The Easiest Office to Win Asylum, and Why You Shouldn’t Apply There

by Jason Dzubow on February 25, 2016

If you want to maximize your chances for winning asylum, where is the best place in the U.S. to apply?

It’s unfortunate that we even need to ask this question. In a perfect world, the approval rates for each Asylum Office would be about the same. But in the real world, approval rates vary–by quite a lot, it turns out.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics: Which are these?

Lies, damned lies, and statistics: Which are these?

Our team of mathematicians here at the Asylumist have been working hard to analyze the most recent data from the Asylum Office, and we’ve summarized our findings in the attached chart. You can see that the approval rate for the San Francisco office (76.5%) is significantly higher than for the other Asylum Offices. The next best offices are Arlington (51.8%) and Los Angeles (50.7%), followed by Chicago (38.3%), Miami (37.7%), and Newark (35.8%). The worst offices are Houston (27.6%) and New York (22.6%).

First, a word about methodology: We used monthly statistical information from the Asylum Division Quarterly Stakeholder Meeting to calculate the percentages. USCIS posts this information four times per year, and you can see the latest posting here. We looked at the numbers from the most recently available six month period: April to September 2015. To determine the approval rate, we removed from the mix (technically, from the denominator) asylum denials based on no-shows–in other words, where the applicant herself never attended the interview.

Just for fun, we added another column listing the length of delay before the interview at each office (as of February 2016 – one day, I will do an article about why the posted wait times are not good predictors of how long a new asylum applicant will wait for an interview). You can see that the Asylum Offices with the lowest grant rates (New York and Houston) also currently have the shortest waits for an interview (20 months and 21 months respectively). Perhaps there is a connection between grant rates and waiting periods, but I doubt it–the office with the highest grant rate (San Francisco) has the third shortest waiting time (25 months).

Based on the above analysis, the savvy asylum seeker might conclude that the best way to maximize his chance for a grant is to live within the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Asylum Office, or as a second choice, the Arlington, Virginia or Los Angeles Asylum Offices (to see which Asylum Office has jurisdiction over your case, check the Asylum Office Locator). But I think such a conclusion assumes too much. I also think there are other factors worth considering besides grant rates and wait times. Let me explain.

First, it’s difficult to know what’s behind the above numbers and how applicable they are to an individual case. Who is seeking asylum at each office? From which countries and for what reasons? Are applicants more likely to be represented by a lawyer (which increases the likelihood of a grant) at certain offices? Some types of cases are more difficult to win than others, and this might be reflected in the statistics. For example, supposedly the Houston office has a higher percentage of applicants fleeing persecution from criminal gangs in Central America. In general, such cases are difficult to win since applicants don’t easily fit into a protected category under the asylum law. If we could eliminate Central American cases from the mix, perhaps the Houston office would have a higher grant rate. So does this mean that if you have a different type of asylum case (say, an Iraqi fleeing religious persecution), Houston might not be a bad place to apply? Maybe. At least it probably is not as bad as the overall approval rate suggests.

Second, while USCIS provides limited information about why cases are denied, they do give us some information–most importantly, they provide the number of cases denied due to missed filing deadlines (asylum applicants are required to submit their applications within one year of arrival in the U.S. or meet an exception to this rule; otherwise, the Asylum Office will automatically deny the case and refer it to an Immigration Judge). For some reason, the New York office has a high percentage of “Filing Deadline Referrals.” Roughly 35% of all referrals in NY are due to the filing deadline. In most other offices, less than 20% of cases are referred on this basis. If you remove such cases from the calculus, the overall grant rate in NY goes from 22% to over 30%. So does this mean that more people are filing late in New York, or does it mean that New York is less likely to find an exception to the one-year filing requirement? While I suspect it’s the latter, we really don’t know. But if you are filing your application in a timely manner, the New York office may not be as bad as the chart above indicates.

The bottom line is, we don’t know a whole lot about what’s behind the Asylum Division’s statistics, and without a better understanding of the situation, it is difficult to make predictions in an individual case.

There’s another unknown factor at play here as well: These cases are taking a long time, and given the relatively short tenure of each asylum officer (two or three years, I’ve heard), the approval rate at a given office may change by the time the interview date arrives. So a good office today may be less good tomorrow (or vice versa).

