Can I Make My Asylum Case with USCIS Go Faster?
November 1, 2021
Many ASAP members have told us that they are frustrated because of long wait times for their asylum interviews, and asked if they can request their cases go faster. The short answer is that it is possible to request your asylum case go faster, but the process can be very difficult, and it may also not be the right choice for everyone.
In this post, we will explain some reasons you may or may not want your case to go faster. If you do want your case to go faster, we also explain three ways you can try.
Please note: This post is for asylum seekers who have pending cases with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), in what is called the “affirmative” asylum process. If you have a case in immigration court, that is called the “defensive” asylum process, and the information below does not apply to your situation. You can read more about the difference and watch videos about the immigration court process.
Why does USCIS take so long to process asylum cases?
USCIS can take many years to process some asylum cases. One of the reasons for this is the way USCIS processes cases. USCIS does not process asylum cases in the order in which they came in, starting with the oldest cases first. Instead, in January 2018, they started prioritizing cases that were filed most recently. This system is called “Last In First Out.” It has made wait times very long for many asylum seekers. You can read more about the problem of long delays here.
Should I request that USCIS process my asylum case faster?
The decision to request to make your asylum case go faster can be complicated. Below we discuss some factors you can consider in making the decision. It can also be helpful to speak with an attorney about your specific case. Find an attorney here.
Please keep in mind that even if you decide to make the request, it may not be approved. And if it is approved, this does not mean that USCIS is agreeing to grant you asylum. It just means that they are agreeing to speed up the process for your case. Their final decision on your asylum case may be positive or negative.
Reasons why requesting to make your case go faster may NOT be the right choice for you:
A. You need more time to prepare your asylum case and make it stronger.
- You may want more time to find a nonprofit attorney, or to save money to hire a private attorney.
- You may also want more time to gather evidence. For example, you may need to get documents from your country of origin, such as birth certificates and police reports. If those documents are not in English, you will also need time to get them translated to English.
- You may want more time to find witnesses who may be willing to submit testimony to support your case.
- You may want more time to get medical or mental health treatment and gather medical evidence.
B. You want to stay in the United States and work for as long as possible while your case is pending.
- If USCIS agrees to process your asylum case faster, this does not mean that they are agreeing to grant you asylum. It just means they will process your case faster, and their final decision may be positive or negative.
- Many people do not win asylum, even when they are very afraid to return to their country of origin. So there is a risk that requesting to make your case faster may just lead to receiving a negative decision more quickly. An attorney may be able to help you understand your chances of winning asylum.
- While your asylum case is still pending, you can continue to renew your work permit card, and generally be protected from deportation.
Reasons why you may wish to make your case go faster:
- Family reunification: If you win asylum, you can petition to bring certain family members to the United States, such as your spouse or children.
- Access to benefits: If you win asylum, you may have access to certain benefits and public assistance that you could not access before.
- Emergency or medical condition: You may be facing an emergency or have a serious illness that makes receiving a decision especially urgent.
- If you are worried your asylum case will be less strong over time: It is possible for the strength of your asylum case to change. For example, the conditions in your country of origin may change, or your witnesses may no longer be available.
- To end the uncertainty of waiting: It can be very difficult not to know when you will receive your decision and what that decision will be. Many ASAP members have shared feelings of stress, frustration, and uncertainty because of the long delays. If you are feeling this way, you are not alone!
After considering these reasons, if you decide that you would like your asylum case to go faster, below are some options for you.
How can I request that USCIS process my asylum case faster?
This section discusses three options for requesting to process your asylum case faster. This is often called requesting to “expedite” your case.
You do not have to choose just one option. You can try multiple options, at the same time or at different times.
Winning a request to expedite can be very difficult. USCIS only grants these requests in very limited circumstances.
Option 1. Submit a request to expedite to your local asylum office
You can submit a written request to expedite your case to your local USCIS asylum office that will be deciding your case.
The request has to be written (not over the phone). It should include supporting evidence. Asylum offices review such requests on a case-by-case basis. They may approve the request if your case fits one or more of the following situations:
- There could be serious financial harm to a person or company if your case is not decided faster.
- You are facing an emergency or urgent humanitarian situation. For example, you are suffering a serious illness or your family abroad is in danger.
- You are helping the U.S. government. For example, the government wants to place you in a witness protection program.
- USCIS made a clear mistake in your immigration case.
Make sure that you submit evidence to show how your case fits one or more of these situations. For example, if you have a serious medical condition, you could submit medical documents or a letter from your doctor.
You can visit this USCIS webpage to find more information about submitting a request to expedite. You can also find more detailed information here.
Option 2. Ask your congressperson for assistance
Another option is to reach out to your congressperson (U.S. House Representative or U.S. Senator) to ask for their assistance in expediting your asylum case with USCIS. You can find your Representative here, and your Senator here.
Each congressperson has their own procedure for requesting help. Once you identify who your congressperson is, you can go to their website or call their field office to understand how to request their assistance with your immigration case. They may require you to fill out and sign various forms.
Please be prepared to explain to the congressperson’s staff the reasons why your case should be processed faster than other cases. They will also most likely ask you to send them any evidence you may have.
Option 3. Ask CIS Ombudsman’s Office for assistance
Your third option is to ask the CIS Ombudsman’s Office for assistance. The CIS Ombudsman’s Office is an office located within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Sometimes the CIS Ombudsman’s Office can help investigate a long delay and get your asylum case processed more quickly. However, these requests for assistance do not always work.
To request their help, you can submit a case assistance request online to the CIS Ombusman’s Office. You will have to explain how your case fits one of the situations described above in Option 1. You will also have to include a copy of your receipt notice for your asylum application and any supporting evidence for your request.
What else can I do while I am waiting for my asylum case to be processed?
While you are waiting for a decision, you can:
- Apply for a work permit and continue to renew it while you are waiting.
- Keep your address updated online with USCIS.
- Check the status of your asylum application online by typing in your receipt number. Your receipt number is located in the top left corner of your receipt notice, and usually begins with three letters.
- Work on preparing your asylum case, for example by finding evidence, witnesses, and legal help.
Note: This information is for individuals seeking asylum in the U.S. and is not a substitute for advice from an attorney.