The constantly changing immigration laws demand that California attorneys practicing in this area keep abreast of asylum procedures. On Jan. 29, 2018, the Asylum Division of USCIS moved to restore the prioritization of asylum applications to the original plan that was established in January 1995. Applications were prioritized according to the date filed with newer applications processed first.
What is asylum?
Asylum offers a safe harbor for foreign nationals fleeing their homeland due to a credible, reasonable fear of political, religious, or other persecution. These applications are reviewed to determine whether a credible fear has been established.
However, due to the backlogged interview schedule, some applicants reportedly found a way to abuse the process and use it instead to find work. To counter this misuse, the priority list was returned to its original structure. Prioritizing the most recent filings gives immigration officers the opportunity to swiftly place unreasonable asylum seekers in the deportation pipeline if needed as a way to discourage deception.
What is the prioritization order?
1. Interviews that had to be rescheduled at the request of the applicant or that of USCIS
2. Pending applications that have been in the queue for less than 21 days
3. The remaining applications that need scheduling, starting with the newer filings and working rearward
Still, there may be other compelling circumstances that mandate a faster interview. Those are handled individually as needed.
The number of asylum applications continues to increase and must be added to the hundreds of thousands already pending. According to USCIS, the revised affirmative asylum interview priority schedule has proven to be a more efficient way of reducing this backlog and speeding up the application process.