Interview Preparation for Asylum Seekers
The following is a list of helpful tips to help you prepare for your asylum interview. Obtaining asylum in the U.S. can be difficult and the process quite complicated. It is important that you seek experienced legal representation before applying for asylum.
- Practice Telling Your Story – If you are not working with an attorney, find a friend that you trust and tell them your story. If you are going to be using a translator, have a translator present when you are practicing. Allow your friend to ask you questions and listen carefully to the questions that your friend asks as they may provide you with an idea of where your story is confusing or missing details. Do not practice too much as your story must come out naturally and not memorized.
- Prepare an Outline – Prepare an outline of your story so that you can remember the main points and especially the names and dates. You will want to highlight all the instances of persecution no matter how small. It is also important to make sure that you understand the order that the events occurred. You should also re-read your application so you know what you wrote.
- Tell the Truth – You MUST tell the truth even if you think that it is not helpful to your case. If you do not, it will likely hurt you in the end. Remember, sometimes omitting important facts is the same thing as lying.
- Speak Slowly and Listen Carefully – Sometimes the Asylum Officer will be typing everything you say. If you speak quickly he may not hear something important. You will have to speak very slowly. You will also need to listen very carefully to his questions and try to answer his precise question first before elaborating.
- Details – The officer will want to hear details. The more details you can provide the more likely he will believe your claim. Remember he may have just read your asylum application that day, or maybe not at all, so you will have to treat the interview as if he is hearing everything for the first time.
- Beliefs – Be prepared to talk about your beliefs especially the ones that your claim is based on. If you are claiming political asylum, it is important that you can explain your political beliefs. If you are seeking religious asylum you should know something about your religion. You do not need to be an expert, but at least know enough for the officer to believe that you are a member of that religion.
- Snack – Have a snack before your interview, but not too much. You may be waiting for an hour and the interview may last an hour or more so you will want to be comfortable.
- Attorney – You really should be working with an attorney who has experience in asylum law. They will be able to best prepare you and to attend the interview with you. At the interview, an attorney will primarily remain silent but they may speak if they feel that the asylum officer is out of line or if there is any miscommunication. An attorney can also ask you questions in front of the officer at the end in case there is important information that the Asylum officer forgot to ask you or you forgot to provide.