

Please make sure that your interpreter is a trustworthy individual who is going to interpret every word you say accurately, and who will keep your information confidential. Your interpreter cannot be your attorney, a witness who is going to testify on your behalf, or a representative or an employee of the government of your country of origin.

If you bring an interpreter, the asylum officer will also call their own interpreter on the phone, to make sure that everything that your interpreter is saying is accurate. This interpreter on the phone will stay silent most of the time, and will only speak if the asylum officer asks them, or if they feel like they need to correct something.

Can I request to be interviewed by a female or male asylum officer?

Yes, you can request to be interviewed by a female or male asylum officer. USCIS recognizes that sometimes it is more difficult to talk about your past experiences with somebody of a certain gender. The asylum office will do its best to honor your request. You can submit a written letter to the local asylum office asking for a female or male asylum officer.

Will the information I share at the interview be kept confidential?

Yes, your information will be kept confidential. This means that your information is secret and private, and will not be shared with others.  You do not have to worry about somebody else finding out about your story.

What should I do if I missed my asylum interview?

If you missed your interview and want to continue to pursue your asylum case, you should contact the asylum office as soon as possible, within 45 days. You will need to explain why you missed it, and USCIS may agree to reschedule your interview if they believe you had a good reason (also called “good cause”.)

If more than 45 days have passed, you may still be able to reschedule your interview, if you have an “exceptional circumstance.” Examples of exceptional circumstances include domestic violence or serious illness. You can read more about “good cause” and “exceptional circumstances” on this USCIS webpage.

If you miss your interview and you do not take any action, what happens next depends on your situation:

  • If you do not have other immigration status (like Temporary Protected Status or a valid visa), an immigration court case will be started against you.
  • If you do have other immigration status, USCIS will dismiss your asylum case.

You can check the status of your application with USCIS by using this USCIS case status tool. You may wish to find legal assistance to understand your options.

How long do I have to wait for a decision after my asylum interview?

The waiting time for a decision can vary. The length of the waiting time does not necessarily indicate whether your case is going to be approved or denied.

Some applicants receive their decisions two weeks after their interview, and will be asked to go back to the asylum office where they had the interview in order to receive the decision.

If the decision takes longer than two weeks, the decision will normally be mailed to you. If you move, make sure to change your address.

What happens if USCIS does not grant asylum?

If USCIS decides not to grant you asylum, what happens next depends on your situation.

  • If USCIS does not grant you asylum, and you do not have other immigration status (like Temporary Protected Status or a valid visa), an immigration court case will be started against you. In immigration court, you will have another chance to fight for asylum before an immigration judge. At the end of your court case, if you lose, an immigration judge can order you to be deported. You can read more about seeking asylum in immigration court, or watch these videos.
  • If USCIS does not grant you asylum, and you do have other immigration status, an immigration court case will not be started against you. Instead, the asylum officer will give you a short time to provide additional evidence and then grant or deny you asylum. If USCIS denies asylum, you can still stay in the United States while you maintain your other immigration status.

What happens if USCIS grants asylum?

If USCIS grants you asylum, congratulations! You and your family members that you included in your application will receive asylum. You can apply for permanent residence (also known as a green card) a year later. You can also apply to bring your spouse and children who are abroad to the United States to join you. Learn more about what happens after winning asylum.

Note: This page is for adults who are interested in seeking asylum in the United States. Our hope is that you will use the information to better understand the asylum process and take control of your case. However, this information is not a substitute for legal advice about your particular case. To look for legal assistance, visit ASAP’s find help page

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