The Asylum Office Scheduling Bulletin, Explained (Sort of)

by Jason Dzubow on June 7, 2016

The purpose of the Asylum Office Scheduling Bulletin (“AOSB”) is to give asylum applicants “an estimate for when they might expect their interview to be scheduled.” At best, though, it’s a very rough estimate. The problem is that the AOSB tells only part of the story, and not even the most important part. Let me explain.

For two bits, Madame Blavatsky can predict when your interview will be. And I'll bet she's more accurate than the AOSB.

For two bits, Madame Blavatsky can predict when your interview will be. And I’ll bet she’s more accurate than the AOSB.

First, what is the AOSB? It is a chart that lists the eight main Asylum Offices. For each office, we can see the filing date of the cases that that office was interviewing in March 2016 (the most recent month listed on the chart). We can also see the two previous months (January and February 2016), which gives some idea about how quickly (or not) the office is moving through its case load.

So, for example, if you look at the Arlington, Virginia Asylum Office, you will see that as of March 2016, it is interviewing people who filed their cases in October 2013. In January and February 2016, Arlington was interviewing people who filed their cases in September 2013. The Chicago office has made the most progress during this period, advancing from May to August 2013. San Francisco is also making steady progress, moving from January to March 2014. Other offices–Houston, Los Angeles, Miami–have moved not at all. But again, this is only part of the story.

One thing the numbers do not tell you is that many of the cases filed prior to December 26, 2014 have already been interviewed. Extrapolating from our own case load, for example, I estimate that in my local Asylum Office (Arlington), approximately 60% of cases filed between October 2013 (the date listed on the AOSB) and December 2014 have already been interviewed. That’s because there was a policy change on December 26, 2014 affecting how the Asylum Offices handle their cases.

What happened is this: In the Good Old Days (and the dates for “the Good Old Days” differ depending on your Asylum Office), asylum cases were filed and interviewed relatively quickly. At my local office, most interviews took place two or three months after filing. Then, starting in 2012 or 2013, and continuing until today, the number of people arriving at our Southern border increased significantly. These migrants are mostly young people from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. They are fleeing violence and poverty. Some are attempting to reunite with family members already in the United States.

At the border, the migrants ask for asylum. They are generally detained and subject to a credible fear interview (“CFI”). A CFI is an initial evaluation of eligibility for asylum. It is easier to “pass” a CFI than to win asylum, and a large majority of applicants pass the interview. They are then permitted to present their asylum cases to an Immigration Judge or an Asylum Officer. Applicants who do not pass the CFI are deported.

This mass migration (often called “the surge”) affects the affirmative asylum process in a few ways. First, CFIs are conducted by Asylum Officers. These are the same officers who conduct asylum interviews at the various Asylum Offices. If the officers are spending time on CFIs, they obviously are not spending time interviewing applicants at the Asylum Offices. And since most of the people arriving at the Southern border are detained, which costs the U.S. government money, CFIs get priority over the Asylum Officers’ other work. Another way the surge has affected asylum seekers is that the Asylum Offices are prioritizing unaccompanied minors over other applicants. A large percentage of “surge” asylum applicants are minors, and thus their interviews receive priority over “regular” asylum seekers.

When DHS diverted resources away from the Asylum Offices, affirmative cases started piling up. This began in our local office in 2013. About 60% of the case we filed during this period were interviewed in the normal time frame; the other 40% disappeared. The disappeared cases came to be known as “the backlog.”

Once it became apparent that the backlog was not going away, the Asylum Division changed its policy. Starting on December 26, 2014, cases would be interviewed on a first-in/first-out basis. This meant that the Asylum Offices started interviewing the cases in the order received, starting with the cases that had disappeared into the backlog. The AOSB was first published in about July 2015, and since then, there has not been a whole lot of progress. In Arlington, for example, since July 2015, the Asylum Office has only advanced from August to October 2013. Los Angeles is worse. Back in July 2015, they were interviewing cases filed in August 2011. Today, they are still interviewing cases filed in August 2011. Ugh.

The U.S. government has been trying to improve the situation. The Asylum Division has hired more staff, including officers devoted exclusively to CFIs. We now have a system–limited to be sure–to process refugees in-country in Central America and bring them to the U.S. More controversially, we seem to have convinced Mexico to crack down on migrants passing through its territory, and we have prioritized the deportation of “surge” applicants, sometimes at the expense of our international obligations and due process of law. But if the AOSB provides any indication, these efforts have done little to reduce the backlog.

