I would like to share a few thoughts about the affirmative asylum process. When I say “affirmative asylum,” I am referring to a person who decides to file for asylum while he or she is not in removal proceedings in Immigration Court. So, the person “affirmatively” applies for asylum, rather than filing “defensively” in Immigration Court.
When a person files an affirmative asylum application, the application goes to USCIS, which stands for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. USCIS will receive the application, and, if the application meets certain requirements, such as being filled out correctly, containing the applicant’s signature, etc., then USCIS will send a receipt notice to the applicant, and to the attorney, if the applicant is filing with the help of an attorney. The receipt will arrive in a small thin envelope, and it will be difficult to read the text on the receipt.
Next, the applicant will receive a biometrics notice. This notice will be on regular letter-sized paper, and it will be easier to read. The applicant will be directed to go to a USCIS office to get his or her fingerprints and photograph taken by USCIS.
After that, there is the very long wait for an asylum interview. USCIS has 8 offices in the United States that are dedicated only for asylum interviews and decisions. The 8 offices are, roughly from east to west: New York, New York; Newark, New Jersey; Arlington, Virginia; Miami, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; Houston, Texas; San Francisco, California; and Los Angeles, California.
The applicant will be interviewed at the Asylum Office that has jurisdiction over the location where the applicant is living. The waiting time for an interview varies by the office, but at this time, the waiting time for an interview varies from about 1 1/2 years (New York office) to more than 5 years (Los Angeles office). At the Chicago office, the current wait for an interview is nearly 3 years.
Five months after the applicant submits the original asylum application to USCIS, the applicant may submit an application for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). By federal regulation, USCIS is supposed to issue the EAD within about 30 days of the application, but in reality, USCIS often takes about 90 days to issue the EAD.
Once the applicant receives an EAD, the applicant may file for a Social Security Number at the nearest Social Security Office. The applicant may also apply for a driver license or state-issued ID, depending on the regulations in the applicant’s state. The EAD will be valid for 1 year. The applicant may renew the EAD each year, while the asylum application remains pending.
After the applicant has the asylum interview, then begins the wait to receive the decision from the Asylum Office. The wait time for the decision after the interview varies quite a lot, but some wait times of 2 years or more are common. Again, while the case is pending, the applicant may continue to renew the EAD.
In a later post, I will discuss more about the details of the asylum application process.