Asylum Division Training Programs
The USCIS Asylum Division’s Training Section provides training on a national level as well as on a local level in the field offices.
All Asylum Officers are required to attend and complete the Asylum Officer Basic Training Course (AOBTC), which is a national training course that is specific to asylum adjudications. Instructors for this course are from HQ Asylum Division and field Asylum offices, as well as non-governmental organizations, law schools, and the UNHCR.
The training course includes topics such as international refugee law and the U.S. Asylum Program’s role in world-wide refugee protection, U.S. asylum law and its interpretation by the Board of Immigration Appeals and federal appellate courts, interviewing techniques, researching country of origin information, and decision-making/writing. Separate training sessions address interviewing survivors of torture, identifying possible cases of victims of trafficking, handling cases of children, and handling claims that may be specific to women. The training course also includes lessons regarding the Asylum Program’s history, organizational structure, mission, goals, and values, ethics, and an overview of the Asylum Program’s process and procedures. Other topics covered include fraud identification and evaluation techniques, and national security concerns.
Supervisory Asylum Officers are also required to attend a two-week asylum-specific training that updates supervisors’ knowledge of asylum-related case law and improves their case law application skills. The training also focuses on achieving greater consistency and effectiveness in evaluating asylum officers’ interviews and written work, and strengthening feedback skills, interpersonal skills, and workload management skills.
The Asylum Division also requires that regular training be conducted in each of the field offices. There are up to two Quality Assurance and Training Officers (QA/Ts) in each of the eight field Asylum Offices. QA/Ts are responsible for coordinating weekly training sessions and training new Asylum Officers. QA/Ts are required to attend a two-week instructor training course to learn methodologies for student-centered instruction and to improve their skills as training coordinators for the field offices. The Asylum Division requires that each field Asylum Office hold a weekly training session of up to four hours. The topics are determined by the needs of the particular office and include the same variety of topics as listed above. Also, headquarters may request that training on a particular issue, such as new case law or new procedures, be conducted in all Asylum Offices.
All asylum office staff are also required to attend USCIS trainings that are mandatory for USCIS employees and which are offered through the USCIS Academy. This includes the 5½-week BASIC training required of all USCIS immigration officers.
The Asylum Division also provides support and encourages staff to attend professional and/or career development training activities available to all USCIS employees through the USCIS Academy, from non-governmental organizations and government offices outside the Asylum Division. Asylum Officers may also receive permission from their local office management to attended related local training classes or professional conferences sponsored by sources other than the Asylum Division or USCIS Academy. In addition, the Asylum Division has arranged for several special asylum-related professional development opportunities for its senior staff, including participation in the following:
Certificate in Refugees & Humanitarian Emergencies, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
Summer School in Forced Migration, Oxford University, Oxford, England
These various training opportunities contribute to enhancing the skills, knowledge, and professionalism of the Asylum Division staff.
Asylum Officer Basic Training Course Lesson Modules
The Asylum Officer Basic Training Course lesson modules are used to train Asylum Officers at the mandatory 5-week AOBTC.
The AOBTC lesson modules were developed and are updated by the Asylum Division following a standardized procedure for U.S. Government training initiatives. The materials used in the course have been reviewed by a number of subject matter experts, including Asylum Division staff, the USCIS Office of the Chief Counsel, law professors, immigration attorneys in private practice, and practitioners working with refugees and asylees.
The lessons are updated as the need arises to address new case law, statutory requirements, and procedural directives. These lessons are not only used for the instruction of newly-hired Asylum Officers, but are also used to articulate and communicate Asylum Division guidance on the substantive adjudication of asylum cases, and the lesson modules are also used as a reference tool for Asylum Officers as they perform their duties.