Finally–and for me, this is the best argument against forum shopping–given the years-long waiting period before the interview, asylum seekers have got to live their lives. I often advise new clients that they should live as though they are going to win their cases. Why? Because it’s impossible not to–how can you put your entire life on hold for two, three or more years while you wait for an asylum decision? In some things (reunification with family, certain job opportunities), you may have no choice, but to the extent possible, you need to live your life while you are waiting for a decision. This means you need to live where you have a job or go to school, or where you have the support of family members and friends. If you choose where to live based on the local Asylum Office approval rate, you may have a hard time surviving the wait.

On the other hand, if all else is equal (or maybe if you just have a hankerin’ for some Rice-A-Roni), San Francisco is probably not a bad place to apply.

{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

Binyo December 16, 2017 at 9:55 am

Great job Jason. Please, what success chances /rates for asylums filed in Arizona? Colorado?
Does filing via an attorney increases my success chances or the chances remain same?
Thanks

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Jason Dzubow December 17, 2017 at 7:37 am

You have to find your local asylum office by following the link at right called Asylum Office Locator, and then you can compare it with the chart above (for what that chart is worth). As for a lawyer, I wrote about that last week (for court cases) and I do think lawyers can help (obviously, since I am a lawyer). I did a posting on July 7, 2016 about this topic – maybe that would help. Take care, Jason

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Lora December 6, 2017 at 12:58 am

Hi jason we leave in houston me and my husband and about to file asylum case so is it still the lowest acceptance level and longest period? Also if we need to file in san francisco is there is any way to do it while we still here ? Thanks for your effort

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Jason Dzubow December 7, 2017 at 7:18 am

I have not checked the statistics lately, but I think you should focus on presenting the best case you can; I would not worry about office statistics too much (for reasons discussed above). The only way to have your case at the SF office is to live within the jurisdiction of that office. Take care, Jason

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Ahmed December 4, 2017 at 11:33 am

Dear jason,

please I need your help and advise I applied to Asylum in 2015 on Houston Asylum office and kept waiting and left US because my father health issue that need to brain surgery so that cause to me panic attack so after communicated and send all reports to Houston office they told me that my case will be move to Asylum office director for review ans consideration .so my case still pending so please your advise me what to do to return back to US

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Jason Dzubow December 4, 2017 at 10:53 pm

If you do not have Advance Parole or a visa, I do not know how you can return to the US. Even if you have a visa, you could be detained when you arrive here, depending on the type of visa you have. If you cannot get a visa, you might look into Humanitarian Parole (form I-131, available at http://www.uscis.gov), but I do not think USCIS would approve a case under these circumstances, but maybe it is worth looking into as a last resort. If nothing works, maybe you can convince the asylum office to terminate your case so at least you will not have a removal order, which would make it more difficult to come back here in the future. Take care, Jason

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Vandana Nehra November 28, 2017 at 6:43 am

Hi sir, I am planning to file my asylum in the USA.My son is already in the US.He is 18 years old.He is studying there.I want to file asylum with my daughter. She is 13 years old .I do not want to file my son. Pl tell me this asylum case can create a problem for my son.

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Jason Dzubow November 28, 2017 at 4:51 pm

If your son stays in the US, he will likely be fine, but if he leaves and tries to re-enter, your asylum case could cause problems. He could be rejected at the airport when he returns (if that happens, he can ask asylum at the airport, but he will likely be detained while his case is decided). Or, if he needs a new visa, that will likely be denied if you have a pending case. Take care, Jason

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Paul November 18, 2017 at 3:40 am

Hi Jason,

My case: I received the green card based on asylum and I had to visit my home country one time for a family emergency which lasted 40 days trip. I was stopped at the airport upon returning but was allowed to enter.

My concerns:

1- Would that be an issue in the Naturalization process
2-How should I prepare myself
3-What is the worst case scenario
4- if I hire an attorney, what would they do there ( would that protect me from out of rules questions)
5- is 40 day stay in home country very long? What should be best answer.
6- renewed passport and travelled to Europe with it.. would that cause a trouble.
7-How long Seattle office takes to finalize an application. I see 11 months estimated time!!!

