U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services recently released a bulletin on the waiting period for interviews for asylum applicants. It’s not looking good. The waiting period for an asylum interview is extremely long, especially for Los Angeles. Asylum applicants who filed in 2011 are only now getting their interviews in Los Angeles. The wait is shorter for people living in the San Francisco area – just 2 years. Anecdotally, it appears that the Los Angeles office has just 4 officers currently working on affirmative asylum interviews. The vast majority of adjudicators have been dispatched to handle what’s known as “credible fear” interviews for people apprehended upon entry to the United States. The bulk of these cases involve Central Americans, mostly women and children, who have increasingly been fleeing their gang-infested homeland to seek refuge here.
What to do to get your asylum interview quicker? If you have a serious medical condition or a compelling humanitarian reason for requiring your interview now, the Los Angeles office will try to accommodate you and get you an interview quickly. But your medical condition must be well documented in order for them to move you to the front of the line. Another option is filing a federal lawsuit, known as a writ of mandamus, that compels the government to adjudicate your case if it has been delayed unreasonably. I have done this for my clients who have waited at least a year for their interview. We have been very successful in getting speedy asylum interviews this way.
One cautionary note: some applicants “forum shop” and seek to file their asylum applications with offices known to have shorter waiting periods. Remember, you must be living in the area where you filed your asylum application. At your asylum interview, the asylum adjudicator will request verification of your current address, such as a driver’s license. If you are not living in the jurisdiction of that asylum office, they will transfer your case to the jurisdiction where you live, and you will be stuck again in the backlog.
Some applicants are not in a hurry to get their asylum interviews, and for them the backlog is not a big concern. But for those who are, I recommend you consider filing a writ of mandamus if you have been waiting at least a year for your interview.