Claiming asylum has never been the most popular means of entering or remaining in the US. Nevertheless, about 100,000 people apply for asylum in the US every year, representing an increase of at least 1,700 percent over 2007. The percentage of asylum claims that are approved have decreased for the last several years, even as the percentage of claims dismissed as frivolous has risen.
Not all unsuccessful asylum claims are frivolous — and some claims that are tagged as frivolous are actually honest applications submitted by well-meaning people. If you are considering submitting an asylum claim, you will need to know what features of your application might raise suspicions, as well as what consequences you might suffer if your claim is identified as frivolous.
Common Red Flags
To prevent your application from being deemed frivolous, and to maximize your chances of being granted asylum, keep in mind the following tips:
- Don’t wait until the one-year deadline is about to expire before applying, and don’t wait until you have been placed into removal proceedings before applying. If you are in the US under a valid visa, don’t wait until your visa is about to expire before applying. All of these behaviors are likely to cause immigration authorities to wonder whether you are simply using an asylum claim as a way of extending your stay in the US.
- If you have ever submitted an asylum claim before, you need to make sure that the information in the two applications is completely consistent, except for updated information in your new application.
- Be careful about hiring someone to prepare your asylum application for you, especially if they are not a lawyer. Some operators are well-known to US immigration authorities for submitting frivolous applications on behalf of their clients.
- Make sure that every document you submit is not only genuine, but that it looks genuine. Even a sloppy photocopy could put your application in jeopardy.
- Make sure that your photographs strongly resemble you, and that they were taken relatively recently.
- Don’t return to your home country after the persecution that you claim, even before you file an asylum claim. Doing so will cause immigration authorities to question why you would visit a country that you claim to fear returning to.
- If you have family members applying for asylum with you, make sure that the content of their applications is absolutely consistent with the content of your application.
- Learn every fact in your application by heart before you attend your asylum interview. You need to be familiar enough with it so that you can remember everything even when you feel nervous or pressured. Nevertheless, don’t memorize word-for-word answers. Remember the underlying facts, not the exact words you will use to communicate those facts.
- Do not avoid eye contact with the interviewing officer. In some cultures the avoidance of eye contact is seen as respect for authority. In the US, however, many people see it as evidence of dishonesty.
- Don’t bring any notes with you to your asylum interview. Referring to notes will make your story look concocted.
- Avoid exaggerated reactions — don’t be too nervous, but avoid exaggerated friendliness towards the interviewing officer.
Consequences of Fraud
Remember that your application will not be declared frivolous simply because the immigration officer reviewing your case doesn’t believe your story. Without more, not being believed will result in the denial of your asylum claim. Your application will not be deemed frivolous unless:
- You have been notified of the consequences of filing a frivolous asylum claim;
- An immigration judge finds that you knowingly filed a frivolous asylum claim;
- The evidence indicates that an important aspect of your claim was deliberately falsified; and
- You must have been granted an opportunity to explain any suspicious aspects of your claim.
If your asylum claim is deemed frivolous, you could be denied the right to receive any future US immigration benefits except for a very few narrow exceptions. Even if you are in the US on a valid visa at the time, your visa might be canceled as a result of your asylum claim being deemed frivolous, and you might be deported. When it comes to the consequences of filing a frivolous asylum claim, an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure.