I hired a notario, who filed a made-up asylum application for me: Can I fix?

Act quickly before your interview, to prepare a new I-589 and supporting documents.

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Question

I am a citizen of El Salvador and I paid money to a notario who had me sign a blank application for asylum. Upon reading the application, I realize that the notario did not include the facts of my case. In fact, he put in a bunch of things that never happened to me. How should I handle my interview at the asylum office, which is coming up soon?

Answer

If you suffered or fear persecution in your country on account of your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, you should consider completing a new I-589 application for asylum and bringing it with you to your asylum interview.

As soon as you are in the office with the asylum officer, tell the officer that you want to submit this second application, and explain why. Be ready to detail your experience with the notario, and to name him or her and give the officer the address and phone number. If you have a business card from the notario, you can provide this to the officer. Asylum Officers are well aware of notarios – who have no actual legal training, but often pretend they do in order to gain money from unsuspecting immigrants -- and can be sympathetic about your having been taken advantage of.

It is important that you accurately complete the new I-589 application and that you bring it to your interview along with evidence that supports your actual claim. Make sure all foreign documents are translated into English and submit both copies along with a certificate of translation.

It is a good idea to practice your testimony before your interview and make sure that you are able to explain your story in detail to the officer. It is most important that the facts of your claim match the facts in your second application for asylum.

The officer may ask you to withdraw the first application, and you can do so. The officer should readily accept the second application.

You should also consider consulting with a licensed attorney who is experienced in immigration law. (See Nolo’s article, “How to Avoid a Sleazy Immigration Lawyer” for help with finding a high-quality attorney.) Ask the attorney to come with you to the interview. Although you do not need an attorney to attend an asylum interview, attorneys can be helpful, especially when you have already been taken advantage of.

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