According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), there is now an official shift in the methodological approach to scheduling Asylum interviews. Indeed, effective immediately, the Asylum Division will give priority to the most recently filed asylum applications. This policy shift in placing priority of fresh filings over older applications, a proverbial "last in, first out," represents an attempt to stem the so-called "overgrowth" of the fast proliferating Asylum backlog. Reportedly, this backlog has grown substantially over the past five years with a rate of new asylum applications that has more than tripled. Current estimates of pending Asylum cases are said to have reached a crisis level, with a backlog of 311,000 as of January 21, 2018.
While the expressed aim of this shift in policy is to reportedly decide qualified applications in a more efficient manner, there appears to be another objective which is to deter individuals from utilizing asylum backlogs to obtain employment authorization by filing fraudulent applications. According to USCIS, giving priority to recent filings allows the agency to promptly place "disqualified" individuals into removal proceedings, which reduces the incentive to file for asylum solely to obtain employment authorization.
The asylum interview schedule will follow the order of priority, set forth as follows:
First priority: Applications that were scheduled for an interview, but the interview had to be rescheduled at the applicant’s request or the needs of USCIS.
Second priority: Applications that have been pending 21 days or less.
Third priority: All other pending affirmative asylum applications will be scheduled for interviews starting with newer filings and working back towards older filings.
Immigration Attorney and former Chairman of the New Jersey Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Edward Shulman, Esq. noted that Asylum office Directors exercise discretionary power and may consider, on a case-by-case basis, particular requests for interviews to be scheduled outside of the aforementioned priority order. As such, Shulman advises consulting with an Immigration attorney who will advocate for clients with special needs or extenuating circumstances by submitting an urgent interview scheduling request in writing to the specified Asylum office with jurisdiction over your case.