Virginia Asylum Screening Process

When an individual is being screened for asylum in Virginia, the asylum officer looks at a number of factors when determining whether a person is eligible. The first and most important factor in every application is that the asylum officer must believe that the applicant is credible. They also have to establish credible fear. A Virginia asylum lawyer can help an applicant build a credible case.

Determining Eligibility for Asylum

In a lot of these cases, an individual has fled his or her home country in a hurry and may not have much documentation to corroborate their story. Moreover, if the persecution they suffered was done directly by the government, then it is likely going to be impossible to obtain police records or formal evidence of the persecution. As a result, a huge part of the evidence submitted in these cases is the person’s declaration, and the government has to believe that this declaration is credible. During an asylum interview, an officer will question the individual about their story and try to nail down the details. If a person is contradicting themselves or they change their story in the interview from what they have submitted in their written declaration, that is going to damage their credibility.

The second goal is for the individual to convince the asylum officer that the persecution they have suffered or fear they will suffer is on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. They have to prove their membership in that group first, and then they have to prove that the torture or persecution was in connection with that membership. That is called proving the nexus between membership in the group and the persecution.

After their credibility and legitimate fear of persecution are established, the asylum officer is going to look at their past to see if they have any other bars. They will make sure that the individual applied for asylum within a year of arriving in the United States. If they did not apply within a year of arriving, they are going to have to prove that they had extraordinary circumstances or there were changes in their home country’s conditions. Either of those situations should allow them to apply after that one-year deadline.

Credible Fear Screening

A credible fear interview is something that happens when individuals enter the country and immediately request asylum at the border or point of entry. It happens most commonly in detention facilities housing people who have entered on the southern border. In most cases, a USCIS asylum officer will come to their detention facility and conduct an interview to determine whether they have a credible fear of returning to their home country. This is an initial evaluation of an asylum claim, and the bar is lower. They basically need to demonstrate that if everything they say is true, their story would fit within the legal requirement for asylum if they applied for it in the future. It is a prima facie determination regarding whether or not they are going to qualify for asylum in the future.

Circumstances for Credible Fear Interviews

A person will undergo a credible fear interview if they do not have a prior order of deportation or an aggravated felony conviction. If they are in detention, they will ideally be scheduled for an interview with an asylum officer within 10 days, but a lot of times it is a much longer wait because there is a huge backlog. They may have to wait months in detention for an interview.

Once they get that interview, they need to demonstrate to the asylum officer that they have a credible fear of returning to their home country. The officer will then determine whether or not there is a realistic possibility that they could win a case for asylum if they are placed in front of an immigration judge.

Reasonable Fear Screenings

Reasonable fear screenings are similar to credible fear screenings, but they’re for people who have already been ordered removed or have an order of deportation that was done in absentia, meaning that the person was not present at the immigration court hearing. A reasonable fear screening will also be conducted if you have an aggravated felony conviction or something else that is considered a particularly serious crime on your record, which would make you ineligible for asylum. The only thing you will be eligible for in that case is protection under the Convention Against Torture. And at that point, you’ll need to show that there is a reasonable possibility that you’re going to be tortured if you’re deported. You’re basically trying to prove that you qualify to stay in U.S. under the Convention Against Torture, not just for asylum, and that bar is higher.

You need to wait in detention for this reasonable fear interview, which generally takes longer than the wait for a credible fear screening.

When They are Conducted

Generally, asylum officers conduct reasonable fear interviews when people are detained at the border and have reentered the country after a prior order of deportation, still claiming that they have fear of returning to their home country. Alternatively, if you’ve been present in the country, are deported because of an aggravated felony and then re-enter, or if you have just been apprehended by ICE within the United States and have an aggravated felony on your record with a prior order of deportation, you’ll receive a reasonable fear interview. In those cases, you’re not going to be entitled to a hearing in front of an immigration judge for anything other than your eligibility to remain in the U.S. under the Convention Against Torture. Reasonable fear interviews are for people who are detained, but aren’t eligible for anything but the Convention Against Torture.