Thanks,
Paul

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Jason Dzubow November 19, 2017 at 8:22 am

1 – Very possibly. 2 – Have evidence of the reason for the trip, and be prepared to explain about the trip, and how you managed to stay safely there even though it is still dangerous for you. 3 – The asylum office could take away asylum and put you into immigration court, where you would have to re-litigate the asylum case defensively, and if you lost and lost on appeal, you could be deported. 4 – The lawyer would hopefully advise you about how best to avoid getting sent to court. 5 – I don’t know; it depends on the reason for staying, but it seems long to me for someone who got asylum from that same country. 6- On its own, I doubt it (though theoretically it could – it is better to use a refugee travel document), but in combined with the trip home, it is another negative factor (if you fear terrorists in your country and not the government, this will be less of a problem). 7 – I do not understand what application you are referring to. Take care, Jason

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Ekema Patrick November 17, 2017 at 12:09 pm

Hi Jason,

I just fled my country and got into a neighbouring country. It was so hard to get a US visa using my original passport. So I bribed the immigration of the country and did a passport. I used it to apply for US visa and was successful.

I want to apply for asylum in the US. What are my chances given that I used fake document to enter the states.

Patrick

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Caly November 17, 2017 at 1:38 pm

I don’t know, your name is like a cameroon name, are u from there?

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Jason Dzubow November 17, 2017 at 4:55 pm

Using a fake document is not an automatic basis to deny, but if you are discovered at the airport/border, you likely will be detained. It would be important to reveal the fraud in any statement or application you make to the US government, but if you needed the fake document to escape from harm, it should not automatically blocked you from receiving asylum (there is a case about that called Matter of Pula). Take care, Jason

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FRANK KITAKA October 26, 2017 at 8:03 pm

I filed my asylum case in Minnesota in October 2015, its been two years now, do you have any idea which year lot Minnesota is handling now?

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Jason Dzubow October 27, 2017 at 6:27 am

I think MN is covered by the Chicago Asylum Office, but I do not know whether there is a sub-office. You can check the Asylum Office Scheduling Bulletin – a link is at right – to get an idea about the interview schedule, at least for Chicago. Take care, Jason

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Aalmo September 23, 2017 at 12:44 pm

Hello jason,
I have a son but he is not biologically my own.
Do i need to mention in my asylum application about it?
What if i mwntion him as my own?

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Jason Dzubow September 25, 2017 at 6:44 am

You need to mention all your children, including adopted children. I recommend that you list him and then explain (maybe on the last page of the form – Supplement B) what your relationship is: Adopted child, child who lives with you, child that you consider your son, etc. As long as you explain, you should be fine. He would only be eligible to benefit from your asylum case if he is legally your child. Take care, Jason

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Othman Saymeh September 22, 2017 at 2:55 am

Greetings,

I am a Syrian national with a TPS status. I have been in the Us for 4 years now and I intentionally didn’t apply for assylum before as I thought it’s for no use as long as my TPS is running and I get to work.
However, with the political changes happening in the US, I am worried that I would lose my priviliges of being legal and not be able to work anymore.
Do you think that these political changes are considered a good exception (from the first year rule) to apply for assylum at this point? And if I understand, the SF office would be responsible for me if I live in Sacremento, CA, if I am correct?

Please advise. Thank you so much for your articles and answers. Regards.

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Jason Dzubow September 22, 2017 at 6:44 am

You certainly can try to use your TPS status as an “excuse” for not filing within the first year. I have not done that for a client, but I suspect it should work. You might want to talk to a lawyer about that, maybe to research the question and see whether there is a case on point (if so, please let us know). As for your asylum office, you can find that if you follow the link at right called Asylum Office Locator and enter your zip code. Take care, Jason

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Abdul moyawala October 21, 2017 at 12:30 am

Hey my name is abdul i want to enquire about some doubts i have presently i m leaving in chicago can i apply aslyum case in washington state i have enter in usa with visit visa still three months are left

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Jason Dzubow October 22, 2017 at 10:29 am

If you apply for asylum, you are assigned an asylum office based on where in the US you live. You can find out if you follow the link at right called Asylum Office Locator and enter your zip code. Take care, Jason

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Othman Saymeh October 26, 2017 at 11:20 pm

Hello Jason,

I am applying for the asylum as my previous comment indicated. I feel very confident that I will be able to present my case and I am looking to apply on my own.
I know this might be an invalid question to ask an attorney’s office, but I am going through some financial problems and I want to apply asap.
Do you have any recommendations on whether I should apply by myself or with an attorney at the San Francisco Office? What do you think is a reasonable approval percentages in both cases?
Also, would an attorney be able to make the process faster at all or it is the same processing time regardless?
Thank you so much! I find a lot of of useful information on your website. Truly thankful!

