The most common question that clients ask when they are considering filing an application for asylum is how long the process takes. The response to this question has changed over the years. Most recently, however, my response has been: I wish I knew. Two or three years ago my estimate of 9-12 months was fairly accurate and consistent. However the processing times of recently filed asylum applications have ranged widely, some taking as little as several months for a decision and others have taken years. Currently there is a documented backlog in affirmative asylum applications of around 40,000 cases and the numbers continue to increase. A majority of these backlogged cases were filed last year alone.
The main reason for the backlog is simply an issue of supply and demand. Beginning in Fiscal Year 2012, the number of credible fear and reasonable fear interviews, which take priority in scheduling over asylum interviews, began to increase exponentially. Meanwhile, affirmative asylum applications have increased as well. And while demand has increased, and theasylum offices are working to keep up with the supply by training new officers that can adjudicate cases, the demand still outweighs the supply.
Some tips if you are among those in the backlog:
It can be extremely frustrating and unsettling for an individual to make the difficult choice to flee their homes in pursuit of stability and security then have to wait for months and years to know whether they really are stable in the United States. I often try and comfort applicants with the knowledge that they wouldbe eligible to file applications for employment authorization cards that will permit them to work, get driver’s licenses. Also I have seen many clients have a change in life circumstances that open up different (read: faster) doors to immigrating to the U.S. If you have a long pending asylum application and are wondering if you’ll ever be interviewed, you can take comfort in the fact that, at the very least, you are not alone.