What should I wear to my asylum interview?

There's no point in trying to look like a "refugee" if your normal form of dress doesn't fit that mold.

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Question

I am a citizen of Uzbekistan who was persecuted all my life because of my religion. Both my husband and I are practicing physicians and come from wealthy families. I normally dress in good quality clothing and wear my jewelry when I leave the house. Should I dress more like a “refugee” when I attend my asylum interview?

Answer

Refugees come from every country in the world. They can be any gender, practice any religion, belong to any clan. Refugees can be poor or wealthy.

When you submit an application for asylum, you should also submit a detailed affidavit detailing the story of why you want asylum. The officer will read your affidavit, using it as a basis for questions during your interview. The officer will already know that you are wealthy. Since it is extremely important that you are honest with the officer, there is no need to “dress up” or “dress down” for the asylum interview. You should dress as you normally would when going to a very important interview.

The asylum interview can be the most important part of the asylum process. If you successfully explain to the officer why you left your country and why you don’t want to return, you might win asylum without having to go to immigration court, which can be a more stressful experience. Asylum interviews with Citizenship and Immigration Services are non-adversarial and officers are supposed to give you as much time as you need to explain the details of your claim.

Immigration court, on the other hand, is an adversarial proceeding where both your attorney and a government attorney ask you questions in front of an immigration judge.

How you dress should not influence an asylum officer. However, as human beings it is possible that what you wear may have some subconscious effect on how the officer feels. The best thing to do is to treat the interview as an important event and dress in a respectful manner. Don’t show up in torn jeans or dirty cutoffs, unless that is all you have. It is an excellent idea to bathe before the interview, and to not wear strong perfume or smoke, so that you don’t distract the officer with odors to which he or she may be physically sensitive.

by: , J.D., LL.M.

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