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Jason Dzubow October 27, 2017 at 6:34 am

I did blog posts on July 7, 2016 and September 22, 2016 that talk about these questions. Using a lawyer does not make the case faster, though maybe the lawyer can advise you about how to best request that the case be expedited. Take care, Jason

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Tony September 21, 2017 at 4:22 am

Hi Jason.I’m 27 years old guy from Eastern Europe.I came in Usa as a J1 visa student.Is it to late to apply for asylum if I’m already in the USA for 2 years as a illegal?I live in SF and this is my home now,I can’t imagine myself living enywhere alse.

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Jason Dzubow September 21, 2017 at 10:30 pm

You may be barred from asylum based on the one-year asylum filing rule (where you are supposed to file for asylum within one year of entry). There are exceptions to that rule, and so you might want to talk to a lawyer about that. Also, even if you are barred from asylum, you might be eligible for other relief, such as Withholding of Removal and Torture Convention relief. Talk to a lawyer, as it is much better to find an exception to the one year rule and get asylum if you can. Take care, Jason

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Grite K September 10, 2017 at 11:06 am

Can I please know if applying for an asylum through a lawyer increases my chances of receiving a positive answer or reduces the chances of delay in processing?
Does holding a visa has a negative/positive impact as well as increase/decrease chances for asylum application as compared with those who do not hold visas?
Kindly,
K

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Jason Dzubow September 11, 2017 at 6:14 am

Using a lawyer or not has no effect on the time frame of the case. If the lawyer is any good, it should help you win the case. I wrote about this issue on July 7, 2016 – maybe that posting would help. Whether or not you hold a visa probably has little effect on the outcome of the case, but it depends on the case, so I really do not know. Take care, Jason

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Eric September 8, 2017 at 3:35 pm

Hello Jason. I filed my documents from NYC. Then i moved to Virginia. 16 month pass still there is no response. But my driver license Job is in VA. End of 2017 i am planning to move back to Newyork or San francisco. Is that could be a problem during the interview?

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Jason Dzubow September 8, 2017 at 4:03 pm

When you move, you have to update your address using form AR-11, available at http://www.uscis.gov. If the asylum office thinks you are lying about your address, they may think you are lying about your entire case, so it is a good idea to update the address. Also, if they see that you are not in the proper office, they could refuse to interview you and transfer your case to the correct office (or maybe send you to court). Take care, Jason

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Fady August 29, 2017 at 6:23 pm

Hi
If i live in place belong sub office, how i submit request to the office to make my interview in head office not in sub office?, and is it reduce waiting time ?

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Jason Dzubow August 30, 2017 at 6:17 am

I do not know if it is possible for them to do that. But you can ask – send an email to the main office with your request. You can find their contact info if you follow the link at right called Asylum Office Locator. Take care, Jason

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Bebo August 29, 2017 at 6:13 pm

Hello Jason,
dose you have any idea about asylum scheduling for seattle office, and is it easy or not?3

Thanks Jason God with you

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Jason Dzubow August 30, 2017 at 6:15 am

Seattle is a sub-office of San Francisco, so you can check the Asylum Office Scheduling Bulletin (a link is at right) for the SF office. Usually, the sub-offices are slower than the main office. If you want to request to expedite, make the request to the SF office. You can find their contact info if you follow the link at right called Asylum Office Locator. Take care, Jason

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Memo August 24, 2017 at 11:10 am

Hi Mr. Jason

I live in Los Angeles and I want to apply in San F office, can I? Because I’m in the same state “California ”

And what If I got married when I got the green card based on marriage I can withdraw my asylum?
Or it canceled by itself ?

