On January 31, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USICS) announced its plan to schedule asylum interviews for the most recent affirmative asylum applications ahead of older asylum applications.
This strategy is USICS’s attempt to stem the agency’s rapidly growing backlog of asylum applications. As of January 21, 2018, USICS faces a crisis-level backlog of 311,000 pending asylum cases. In the past five years, the number of backlogged pending asylum cases has grown by more than 1750 percent. Moreover, the rate of new asylum applications has increased more than threefold in the past five years.
Borrowing from an accounting principle/term—USICS announced that it would now be using a “LIFO” (last-in, first-out) priority approach to granting asylum interviews. In the past, USICS had regularly used this LIFO priority approach—it was first enacted with the asylum reforms of 1995 and then used for 20 years up until December 2014. 
According to USICS, the aim of this LIFO approach (also called the “priority approach”) is “to deter individuals from using asylum backlogs solely to obtain employment authorization by filing frivolous, fraudulent or otherwise non-meritorious asylum applications.” By giving priority to recent asylum filings, USICS is allowed to “promptly place such individuals into removal proceedings, which reduces the incentive to file for asylum solely to obtain employment authorization.” Moreover, this priority approach “also allows USCIS to decide qualified applications in a more efficient manner.”
Starting on January 29, 2018, USCIS will now schedule asylum interviews in the following order of priority:
- 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.
The USICS press release also mentions that “Workload priorities related to border enforcement may affect our ability to schedule all new applications for an interview within 21 days.” Also, USICS notes that asylum office directors may consider on a case-by-case basis, an urgent request for an asylum interview to be scheduled outside of the priority scheduling order listed above. If an individual wants to make an urgent asylum interview scheduling request, he or she may do so by submitting the urgent asylum interview scheduling request in writing to the asylum office with appropriate jurisdiction over the individual’s case. Check out the USICS Service and Office Locator website to find the contact information for the appropriate asylum office for your case.
If you have already filed for asylum or are considering filing for asylum in the future, these recently announced major changes to the asylum interview scheduling priority system can have major implications on your case and your ultimate chances of being granted asylum. Accordingly, there is too much at stake to tackle the asylum process alone, and it is strongly encouraged that you hire an immigration attorney who is highly skilled and experienced in his or her work as an asylum attorney.
As your skilled immigration lawyer and asylum lawyer, I can assist you with the many steps, constantly changing rules, and bureaucratic red tape involved in the complex asylum application process. I will help you fill out and submit your application (and advise you on the appropriate time to do so in light of the new asylum interview scheduling priority standards); secure, review, and submit all your supporting documentation; prepare you for your interview; act as your voice during asylum interviews that are typically intimidating for people who are not fluent in English and are unfamiliar with the legal jargon and complexities of the U.S. immigration law system; and represent you in court, zealously advocating on your behalf. Moreover, I can also advocate for clients with extenuating circumstances or special needs by helping them submit an urgent asylum interview scheduling request in writing to the asylum office with appropriate jurisdiction over the asylum seeker’s case.
While working with an asylum attorney cannot guarantee you success (and you should be extremely weary of any immigration attorney who says he or she can guarantee success in your asylum case), legal representation by an experienced, knowledgeable immigration attorney greatly increases the chances than an asylum applicant will be successful.
To schedule your free 15-minute consultation with an asylum attorney in Newark, NJ or Jersey City NJ, contact us online at the Law Office of Eric M. Mark or call (973) 453-2009.