Can I Ask for a Female Asylum Officer and Interpreter?

What to do if you are uncomfortable speaking about the persecution you experienced in front of a male officer.


I have applied for asylum and, given the highly personal nature of my persecution claim, I would be much more comfortable discussing my situation with a female asylum officer and interpreter. Would it be possible to make this request to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)?

And what if my case is referred to Immigration Court? Will I be able to request a female Immigration Judge (IJ)?


The Asylum Gender Guidelines issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) state that applicants can request a gender-specific asylum officer (either male or female) and such requests should be honored as long as resources of the asylum office permit it.

As such, in the vast majority of cases, an affirmative asylum applicant’s request for an asylum officer of a particular gender will be granted by USCIS. You should submit your request for a female officer well in advance of your interview date—ideally, at the time you submit your application (Form I-589). Include a cover letter expressing this wish.

Although you will need to bring your own translator to an asylum interview, USCIS sometimes contracts its own translators to monitor hearings. If that's likely to be the case, and you would prefer to have a translator of a certain gender present, you should also make that request as soon as you can.

Unfortunately, there is no corresponding rule for Immigration Court proceedings. This means if your application to USCIS is denied and you are placed into removal proceedings in the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the IJ who is assigned to handle your case is based on the “luck of the draw.” You will not be able to change the IJ assigned to your case simply because he or she is of the opposite gender. In addition, you will not be able to request an interpreter of a certain gender for your asylum hearing in court.

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