Can I choose which asylum officer I want to be interviewed by?

The only way in which you can affect the choice of interviewer is if, due to the sensitive nature of your claim, you prefer an asylum officer of a particular gender.

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Question

I am a citizen of Haiti who lives in Queens, New York. I understand that my asylum interview will be held at the New York Asylum Office. People in my community have given me the names of the nicer officers in the NY Asylum Office. Can I ask that one of these officers conduct my interview?

Answer

Asylum cases are assigned to officers randomly and you cannot pick or choose which officer will conduct your interview. Some asylum offices assign cases before the actual interview day and others assign cases the same day. Asylum officers do not even know what countries the applicants they will be interviewing are from until they open the file.

If you are more comfortable speaking with a female officer (or a male officer) because of the nature of your claim, you can make this request when you check in at the front window. Although the asylum office will honor your request, this will only ensure that an officer of a particular gender interviews you. You cannot request any one specific officer.

An exception to the random-assignment policy is if you have had an asylum application denied and are applying again to the same office. In this case, the office will try to assign your interview to the same officer who interviewed you the first time.

Different asylum officers have different interviewing styles. One way to prepare yourself for any officer is to practice explaining why you want asylum, imagining that you are talking to someone who is very skeptical. If you have an attorney, you can practice with him or her. Be prepared to answer tough questions about what happened to you, why you left your country, and why you don’t want to go back.

Asylum Officers are trained to be sensitive and respectful to applicants. If, during your interview, you find that the officer is rude or is not allowing you to explain yourself, consider asking to see an asylum supervisor.

To help you feel comfortable with the interview, and prevent miscommunication with the officer, it is always a good idea to consult with an immigration attorney and to bring that attorney with you to your interview.

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