The most important factor impacting movement at the Asylum Offices still appears to be the number of people arriving at the Southern border. As long as these numbers remain high, I am not optimistic that the Asylum Offices will make much progress on the backlog. And the prospects for improvement in the near-term do not look good: Preliminary reports from the border indicate that we can expect more asylum seekers than ever, as migrants seek to enter the U.S. before our increasingly-hostile political climate makes conditions for asylum seekers at the border even more dire.

All these factors, and more (like, how cases and CFIs are distributed between Asylum Offices, how many Asylum Officers are detailed overseas to process refugees, etc.), contribute to movement on the AOSB. Because there are so many unpredictable factors at play, I don’t see how the AOSB can claim any accuracy as a long-term predictor of when an individual asylum interview will be held. To me, it’s kind of like looking at the weather report a month before your vacation. It doesn’t tell you much, but since it’s all you’ve got, you pay attention anyway.

In the end, there is some value to the AOSB: Once you see that your asylum filing date is coming up, you know to prepare for your interview. Also, for applicants, I suppose it is helpful to know that they are not alone in Backlogistan. But as far as predicting interview dates, the AOSB is a mirage in the desert–it may encourage you to keep walking, but it tells you nothing about when you might get your next drink of water.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason Dzubow January 18, 2017 at 8:08 pm

Dear Jason,

How are you doing today? I have a question regarding claiming an asylum to southern California , is it True that i will need to wait 5 years to get interviewed?! I mean is it possible to get interviewed earlier than that ? Some say it takes 2 years others says 3 years, I’m really confused! I need to purchase my own house in Southern California and I’m confused if I can do it once I’m there or after im granted asylum?! Can i claim in San Francisco and be living in In OC ? Also I already applied for green card lottery hopefully I can win because I’m coming from a country where low people fill for green card or think to move to US – if I didn’t win the lottery, can i re enter the lottery this year? If yes should I put my home country or US if I’m staying there? Also will my family “sisters-brothers-parents ” be able to visit California or any other state after i claim an asylum or they will be refused? I’m coming from The Gulf area in Middle East where lots of people own property and vacation in the states year around. Thanks so much for your time and help. Much appreciate it

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Ellie January 13, 2017 at 1:40 am

Hi, thank you for your support,
I am another applicant with different story.
Obviously everyone has the same problem, waiting for along time, and it’s not fair.
Any way I filed on December 2015 , I am with my son here, he missed his dad and he suffers from being separated with his sister, meanwhile I had an incident in one of the stores here, caused many problems for me, I Am in an regent of neck surgery and without insurance it’s impossible, the store didn’t pay me anything yet. My husband asked for a visa to come for help but the embassy denied his request.
I am absolutely in a place where I can not find any help.
Can tell me what should I do.

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Jason Dzubow January 13, 2017 at 7:43 am

You should Google “Catholic Charities” + the name of your city. They are a large social service provider, and they help immigrants. They may be able to refer you to someone who can help. Take care, Jason

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Anna January 1, 2017 at 7:16 am

If i file for asylum and then apply for H1 while in US. Will my H1 be processed?
Can i switch status from asylum seeker to H1?

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Jason Dzubow January 2, 2017 at 10:52 am

As long as you are legally here (in some status other then “asylum pending”) you should be able to get an H1b visa while your case is pending. For example, if you are an F1 student or you have OPT and you have filed for asylum, you should be able to switch to an H1b (and you can also continue your asylum case while you have the H1b). However, if you have no other status than asylum pending, you will probably need to leave the US, get your H1b at an embassy, and re-enter the US. This may or may not be possible, and you should talk to a lawyer before you start that process, as it depends on different factors in your case. Take care, Jason

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scopa December 29, 2016 at 11:49 pm

Dear Jason, I am staying in Arizona and I am really worried about the LA asylum office. San Francisco is better. Is it possible to request a change of office from LA to SF office while staying and working in Phoenix? Another question how long do you think the EAD takes after 150 days are elapsed? I am really worried as it is very difficult to stay longer with job and income. Thank you so much!!!

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Jason Dzubow January 2, 2017 at 10:25 am

People on the West Coast (or close to there West Coast) seem to get EADs faster – I have heard about people getting them in 1 month. Where I am, it is usually 3 or 4 months. The LA office is getting some help, as a remote office has opened in Virginia that will take on some work from LA. If you want to change to the SF office, you need to move to an area within their jurisdiction. You can check that by following the link at right called Asylum Office Locator. Take care, Jason

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Asylumseeker December 28, 2016 at 2:50 am

If I apply in April 2017 when will be my expected interview date from Richmond Virginia. And in the meantime will I get any benefits?

