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Preparing for Your Asylum Interview

On the day of your interview you should bring:

  1. A form of identification, including:
    1. Any passports you may have,
    2. Other travel or identification documents, and
    3. Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, if you received one when you arrived in the U.S.
  2. The originals of any birth certificates, marriage certificates, or other documents you previously submitted with your Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal,
  3. A copy of your Form I-589 and any additional material that you previously submitted in case the asylum office is missing any of this information;
  4. Any additional items you have available that document your claim and that you have not already submitted with your application;
  5. An interpreter if you are not able to continue with the interview in English,
  6. Your spouse and/or children under 21, if they were included in your asylum application as derivatives  at the time you filed your application;
    1. They must bring any identity, travel or other supporting documents they have in their possession.
    2. Although you are required to list all of your family members on your application, the only family members you need to bring to the interview are those who will be included as derivatives in the asylum decision.
  7. A certified translation of any document that is not in English;
    1. Any document in a language other than English must be accompanied by an English translation that the translator has certified as complete and correct,
    2. The translator must certify that he or she is competent to translate the language used in the document into English.

You have the right to bring an attorney or representative to your interview at no cost to the U.S. government.  You and your attorney/representative must submit Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative to USCIS, in order for your attorney/representative to accompany you to your asylum interview.

Interpreters

If you do not speak English you will be interviewed through an interpreter who you bring with you to the interview.

We do not provide any interpreters during the asylum interview, except if you are hearing-impaired. If you are hearing impaired and need assistance in obtaining an appropriate interpreter, contact the asylum office with jurisdiction over your case in advance of your scheduled asylum interview.

You must bring an interpreter if you do not speak English well enough to be interviewed in English. The interpreter must be fluent in English and a language you speak fluently and must be at least 18 years old. 

The following individuals cannot serve as your interpreter:

  • Your attorney or representative;
  • A witness testifying on your behalf at the interview; or
  • A representative or employee of the government of your country.

The regulation relating to interpreters can be found at 8 CFR 208.9(g).

If you do not bring a competent interpreter to your interview and you cannot speak English, your interview will be canceled and rescheduled. This is considered a delay caused by you and your 180-day Asylum Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Clock will stop until you appear at your rescheduled interview with a competent interpreter. 

Although we do not provide interpreters for the interview, we use contract interpreters to monitor asylum interviews at local asylum offices and other locations by telephone. In general, the role of the contract interpreter is limited to monitoring your interpreter’s interpretation. Contract interpreters may be expected to occasionally interject if your interpreter fails to provide adequate, accurate, and neutral interpretation. 

Bringing an Attorney or Representative to Your Interview

You have the right to bring an attorney or representative to your asylum interview and to immigration proceedings before the immigration court, at no cost to the U.S. government. You may obtain a list of pro bono (free or reduced cost) attorneys and community-based, non-profit organizations that may be available to assist you by:

  • Visiting the USCIS Avoid Scams Web page at www.uscis.gov/avoidscams;
  • Visiting the U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review’s (EOIR) website at www.justice.gov/eoir/ra.htm. This site provides information on the Recognition and Accreditation Program.
  • Visiting EOIR’s website which provides a list of free legal service providers by state: www.usdoj.gov/eoir/probono/states.htm; or
  • Contacting the USCIS Field Office or asylum office near your home.

You and your attorney or representative must submit Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative, to USCIS in order for your attorney or representative to accompany you to your asylum interview. 

Attorney or Representative Is Unavailable for the Interview

The filing of a G-28 does not prevent asylum offices from processing an application even if your attorney is not present. If an asylum office denies your request to reschedule an interview and your attorney is not available for the interview, you can either sign a waiver and continue with the interview without your attorney or accept referral to the immigration court. If you accept referral to the immigration court, your case will be treated as though you failed to appear at your asylum interview. Although you have the right to have an attorney or representative present at the interview, you are responsible for ensuring that your attorney/representative is present for the interview.

