New Scheduling Priorities for Asylum Seekers

As many asylum seekers may have heard, USCIS released a notice that it will be changing its asylum interview scheduling priorities. According to its website, the following priorities are being put into place: 

  • First priority: Applications that were scheduled for an interview, but the interview had to be rescheduled at the applicant’s request or the needs of USCIS.
  • Second priority: Applications that have been pending 21 days or less.
  • Third priority: All other pending affirmative asylum applications will be scheduled for interviews starting with newer filings and working back towards older filings.

While there are many unknowns about these new procedures, in short, the office will start scheduling cases “backwards.” This means that the last person to apply for affirmative asylum will be the first person to receive an interview. This is a vast shift from their previous “first-come first-serve” policy.

In addition to these changes, it also appears as though asylum offices will no longer prioritize cases for unaccompanied minors, placing them in the same line as other applicants. 

While this can be good news for new asylum applicants- who will likely receive an interview in the next few months- it is very distressing for immigrants who have been waiting years for an interview. Some of our clients who have been waiting for an interview since 2014 are now at the back of the line. 

While this information is distressing, there are still some ways to speed up this waiting period that appear, at least for the moment, to still be in place for older applications. 

First off, applicants who have already been given an interview but were forced to reschedule remain a priority for USCIS. It does not matter if the reschedule was caused by the applicant or USCIS. 

Second, it does appear as though “expedite requests” are still being processed. There has been no indication that the agency plans on eliminating this way to obtain a faster interview time. Generally expedite requests are “hit-or-miss,” meaning there is very little consistency when it comes to who will be granted an early interview and who will be denied. For more information on the standard for when expedite requests are granted you can visit this page, but naturally this standard is very vague and unpredictable. 

Third, the short list for asylum, for now, remains in place. This list is for people who have completed applications and would be available on very short notice for an interview in case another applicant cancels or reschedules their interview. This option should not be employed by immigrants unless they feel 100% confident in the evidence they have collected. 

Finally, there is currently some talk about applicants withdrawing applications and resubmitting them for a faster interview time. Unfortunately, this could trigger the “year bar” (a general rule that asylum seekers must apply within a year of arriving to the United States). Some attorneys have asserted that pending asylum applications should prevent this bar, but the law remains unclear at this time. 

It should also be noted that more changes to the schedule are likely to come in the near future. It is important to stay up to date and in contact with your attorney about your scheduling options. For more information about this subject or immigration law generally, please contact an attorney at Stilwell & Slatton Immigration.