How to Expedite an Asylum Interview–or–Ask and Ye Might Just Receive

by Jason Dzubow on March 30, 2017

These days, the estimated wait time for an affirmative asylum case is somewhere between eternity and forever. It can best be expressed numerically as ∞. Or maybe as ∞ + 1. In other words, affirmative asylum cases take a long damn time. (OK, to be fair, you can get some idea about the actual wait time here).

Asylum seekcars waiting for their interview.

For some people, this wait is more of a problem than for others. For example, if your spouse and children are outside the United States waiting for you, and especially if they are living in unsafe or unhealthy conditions, the wait can be intolerable. A growing number of people are abandoning their cases simply because they cannot stand the separation. Others are moving to Canada, which apparently has a faster system than we have in the States. The problem is not simply that the wait is long—and the wait is long. The problem is that we cannot know how long the wait will be. Maybe the interview will come in six months; maybe in three years. Maybe the decision will come shortly after the interview; maybe it will take months or years. This unpredictability contributes to the difficulty of waiting for a resolution to the case.

For others people—single people without children or families that are all together here in the U.S.—the wait may be stressful, but it’s far more bearable. For my clients in this position, I advise them to live as if they will win their cases. What else can they do? To live under the constant stress of potential deportation is unhealthy. And the fact is, most of my clients have strong cases, and the likelihood that they will succeed it pretty high. So it is best to live as normally as possible. Find a job, start a business, buy a house or a car, go to school, make friends, get on with life. In the end, if such people need to leave the United States, they will have time to wind down their affairs and sell their belongings. For now, though, if I may quote the late, great Chuck Berry, Live like you wanna live, baby.

But what if you want to try to expedite your case? How can you maximize the chances that the Asylum Office will move your case to the front of the line?

First, before you file to expedite, you need to complete your case. The affidavit must be finished and all the evidence must be organized and properly translated (if necessary). If you expedite a case and the case is not complete, it could result in real problems. For example, I once had a client put himself on a short list without telling me. Then one day, an Asylum Officer called me and said that they wanted to schedule his interview for the following week. The problem was, the evidence was not submitted (or even gathered) and the affidavit was not done. The client insisted on going forward, and so (while I helped with interview preparation), I withdrew from the case. I did not want to remain affiliated with a case that was not properly put together, and I did not want to represent a person who took action on his case without informing me. In general, there is no value in expediting a case only to lose because you are not prepared for the interview, so make sure your case is complete before you try to expedite.

Second, you need a good reason to expedite. Remember, you are asking to jump your case ahead of hundreds–maybe thousands–of people who are also waiting for their asylum interview. Why should the Asylum Office allow you to do that? One common reason is that the applicant has a health problem (physical or mental). If that is your reason, get a letter from the doctor. Also, provide some explanation for how an early resolution of the asylum case might help improve your health situation (for example, maybe you have a health problem that is exacerbated by the stress of a pending case).

Another common reason to expedite (and in my opinion, the most legitimate reason to expedite) is separation from family members, especially if those family members are living under difficult or dangerous circumstances. If an asylum applicant wins her case, she can file petitions to bring her spouse and her minor, unmarried children to the United States. Many people come to the U.S. to seek asylum not for themselves, but because they fear for the safety of their family. Since it is so difficult to get a U.S. visa, it’s common to see asylum seekers who leave their family members behind, in the hope that they can win asylum and bring their family members later. So when the wait for an interview (never mind a decision) is measured in years, that’s a real hardship. For our asylum-seeker clients with pending applications, we have seen cases where their children were attacked in the home country, where family members went into hiding, where children could not attend school or get medical treatment, where families were stuck in third countries, etc., etc., etc. Such problems can form the basis for an expedite request.

To expedite for such a reason, get evidence of the problem. That evidence could be a doctor’s note for a medical problem or an injury, or a police report if a family member was attacked or threatened. It could be a letter from a teacher that the child cannot attend school. It could be letters from the family members themselves explaining the hardship, or letters from other people who know about the problems (for advice on writing a good letter, see this article). Also, sometimes family members receive threat letters or their property is vandalized. Submit copies of such letters or photos of property damage. It is very important to submit letters and evidence in support of the expedite request. Also, remember to include evidence of the family relationship–marriage certificate or birth certificates of children–to show how the person is related to the principal asylum applicant.

There are other reasons to request an expedited interview: Until an asylum case is granted, applicants may not be able to get certain jobs, they cannot qualify for in-state tuition, they face the general stress of not knowing whether they can stay. While these issues can be quite difficult to deal with, I think that they do not compare to the hardships suffered by people separated from family members. Indeed, if I were in charge of the Asylum Division, I would allow expedited interviews only in cases of family separation.

