If you asked my clients their number one complaint about me, it’s that they think I take too long to prepare and file their affirmative asylum cases. Conversely, if you asked me my number one complaint about my clients, it’s that they are always pushing me to file their cases as quickly as possible. Since this blog is written by me, and not by my clients, I can tell you unequivocally that I am right and they are wrong. Here’s why–
First and foremost, it takes time to properly prepare and file an asylum case. Even in a very strong case–and especially in a case with a lot of evidence–it is important to make sure that all the letters and documents are consistent. That translations are correct. That dates, which often use a different calendar, are properly converted to the Western calendar. That the dates in the asylum form match the dates in the affidavit, and that passports, visas, and other documents make sense with the client’s chronology as she remembers it. You would be surprised how often there are problems with dates, chronologies, and translations. In fact, it is the rare case that does not involve my staff or me finding major mistakes in the documents. While this is usually the result of carelessness on the part of the client or a witness, such errors can be fatal to an asylum case, where inconsistencies are often seen as evidence of fraud. There is simply no way around it, it takes time to review all this and put together a consistent and well-crafted application.
Second, any asylum attorney who is any good will probably be busy, especially if his prices are reasonable. Indeed, the only way to keep prices reasonable is to do these cases in bulk. Therefore, if you expect to pay a reasonable price for your case, you can probably expect to wait a bit to have it filed. In our office, it typically takes one to two months to prepare and file an affirmative asylum case. Although the cases do not need to be completely finished when we file (because we can submit supplemental material a week prior to the interview), they need to be mostly done. Why? Because the timing of interviews is unpredictable. The interview may not occur for two months (or more) after we file the application, but it might occur in four weeks. So if the case is not near completion at the time we file, we may not have time to properly finish it and review everything before the interview.
Finally, attorneys–you may be shocked to learn–are human. And humans make mistakes. When we rush, we tend to make more mistakes, and mistakes sometimes cause clients to lose their cases. When we have time to prepare a case, think about the facts and the law, strategize about how to resolve problems (and most cases have problems of one sort or another), research country conditions, and carefully review all the evidence, we minimize the chances for mistakes and maximize the odds of winning.
There are, of course, very legitimate reasons for wanting to file a case quickly–separation from family, stress, uncertainty, fear of being out of status, inability to work. Probably the most legitimate reason to file quickly is to meet the one-year asylum filing deadline (asylum applicants are required to file for asylum within one year of arrival in the United States; people who file after one year risk being ineligible for asylum). But as long as there is not a one-year issue, it is far better to take a few extra weeks to file a case correctly than to rush. In my humble (and correct) opinion, if you prioritize speed over winning, you are misplacing your priorities. If you lose your case, it will likely be referred to an Immigration Judge, which can easily take several years to resolve.
So take a breath. Relax. And take the time to do your case right. Going a bit slower at the beginning may save you a lot of time in the end.