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How Long Should I Wait For My Asylum Interview?

Feb 23, 2017 | Immigration

Asylum in the United States usually wonder how long they will have to wait for their asylum interview. Potential asylum applicants should know that they might have to wait for years until they get a chance to appear before an asylum officer.

What Does Immigration and Nationality Act Say?

Pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, the initial interview or hearing on the asylum application must commence not later than 45 days after the date an application is filed. INA § 208(d)(5)(A)(ii). In the absence of exceptional circumstances, final administrative adjudication of the asylum application, not including administrative appeal, must be completed within 180 days after the date an application is filed. Id. § 208(d)(5)(A)(iii). According to INA, USCIS shall schedule the asylum interview within 45 days after filing the application which should be adjudicated within 180 days from the filing date, unless exceptional circumstances apply.

What are Real Waiting Times for Asylum Applicants?

During the last years exceptional circumstances apply, and the actual waiting times are far from being close to the statutory deadlines. Asylum applicants have to wait for years until they get a chance to appear in front of an asylum officer. Depending on the asylum office that has jurisdiction over the application, applicants may wait from two to five years. For example, in December 2016, the Los Angeles asylum office was interviewing the applicants who filed their applications in August 2011. The waiting time is much shorter in Northern California where asylum applicants have to wait two year. The asylum application processing times for all asylum offices may be found on the USCIS website.

It should be noted that USCIS prioritizes asylum applications for interview scheduling as follows:

  • Applications that were scheduled for an interview, but the interview had to be rescheduled at the applicant’s request or the need of USCIS;
  • Applications filed by children; and
  • All other pending asylum applications in the order they were received, with oldest cases scheduled first.

Generally, the applicants in the first and second categories are scheduled promptly.

Can an Asylum Applicant Work while the Application is Pending?

Although asylum applicants have to wait for years for their interview, they do not have to wait until the interview to obtain employment authorization. Simply filing an application for asylum does not entitle the applicant to employment authorization. However, an applicant may request a permission to work if the application is still pending, and 150 have passed since the application was accepted by USCIS. 8 C.F.R. § 208.7(a)(1). If the asylum application is not denied, the USCIS has 30 days from the date of filing of the application for employment authorization to grant or deny that application except that no employment authorization will be issued to an asylum applicant prior to the expiration of the 180-day period following the filing of the asylum application. Id. The employment authorization document is valid for two years, and can be extended after the expiration date if the asylum application is still pending.

To sum up, asylum applicants may have to wait for years until their asylum interview. In some regions of the United States applicants have to wait for more than five years. However, foreigners with pending asylum applications may apply for employment authorization five months after filing the application with USCIS.

We invite you to contact our office and speak to our Glendale immigration attorney for a free consultation. Our immigration attorney speaks English, French, Spanish, Russian, Armenian, and Italian.