Once your case is complete and you have gathered evidence in support of the expedite request, you need to submit the request and evidence to the Asylum Office. Different offices have different procedures for expediting. You can contact your Asylum Office to ask about the procedure. Contact information for the various Asylum Offices can be found here.

One last point about expediting asylum cases: The system for expediting cases is not well-developed, meaning that sometimes, a strong request will be denied or a weak request will be granted. There definitely seems to be an element of luck involved in the expedite request process. But of course, unless you try to expedite, you can’t get your case expedited. If an initial request is denied, you can gather more evidence and try again (and again). At least in my experience, most–but not all–cases where there was a good reason to expedite were, in fact, expedited.

Besides expediting asylum cases, it is also possible to put your case on the “short list,” which may result in an earlier interview date. You can learn more about that and a few other ideas here.

It is still unclear how changes in the new Administration might affect the speed of asylum cases, but I doubt that the asylum backlog is going away any time soon. In that case, for many people, the only options are to learn to live with the delay or–if there is a good reason–to ask for an expedited interview and then to hope for the best.

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

amir April 28, 2017 at 7:38 am

Dear jason
. me and my small son apply asylam in usa and my wife have visa b1b2 when she want to come to us they denied his entry and thay send him back south africa the child need his mother and her mom miss him to much tell who i bring his mom back we apply ayslam may 2016 please tell.me.if there is way to bring him back the child is 7year old please help us

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Taria April 25, 2017 at 4:46 pm

dear Jason: would you be able to solve this buzzle ? or anyone out there have an explanation !!!! I have applied for an asylum. my receipt Starts with ZBO########## . when ever I go online to check my case status it tells me ( invalid reciept number ) !! I recently moved to a new place, i went online to change my address through USCIS online tool, it says the same thing ( invalid receipt ) !! I called USCIS customer service to change my address over the phone , the guy asked my receipt number and said this is invalid and can’t help you , i asked told him then i will just mail AR-11 form he said that won’t work and they will not change your address because your receipt is invalid !! i went ahead and sent AR-11 to Virginia because AR-11 form ask for A-number not receipt number !! but the problem is if you have a pending case you still need to change your address over the phone or online !! I did a deep search trying to figure out what ZBO stands for and wether it exists in USCIS system or not but there was no information at all !! even-though i’m expecting its related to Boston Sub-office of newark asylum office. .. this scared the hell out of me because by the law I need to change my address within 10 days !! any thoughts Mr.Jason would be highly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

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Tina April 27, 2017 at 4:12 pm

My 2 cents as I understand it. You can not get an update on a pending asylum case online. The receipt number will always return invalid. You cannot also change it over the phone. You need to fill the AR-11 form and mail a copy to the local asylum office that has jurisdiction over your case. I will also send a copy to USCIS. I hope this helps and there is nothing to worry about. Be strong and GOD bless you.

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Jason Dzubow April 28, 2017 at 3:44 pm

You cannot check an asylum receipt number online, and to change your address, you need to submit an AR-11 form (available at http://www.uscis.gov) directly to your local asylum office. You can find their contact info if you follow the link at right called Asylum Office Locator. I would mail it or email it to the asylum office (probably in NJ for you), and I do not think it is anything to worry about. As for ZBO, I think it just means asylum office Boston (for example, the Arlington, VA office is ZAR – asylum office Arlington). I do not know why they use Z. Take care, Jason

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Asylum seeker April 24, 2017 at 3:42 pm

Dear Jason,
Many Thanks for all your kind helps! Today I called the USCIS to inquire about my EAD. They told me that, it was approved on 21st April. I can check the status while waiting for an approval notice (Please find the below information for the same). What is the approval notice? Am I allowed to work with that? or I have to wait until I receive my EAD? if so how long do they take to print and send my EAD?
Many thanks in advance
Banu

On April 21, 2017, we approved your Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization , Receipt Number xxxxxxxxxxxx. We will mail your approval notice. Please follow the instructions in the notice. If you move, go to http://www.uscis.gov/addresschange to give us your new mailing address.

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Allen April 25, 2017 at 12:47 am

hey, you can start to work now, but you have to apply for SSN before you can receive salary. It takes more or less 10 days. On which day, to which office did you apply?