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Jason Dzubow December 28, 2016 at 10:32 pm

There is no way to predict, but it will likely take a long time. To get a basic idea, check the link at right called Asylum Office Scheduling Bulletin. Your local office is in Arlington, VA. There are few benefits available to people with asylum pending. But 150 dyes after your case is received, you can apply for a work permit (assuming Trump does not change the rules about that). Take care, Jason

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Paul December 27, 2016 at 6:25 pm

Hi, my wife she filed i589 jan2016 this year, i was dependent on her case, but uscis office they sent me notice that they unable to accept my application for following reason. ” im in deportation proceedings” my case under “administrative closer”, i had case before i360 it was approved , than was reopened and rejected. My question is what will happen to me? When my wife she will have intervew ? After intervew if she passed do i have any chance to join her
Thanks looking forward need your advise

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Jason Dzubow December 28, 2016 at 8:43 am

You should probably talk to a lawyer to see about your situation, but I think if her case is granted, she can file an I-730 petition for you. You can then re-open your court case and get your own asylum. You would probably need a lawyer to help with this. Take care, Jason

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Monique December 9, 2016 at 10:42 am

Hi Jason! Thank you for your dedication and your personslized responses to your readers’ comment.

It seems accurate for my aunt who filled her application in August 2013 and got her interview in late 2015 in Arlington. She was granted an aslyum. She was single and didn’t have any child.

What worried me is that I din’t get an interview. We lived together back home and went through the same situation. We both applied at the same time in 2013, and we share the similar story as we were together back in our home country. The only difference is that I have an F-1 visa. She was scheduled an asylum interview on the exact same day her other immigration status expired. Me, I stayed on my visa, with full-time status as I have a scholarship that depends on it.

Would my still-valid status make my asylum case appear of less priority? Based on the bulletin, I should have gotten an interview back in late 2015 as she did.

One thing to add though is that I moved in 2014 and now my office is Chicago. When should I expect an interview? Or you think I will be considered once my other immigration status (F-1) expires?

Thanks,

Monique

Thanks

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Jason Dzubow December 11, 2016 at 8:22 am

I think your F-1 status should not matter. In 2013, when a case was filed, some where interviewed (like your aunt), while others disappeared into the backlog (like you). However, if you have passed your filing date on the Asylum Office Scheduling Bulletin, you should contact the asylum office to ask why you have not yet been interviewed. You can find their contact info if you follow the link at right called Asylum Office Locator. Perhaps the move cause the delay, but if so, this was a mistake by the asylum office as you should have kept your place in the queue. Contact them and ask what is happening with your case. Good luck, Jason

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Sherio December 1, 2016 at 3:54 am

Hi Jason
I filed in 2016. My son is still back home unfortuantly his mother (xwife) emailed saying that the boy is facing very hard time and wants to live with me. he is already filed with me . Any help with that you recommend? Thanks

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Jason Dzubow December 1, 2016 at 7:41 am

He can apply for a visa to come here. This is probably unlikely to work, but he can try. Also, you can get evidence of this problem (letter from ex-wife and son, letter from his teachers, etc) and use that to make an expedite request with the asylum office. Take care, Jason

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BANUMATHI Tamilselvan December 12, 2016 at 11:45 pm

Hi Jason
I filed in Sep. 2016. My son 3.5 year is still back home with my husband .he was 2.5 year old when left him. He is asking my mom and my husband 100 times a day that when I am going to see my mom? In the school also he some times sit byhimself looking at the wall asking mom? My husband send me an emailed saying that my child is facing very difficult time and is there any possibility that they can come and stay with me. Please advise me in this regard. Many thanks in advance.
Banu

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Jason Dzubow December 13, 2016 at 7:33 am

This is the terrible problem with asylum delays. Maybe your husband can try to get a visa to the US, but this is quite difficult. His best chance is probably an H1b visa or an L visa (if he qualifies), as these are unlikely to be affected by your asylum case. If you have evidence of your son’s distress (like a letter from your husband or a teacher), you can use that to request to expedite your case. However, even an expedited case can take many months. Finally, you might apply for Advance Parole (form I-131, available at http://www.uscis.gov) and travel to meet him in a third country (if you do that, apply before December 23, as government fees are going up). Take care, Jason

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BANUMATHI Tamilselvan December 27, 2016 at 10:54 pm

Many many Thanks Janson! Unfortunately my husband completely depend on my application. Though he hold a professional degree, the language is the main issue for him. Now H1B also going to be tough because of Trump administration. I suffered a lot due to domestic violence and I don’t want to remember them at all. I am in trauma, pain. But this asylum backlog make me to suffer further. My child is the only hope in my life. It’s a pain when I see him crying to see me. He is a child,it is very hard for me to explain. I keep writing, talking to find a solution to bring my child over here. I kind of read, if I leave the country , i mean us through parole, there is no grantee that i can come back. Asylum in US is my last hope in my life. If I lose, it is mostly the end of my life and my child. But many many thanks for you advise. My son teachers always advise to take my child with me due to his distress. May be i will get a letter from them and request for an expedite interview. O god please help us! It is such a pain!
Banu

