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political asylum applicants

©UNHCR/T.Sziget

I recently saw a woman in my San Francisco office who came to see me because her political asylum case has been pending for two years and she has not been scheduled for an interview.  This is not unusual and I have clients in my own caseload in the same situation.

The asylum division of United States and Citizenship Services (“USCIS”) recently published Asylum Office Statistics which, when viewed, explain why there is such a delay.

At the San Francisco Asylum Office, alone, there are currently 11,542 cases pending.  I guess my clients should be happy that we are not at the Los Angeles Asylum Office, which at 21,878, has the highest number of cases pending nationwide.

In September 2015, the San Francisco Asylum Office scheduled 505 interviews and conducted 307 of them.   Some of the scheduled interviews did not occur because either the applicant rescheduled it or USCIS rescheduled it.  Nevertheless, given that small number of people interviewed and the number of pending cases, it is understandable that it is going to take a long time for the asylum office to work through their backlog.

The report contains other interesting statistics.  For example, it lists the top ten leading nationalities for asylum applications filed with USCIS.  As of September 2015, these nationalities are (from most to least):

  1. China
  2. Mexico
  3. Guatemala
  4. Venezuela
  5. El Salvador
  6. Honduras
  7. Ecuador
  8. India
  9. Haiti
  10. Ukraine

If you would like to know when your interview may be scheduled, you may check the Affirmative Asylum Scheduling Bulletin.  USCIS claims that they update this monthly.  The most recent bulletin is current as of December 8, 2015 and shows that in San Francisco, for all cases (not filed by children), they are currently scheduling cases that were filed in August – September of 2013.

Since it is taking approximately two years to be scheduled for an interview, you will need to be sure to update the information in your case as the basis upon which you may have filed for asylum no longer may be as strong as when you filed and/or you may need to update supporting documents on the conditions in the home country.