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Asylum seeker April 29, 2017 at 9:39 pm

Dear Allen,
I have submitted my EAD application by Mar.1st 2017. I asylum office is Chicago and live in Cleveland. I have received a notice of approval by 24th Apr. 17 and EAD card by 28th Apr.17. It is a good news!
But I left my 3.5 yr old son back home and he turned into 6. H

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Asylum seeker April 29, 2017 at 9:44 pm

Dear Allen,
I have submitted my EAD application by Mar.1st 2017. I asylum office is Chicago and live in Cleveland. I have received a notice of approval by 24th Apr. 17 and EAD card by 28th Apr.17. It is a good news!
But I left my 3.5 yr old son back home and he turned into 6. He is under critical medical condition and I haven’t heard anything from asylum office. Now he is not able to attend the school. He miss my support terribly. My separation caused him a stress and trauma, he couldn’t sleeping, eating food properly! I am also in the same situation as my son. Hope god will answer my prayers!
Good luck with your application process!
Best wishes
Banu

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Allen April 30, 2017 at 12:16 am

I am very sorry to hear about your son. I suggest you let your relatives in your home country collect some medical record for your son and try to write a good letter + some supporting document for an expedite interview. I just filed my expedite request yesterday and let’s see what happens. Expedite is some times just luck but if you can provide some nice documents such as your health problem ( medical transcript or psycological diagnosis by a certified therapist), it would help a lot. Once you win your case, you can file for your family to join you. Hope things turn better for you as soon as possible!

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Jason Dzubow April 28, 2017 at 2:58 pm

If this is your first EAD, you cannot work with only the approval notice. You need the card. It should arrive in a few weeks (or sooner). Take care, Jason

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Mohammad April 24, 2017 at 4:53 am

Dear Jason,
My asylum status now, is pending.My question is if I have to move to another place, which not locate by current asylum office, what will happen to my turn in waiting list for the schedule interview?
Does my pending time reset to zero like a new application and my application will be transferred to last row in the new office’s time schedule?
Or the system will keep our position in the queue regardless of which asylum office should handle the application and the application will be scheduled by new office base on the filed application date?

Best,

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Jason Dzubow April 25, 2017 at 11:08 pm

If you move and your case is moved to a new asylum office, you should keep your place in the queue. You can contact the old asylum office to make sure the case was moved, and the new office to make sure that your case was received and is in the queue. You can find their contact info if you follow the link at right called Asylum Office Locator. Take care, Jason

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Asylum seeker April 19, 2017 at 1:16 pm

Dear Jason,
I am very grateful for all your supports through this forum! You will be blessed forever you your service! I followed your instruction and requested for an expedited asylum interview based on my son medical condition and family separation by including a letter from his Dr, School teacher, testimonial from his father along with his medical reports. Meanwhile I got opportunity to meet Deputy State Director, and I requested the same through senator’s office. I have received the below email. I got confused! Please help me to understand! I mean, it is not clear whether they are willing to expedite my case? or going to proceed as usual?
Aslo they have mentioned that, they are waiting for the Cleveland Circuit ride? What does it mean? Will it be possible for them to schedule an interview at Cleveland Office instead of Chicago?
Thankfully
Banu

Thank you for your inquiry on behalf of your constituent, Ms.xxxx, regarding her pending I-589, Application for Asylum.

USCIS records indicate that your constituent’s asylum case is waiting interview scheduling on a future Cleveland circuit ride. At time finite resources and personnel have reduced circuit rides to a minimum. There are many applicants with pressing needs to be interviewed, and this office regards all such requests with sympathy. Ms. xxx’s case will be scheduled as soon as resources permit.

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Allen April 19, 2017 at 10:31 pm

I believe this is an approval your expedite request but they cannot schedule your interview immediately because they have many expedite requests with good reasons at the moment. So, basically your application is now on a “expedite list” which will be interviewed based on the order of this list. Hopefully it will not take long.

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Jason Dzubow April 20, 2017 at 6:19 am

This looks like a letter that the asylum office sent to your senator. If so, it is of no value. They should respond to you directly about scheduling an expedited interview, and that is what is important. Take care, Jason

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Asylum seeker April 20, 2017 at 10:19 am

Dear Janson
Thank you for your kind reply! O God, I am afraid! Do i need to contact asylum office ie. send them a letter bcz they are not giving case specific information over phone.
Thankfully
Banu

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Jason Dzubow April 20, 2017 at 2:57 pm

You can contact the asylum office to ask whether they made a decision in your expedite 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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yonas werku April 19, 2017 at 10:58 am

Hi,
I applied for asylum in December 2014 (live in Chicago). And I am still not called for an interview. Many of my friends residing in San Francisco who came way after me are granted asylum. Though the affirmative asylum schedule indicates that they are currently interviewing February 2014 applicant, I am starting to think to apply for a job in San Francisco and reside there not only for my asylum purpose but to reside in that state permanently. What do you think about this? I really find it unfair to wait for 2 1/2 and + years while my friends who came to the US are already granted asylum in less than a year.