Amy November 28, 2016 at 5:33 pm

Hello Jason. There is no update of asylum bulletin of October 2016. What would be the reason for this? Any ideas for when it may be posted? Thank you in advance

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Jason Dzubow November 28, 2016 at 6:30 pm

I do not know the reason, but I suspect it is because that is a low priority for USCIS. I do know that Arlington, VA has advanced to February 2014, for what that is worth. Take care, Jason

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Ayesha November 25, 2016 at 11:00 am

Hi Jason
There is no update of asylum bulletin of October 2016. Is it because of president elect that USCIS is not processing cases? Thanks

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Jason Dzubow November 28, 2016 at 6:34 pm

They are processing cases, slowly. I just think this is not their priority, so they do not update that often. I know that Arlington, VA has advanced to February 2014. Take care, Jason

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Jake November 24, 2016 at 10:40 am

Hi Jason,
Please can someone request expedite interview if the person is hive positive

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Jason Dzubow November 24, 2016 at 12:03 pm

You have to contact your local office to ask about the expedite process. You can find their contact info if you follow the link at right called Asylum Office Locator. You probably will need to give them proof of your HIV status (letter from doctor), explain why finishing your case quickly is important (so you can get health insurance or for some other reason), and ask to expedite. Make sure all your evidence is submitted by the time you ask to expedite. Take care, Jason

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Therese Le November 18, 2016 at 1:34 am

Hi Jason,

Once 150 days have passed, i’ll be able to apply for a work permit right? How long does that EAD last? And how many times do they issue that card for people whose waiting time exceeds the validity of the work permit? Thanks!

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Jason Dzubow November 18, 2016 at 5:37 pm

You can apply after 150 days and the EAD is good for 2 years. You should renew the EAD 120 days before it expires, and you can do that as many times as necessary until your case is finished. Take care, Jason

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Meisam November 10, 2016 at 9:47 pm

Hello
I have applied my case on May 15, 2015 in Los angeles.Do you know how long does it take to get my appointment.

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Jason Dzubow November 11, 2016 at 11:17 am

LA is the slowest office – check the Asylum Office Scheduling Bulletin to get an idea. A link is at right. LA is receiving some help from an office in Virginia that conducts interviews for credible fear interviews by phone, but nevertheless, it is still a slow office and I doubt you will get an interview quickly. If you have a health problem or family separation, maybe you can ask them to expedite your case. Take care, Jason

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Nabeel October 14, 2016 at 1:24 am

Hi,
i have filed in Nov 2013, the asylum Bulletin now says that they have scheduled interviews in Sep 2016 for those who filed in Nov 2013, i have not received any thing for interview and now it’s already mid of October.
what does that mean?

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Jason Dzubow October 14, 2016 at 6:27 am

I do not think you need to worry about it yet. If the Scheduling Bulletin passes your month and you are still not called, then you need to email or visit the local asylum office to ask them what happened. You can find their contact info if you follow the link at right called Asylum Office Locator. Take care, Jason

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marij November 17, 2016 at 2:00 pm

Do not worry. I have filed asylum application on july 2013 and i just had an interview on november 14. Three months ago , i was worrying like you until i have received an interview letter two weeks before the interview day. You still ok.

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fariss talib majeed al zubiade September 25, 2016 at 3:10 am

i have receive notice receipt n.alien,n.,and my priority date on 2/20/2014 from chicago IL.but, when, i had been applied at that date till right now they did not send me any notice to inform me about,my appointment for asylum interview .

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Jason Dzubow September 25, 2016 at 7:29 am

To see when they might schedule your appointment, check the Asylum Office Scheduling Bulletin (a link is at right). As I discuss in the article above, this gives you a very rough idea about when your interview might be. Take care, Jason

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Pending Asylum September 16, 2016 at 4:13 pm

Hello Jason, I have applied my I-589 on January 23, 2015. And I still haven’t got any update ever since. Is it normal?

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Jason Dzubow September 16, 2016 at 4:35 pm

It is normal – you can check the Asylum Office Scheduling Bulletin (a link is at right) and you will see who is currently being interviewed in your local asylum office. Take care, Jason

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Jason Dzubow December 28, 2016 at 10:19 pm

It is a great difficulty, unfortunately. We have had some luck expediting cases, and I urge you to try. Also, you can try to visit your son using Advance Parole in a third country. If you are worried, talk to a lawyer before you go, but we have clients leave and re-enter the US successfully. Good luck, Jason

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