Assistance Completing Form I-589

Representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) may be able to assist you in identifying individuals who can help you complete your Form I-589. Please contact the UNHCR for more information:

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
1775 K Street, NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20006
Telephone: (202) 296-5191
Website: http://www.unhcr.org/

What to Expect on the Day of Your Interview

Your interview will generally last at least an hour, although the time may vary depending on your case. You will be asked to take an oath promising to tell the truth during the interview. Your interpreter will also take an oath promising to interpret accurately and truthfully. The asylum officer will verify your identity, ask you basic biographical questions and the reasons you are applying for asylum, and questions to determine if any bars will prevent you from applying for or being granted asylum. 

For more information on the bars to asylum, please visit our Asylum Bars Web page

The asylum officer will know that it may be difficult for you to talk about traumatic and painful experiences that caused you to leave your country. However, it is very important that you talk about your experiences so that the asylum officer can determine whether you qualify for a grant of asylum.

The information you share with the asylum officer is confidential. In general, information related to your asylum claim cannot be shared with third parties without your written consent or specific authorization by the Secretary of Homeland Security. There are certain exceptions to this rule, however, which can be found in the confidentiality regulation (See 8 CFR 208.6). For more information on confidentiality and the asylum process, please visit our Fact Sheet on Asylum Confidentiality.

You and your attorney or representative, if you have one present, will have time at the end of the interview to make a statement or add any additional information. A decision on your case will not be made at the asylum interview. For the legal regulations governing asylum interviews, see 8 CFR 208.9.

Missing Your Interview (Failure to Appear)

Shortly after you miss your interview, you will receive a “Failure to Appear Warning Letter” from the asylum office where your interview was scheduled to take place. This letter explains how to reschedule your missed interview and the consequences of missing your interview on your180-day Asylum EAD Clock. 

You must request to reschedule your interview within 45 days from your interview date. If 45 days have passed and the asylum office has not received a request to reschedule your interview, your case will either be:

1)  Referred to an immigration judge for adjudication in removal proceedings before the EOIR if you are not in lawful immigration status; or

2)  Administratively closed and dismissed, if you are in lawful immigration status. 

Because you no longer have an asylum application pending with USCIS, you are not eligible to apply for or renew employment authorization based on a pending asylum application. Your 180-day Asylum EAD Clock stopped on the date you failed to appear for your interview. 

If you are in unlawful immigration status, the asylum office will mail you a “Referral Notice for Failure to Appear.” If you are in lawful immigration status, you will receive a “Dismissal of Asylum Application – Failure to Appear.” 

Rescheduling Your Interview

If you need to reschedule your interview, you must either:

  • Mail, fax or email a letter to the asylum office where your interview is scheduled to be held, or
  • Go to that asylum office and complete an In-Person Reschedule Request.

The asylum office will not honor a request to reschedule received by telephone.  A request to reschedule an asylum interview must include the reason for the request and any relevant evidence.

The asylum office will reschedule an interview if it is your first rescheduling request and your request is received before your interview date. You will be notified in writing whether or not your interview will be rescheduled. You will also receive a new interview appointment notice with the new interview date, time and location.

You must prove that your request for rescheduling is due to good cause, if you need to reschedule:

  • On the date of your interview,
  • On or within 45 days after the interview date, or
  • Your interview has already been rescheduled on one or more occasion. 

You must prove that your request for rescheduling is due to exceptional circumstances if:

  • More than 45 days have passed since your interview. 

Exceptional circumstances are a higher standard than good cause. If you do not establish exceptional circumstances for your failure to appear at your asylum interview, you may be ineligible for employment authorization. (See 8 CFR 208.7(a)(4)). More information about establishing good cause and exceptional circumstances is available in the Establishing Good Cause or Exceptional Circumstances Web page. 

Rescheduling your interview will stop your 180-day Asylum EAD Clock either on the date that the asylum office cancels your interview or on the date of your interview, whichever occurs earlier. The 180-day Asylum EAD Clock will remain stopped until you appear for your rescheduled interview. 

NOTE: If the interview notice was not mailed to the most recent address you provided to USCIS, then the asylum office will reschedule the interview without requiring that you show good cause or exceptional circumstances.

Contact an Asylum Office

The addresses and locations for the eight asylum offices are available on the Asylum home page under the Asylum Office locations link.

Last Reviewed/Updated: 12/03/2013