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Jason Dzubow August 25, 2017 at 6:43 am

You have to apply based on where you live. If you go to the link at right called Asylum Office Locator, and enter your zip code, you will find your asylum office. If you marry and get a GC based on marriage, you should inform the asylum office and they will cancel your case. Take care, Jason

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Fouzia Nazeer August 18, 2017 at 2:04 am

Hi dear my name is fouzia nazeer i file my asylum case in Washington but now I move in Houston tx and also i give my address to Houston asylum office and I file my case may 2015 i move here March 2017 and u still waiting for my case so how long i should wait for my case reply please in advance thank john.

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Jason Dzubow August 18, 2017 at 6:37 am

You have to check the Asylum Office Scheduling Bulletin – a link is at right. Also, you can contact the Houston asylum office to make sure they have your case. You can find their contact info if you follow the link at right called Asylum Office Locator. Take care, Jason

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Vitaly August 8, 2017 at 10:23 pm

Hello Jason,
Thank you so much for your hard work, you helped to a lot of people.
I have read that if you changing address – you changing Asylum office.
Purely theoretically.
Can I file a case in Chicago, and after 1-2 years move to SF, and get interviewed in SF Office?

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Jason Dzubow August 9, 2017 at 6:30 am

You can move and change your address, and if the new address is in the jurisdiction of a new asylum office, then your interview will be in the new office. You should keep your place in the queue, so in your example, if you file in Chicago but move to SF, you will be interview on the SF schedule as if you had originally filed in the SF office. Take care, Jason

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Vitaly August 9, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Is I understand it right, that for example, if I will file in Chicago, and then after 1 year will move to SF with EAD, I will wait the same time, like I filed in SF just now?

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Jason Dzubow August 9, 2017 at 10:27 pm

Correct. Take care, Jason

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Asylee August 8, 2017 at 12:39 am

Dear Jason,

Can you please update the above chart with the latest statistics? I have gone through with latest Asylum Division Quarterly Stakeholder Meeting but couldn’t summarize the data as you did in the above chart.

Thanks and regards,

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Jason Dzubow August 8, 2017 at 6:35 am

I would not have time to do that anytime soon, sorry. My suspicion is that there will not be any major changes, but it would be good to take a look at the data at some point, and if I have a chance, I may do that. Take care, Jason

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Carla August 7, 2017 at 11:32 am

I heard many information and I would like to know if it is recommended to say that you live at a family member’s home or even if you have more family applying also for asylum? Should I mention that or not?

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Jason Dzubow August 7, 2017 at 10:48 pm

I do not see why they would care where you live, as long as you tell them the truth about where you live and your address. If you have family members who have also applied for asylum, that might help your case. And if they have been granted, that certainly could be helpful to your case, so it is probably good to tell them (though of course, if the cases are not consistent, that could be a problem). Take care, Jason

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Carla August 7, 2017 at 11:29 am

Hello,
What about Georgia? Is that any information about how good or bad is to apply here?

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Calymene August 7, 2017 at 11:36 am

I don’t know Carla, just apply where you stay God will help you win the Asylum. If u have family members let them apply individually or if u have kids u can include them in tot application where it shows to include kids, thanks.

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Jason Dzubow August 7, 2017 at 10:47 pm

For an affirmative asylum case, Georgia is a sub office of Arlington, VA, which is a pretty good office. So applying there is fine. However, if you lose and are sent to court, the Immigration Court in Georgia is known to be one of the most difficult in the US. But you only go there if the initial asylum application is not approved. Take care, Jason

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Calymene August 8, 2017 at 12:43 am

Hey, How about Chicago?

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Jason Dzubow August 8, 2017 at 6:36 am

Chicago is listed on the chart above. Take care, Jason

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Sher July 3, 2017 at 2:48 pm

Hi Jason.
Thank you for this informative website you guys have provided. And thank you for all the helpful information.
I have submitted my I-589 for the asylum, religious case, in 2014. We had an interview in February of 2016 and since then I have been waiting for the response but NO response yet. I am a family man with four kids and it/s not easy to wait that long. I am under Chicago Asylum Office. We would be very thankful for any information that you can provide. If I have to I might higher the service of the Lawyer (PM me). From this point on, is there anything that can be done to hear back from them or somehow legally speed up the process or anything like that??? Or if we move to a different place like west cost would it help? Thank you in advance!
Sher

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Jason Dzubow July 4, 2017 at 10:12 pm

I doubt moving would make any difference. You can contact the asylum office to inquire about your case. You can find their contact info if you follow the link at right called Asylum Office Locator. If that does not help, contact the USCIS Ombudsman – a link is also at right. If the Ombudsman cannot help, you might consider a mandamus lawsuit. The first two, you can do by yourself, but for the law suit, you should probably hire a lawyer. Take care, Jason

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Calymene July 29, 2017 at 11:50 pm

Hey Sher, how are u doing, please can you tell me which address i can apply to please, am from Minnesota, please how can i apply?

