People applying for asylum in the United States often ask this question: “Do I need a lawyer?” Although the results of each specific asylum case may differ based on asylum office and particular interviewing officer, it is important for all asylum applicants to submit all necessary documents and carefully prepare for their asylum interviews. A good attorney plays a vitally important role in asylum process.
It is crucial to have an attorney prepare your document package when you file your papers with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), known as affirmative asylum application. Your chance of the success are considerably higher if you retain a competent and experienced asylum lawyer.
A competent asylum lawyer will:
1. Determine the best timing and procedures for a successful result;
2. Ensure that you are eligible for asylum as a matter of law;
3. Advise you of possible difficulties that you may have;
4. Review your declaration in support of your asylum application, help you put it in the most dramatic and expressive format, presenting the facts in the light most favorable to the grant of asylum, while emphasizing the important parts and excluding unnecessary information that may damage your case;
5. Ensure that the asylum office is provided with the proper information and all required documentation to prove your case of asylum;
6. Ensure that your application and supporting documentation are tabbed, indexed, and identified in proper and easily understandable format;
7. Research and prepare detailed country reports, supporting your claim for asylum;
8. Thoroughly prepare you, your family members, witnesses, and your interpreter for the successful interview process;
9. Actively participate in your asylum interview, protect your rights as an asylum applicant, take notes, and educate the officer about your asylum case and the country-specific information;
10. Make a closing statement to the asylum officer, summarizing your case, country conditions, and citing the applicable U.S. and international asylum laws and case law.
11. At the conclusion of the interview, submit to the asylum officer a thorough and detailed written memorandum of law, summarizing your case, citing the U.S. and international laws, describing all itemized exhibits and explaining why you are eligible for asylum;
12. Upon the grant of asylum, provide detailed instructions on the next steps and future immigration matters, up until you become a U.S. citizen;
13. Keep you abreast of changing laws, regulations, and interpretations that may affect your case while it is being processed.
Without an attorney, you may be unsure which documents are important for your case and which are irrelevant. This can seriously hurt your case. In addition, most people who do not work in the immigration area are unfamiliar with the standards for submitting evidence, which may cause delays and unfavorable results.
Asylum application is a complex process. To be granted asylum, you have to satisfy the definition of a refugee, or a person who, “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country; or who not having a nationality and being outside the country of his/her former habitual residence…., is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.” As such, an asylum applicant has to prove that he or she falls under one of the protected categories and had been persecuted in their home country because of that. Successful asylum applicant also needs to show that their government is unwilling or unable to protect them, and that objective conditions in their country support the applicant’s story.
Attorney participation at the interview is also very important. If an applicant is not sufficiently prepared for the interview, his or her application may be denied or transferred to immigration court. A good attorney not only attends the asylum interview with the applicant, but also meets with the applicant before the interview to thoroughly prepare. A good lawyer will advise you on your rights and responsibilities as an asylum applicant, including what resources you have available to support your case and what consequences you can expect for your actions throughout the process. An experienced lawyer will also make sure that the applicant understands the importance of providing full and detailed answers at the interview. The most common reason for asylum denials is “vague testimony and/or lack of detail on material points” on the applicant’s part during the interview.
Being prepared for your asylum interview at the asylum office can help you avoid being referred to immigration court. Asylum process through immigration court is much more difficult and lengthy than through asylum office. In immigration court, the respondent is just one step away from order of deportation if his or her application for asylum is denied. Importantly, immigration court proceedings take years, whereas asylum offices usually schedule an interview within several months, and decide on the case within a few weeks after the asylum interview.
If you submit your asylum application when you are already in removal proceedings before the immigration court (known as defensive asylum application), it is especially important to have a good lawyer to represent you. By the time you submit your asylum application with immigration court, you may have missed your one-year deadline, which imposes an increased burden on you. If your asylum application is not submitted within one year of your most recent entry to the United States, your case will be denied unless you can show that you had good reasons for not applying within a year. A good attorney will talk to you in detail and develop a strategy to overcome the one-year bar.
I.S. Law Firm’s asylum lawyers have helped many people from different countries to obtain asylum in the United States. Our principal attorney Ismail T. Shahtakhtinski individually meets with every client and thoroughly prepares them for their interviews and hearings. We collect country condition reports and submit detailed memorandums of law in support of every asylum petition we handle. At the asylum interview or hearing, Mr. Shahtakhtinski makes sure that our client’s case is adequately presented and that there are no misunderstandings or confusions. We pay individual attention to every client, make every case personal to us, and put all of our efforts to not just do our job, but to win every case.