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Jason Dzubow April 20, 2017 at 6:17 am

You can move if you want, and maybe it will make things faster. Possibly your friends expedited their cases, or maybe their offices were just faster. There is a certain unpredictability to how each office will move through its pending cases, and so an office that is fast now, may become slow and vice versa. Personally, I think if prefer to live in Chicago, it is not worth moving to SF in the hope that it makes your interview faster, since there are no guarantees, but that is a decision you need to make for yourself. Take care, Jason

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Rae April 15, 2017 at 10:03 pm

Jason,

I just wanted to thank you sincerely for your blog and the time/effort you put into it. I considered all the points mentioned as I wrote my request to expedite my interview – evidence, reasons why I need it, and how granting my request will benefit me and change my situation. I gave as many details as possible.

I just received a letter from USCIS saying my request is granted and that it’s pending with the scheduling officer. I don’t know how long this will take but it is definitely a good sign. Again, thank you very much.

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Allen April 16, 2017 at 12:14 am

congrats man!!!I am also preparing to apply for expedite. Which office did you apply?

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Rae April 17, 2017 at 2:07 pm

Thank you! My case is with the Boston Sub-office now. Best of luck with yours as well, Allen.

And thank you Jason, I did submit all my papers.

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Jason Dzubow April 16, 2017 at 8:58 am

I am glad it helped – make sure that all the evidence and your statement is submitted, if you have not already done that, and good luck with the interview. Take care, Jason

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Hasan Ali April 13, 2017 at 11:43 pm

Hi Jason,

According to the information given on that link:

https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-asylum/asylum/affirmative-asylum-scheduling-bulletin

for people who filed in January 2014 are scheduled to have their interviews in January 2017.

Considering the increased number of asylum seekers would this mean that for those who filed in January 2017 will be scheduled to have interviews in January 2020?

Thanks

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Jason Dzubow April 14, 2017 at 6:15 am

The short answer is “no”. For the long answer, please check the posting I did on June 7, 2016. Take care, Jason

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Hasan Ali April 15, 2017 at 1:46 pm

Hi Jason,

I’ve read the article posted on June 7. As far as I understand Asylum Scheduling Bulletin is a very rough prediction. Considering all other factors it will most probably be longer than the estimated time. Is it correct?

Thanks

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Jason Dzubow April 16, 2017 at 8:01 am

I think there is reason to believe it will be shorter since fewer people are now coming to the US (they do not want to come with Trump as president) and because many refugee officers have (supposedly) returned to the US and are now processing asylum cases. My ability to predict these things is notoriously bad, though, so we will just have to see what happens. Take care, Jason

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Hasan Ali April 17, 2017 at 2:13 am

Thank you so much. I appreciate your help and concern.

marija April 13, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Jason , where can I contact you for consultation ?

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Jason Dzubow April 13, 2017 at 10:13 pm
Asylee April 12, 2017 at 9:33 pm

How can I leave the country for green card when I have a Pending asylum case ? Do I need to get advance parole for that?

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Jason Dzubow April 13, 2017 at 4:33 pm

Normally, in that situation Advance Parole is the back up plan. If you leave the country to get the GC, you can return here with the GC. If you have AP, then if something goes wrong with the GC application at the consulate, you can still return to the US. But if your plan is to leave the US and get the GC under these circumstances, you should talk to a lawyer first, as not everyone is eligible to do that. Take care, Jason

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Angela April 12, 2017 at 2:54 pm

Hi everyone,
Has anyone applied to the Boston office and got an interview date? If so what was the wait time to get the interview?

Thanks!

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Hasan Ali April 14, 2017 at 12:00 am
Rae April 15, 2017 at 10:09 pm

Hi Angela,

I’m currently pending at the Boston Sub-office – they’re interviewing cases from August 2013 now. You can go to the JFK Building to talk to them, they have walk-in hours on Fridays and can answer your questions. They’re very friendly about it too.

Peace

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Angela April 17, 2017 at 11:27 am

Hi Rae,

When did you apply? Also did you go recently to the office and they told you they are interviewing cases from August 2013?

Thanks,
Akriti

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Rae April 17, 2017 at 9:47 pm

Hey Akriti,

Yes, I went there in person and they told me so. I applied in July 2014 but I was in Chicago, so I went there to make sure they had my papers transferred.

Peace

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Asylee April 11, 2017 at 11:53 am

Hi Jason,
I am an asylum seeker. I was in relation with a boy who was also an asylum seeker in USA. He got his asylum granted few days ago. What are our options now for me? Can I get married to him and get sponsor through his asylum status?

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Jason Dzubow April 12, 2017 at 3:20 pm

You can marry him, but you cannot get status from him unless you were married at the time asylum was granted. Once he has a green card, he can file for you, but this probably will require you to leave the US to collect your own green card. If you take that path, talk to a lawyer to know exactly how you should proceed. Take care, Jason

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