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Besho June 22, 2017 at 6:32 pm

I would like to seek religious asylum, i’am a christian from Egypt and i got visa B1-B2 , please advise which immigration office is faster and good approval rat foe my case , i don’t care to live in any state i just want the faster office for my case , please advise.
Regards,

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Jason Dzubow June 23, 2017 at 6:40 am

The above blog post basically tells you my opinion on this. I am not sure what else to add. Take care, Jason

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Thomas June 9, 2017 at 9:03 am

Hi Jason. May only God bless you for this award deserving job.This is priceless.
I am on a B1/B2 visa and l would like to seek asylum in San Fransisco. I am a 29 year old gay guy and have been persecuted and deprived my rights in my home country as gays have been called ” worse more than pigs and dogs”. To make matters worse l was forced to sleep with a woman in a locked room by a relative simply for me to have a child to carry my fathers name. l am a member of the GALZ.My problem is that my only friend is in Florida but the approval rate is low. I intend to hand in my case in San Fransisco since it has a high rate of approval BUT my problem is l dont know anyone there who can assist me with accomodation so l can use that address to open my case. On the other hand, am l allowed to rent my own place while l await for my outcome so l can use that address..?l am willing to pay. If they might be any LGBTQ members or other organisations who can help me to access accomodation and guidance….PLEASE DO HELP.
Thank you.

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Jason Dzubow June 12, 2017 at 6:06 am

You should be careful about filing a case in one place and living somewhere else. If the asylum office thinks you are lying about your address, they may think you are lying about your case too. I recommend that you just file wherever you live and do your best to win the case in the local office (as discussed in the above article). There are groups that assist LGBT asylum seekers. I wrote an article on September 22, 2016 about finding free lawyers, but the article links to groups of non-profits, some of which will focus on LGBT cases. Also, you can Google “Immigration Equality”, which is the most prominent NGO in this area, and they may be able to assist you finding local support. Take care, Jason

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YB June 8, 2017 at 5:27 pm

Dear Jason, accept my sincere gratitude for all the work you for the community of people who found themselves in this situation. Your website and advice are truly priceless.

My wife and I fled an Easter European country known for the extreme levels of ethnicity-based xenophobia and the quasi-democratic but oppressive regimes. We filed our asylum application in Los Angeles in May 2014 and predictably we’re still waiting to hear about the interview date, which may take at least one more year, however, I have a new turn in my professional life:

– I’m involved in the tech industry and I have a growing need to be present in the SF/SV area. I am planning to go there next week and start looking for longer term accomodation and spend over 50% of my time there with a thought that the entire family may move there as things get established (we have two kids so that adds to the trouble of moving).

– I was told that if I rent a place there, I would need to update my address for the asylum case and it will be transfered to the San Francisco office so we may get called for an interview shortly thereafter since they are reviewing cases, which were filed back in May-June 2015, i.e. a year later than mine.

– If we do that, I was told two opposing viewpoints: (a) that my entire family, including kids have to relocate full-time since they check if they live there permanently and even go and interview neighbors, (b) that as long as you have a lease/sub-lease and your spouse and you have updated your driver’s licenses to the new address, they won’t get much further into it.

What’s your experience with this?

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Jason Dzubow June 9, 2017 at 6:05 am

My experience is that they are not all that strict with addresses and I have never heard of USCIS checking whether you actually live in a place. However, if they have info that indicates you are not telling the truth about your address, they might consider that you are lying about the address, and if you are lying about that, maybe you are lying about other things. In short, if you have a legitimate basis to say you are living in a particular address, you should be fine. Given the choice between SF and LA, I would choose SF, as it has a higher grant rate and it is faster (but that assume that you prefer a faster office – some people prefer slower). In any case, if you have evidence for your address, to show that you are really using that address, you should be fine. Take care, Jason

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