Preparing For An Asylum Interview

by Michael Spychalski

Preparing for the asylum interview is a must.  Credibility is the most important issue in asylum cases.  With every client, I start by going over the asylum application and all documents submitted.  It is important to be familiar with every word in the application and the submitted documents.  The next step is to prepare all original documents including, but not limited to, your passport, birth certificate with English translation if applicable, identity documents, registration cards from your country and work documents from your country.  Changes to the application can be made during the interview.  Statements made during the interview should be short and intended to summarize why you were persecuted in your home country in the past and why you have a credible fear of being persecuted if you return.  Your statements to the asylum officer should include all the details of the events that happened to you.  These details should include names, dates, times and locations of these events.  You want to go chronologically to help the officer understand more easily.  If you have any scars or marks from physical persecution, do not be hesitant about showing the officer these scars or marks and explaining how you received them and what their effect was on you.

If you claim persecution for religious reasons, be prepared to answer questions about your religion, such as quotes from the Bible, Torah, Koran, etc.  You must tell the asylum officer about all major religious events in your life.  Describe how other people in your country knew about your belonging to a specific religion (how you dressed, spoke, preached or prayed).  Also, you must prove that you continue to follow your religion in the United States.  I also tell clients to get a supporting letter from their U.S. religious leader.

If you claim persecution for political reasons, be prepared to describe your political beliefs and how you followed your political convictions in your home country.  Also, you will have to describe political organizations you were a member of and political events that you attended.  Moreover, you will have to describe how others in your home country knew that you belonged to these specific political organizations.  It is very important to try to remember as many details as possible.  You will not usually get a decision at the end of the interview.

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