Written by attorney Elizabeth Rose Blandon

Who Will Determine My Future? Difference Between Asylum Officer and Immigration Judge

A foreign national considering asylum will be facing either Immigration or an Immigration Judge. The major differences include the application process and the timeline to obtain a decision. As explained further below, some foreigners may face both an Asylum Officer and an Immigration Judge.

Citizenship and Immigration Service. Those who apply affirmatively mail their applications to Immigration. If they are legally in the United States, but the case is denied, the process ends there. However, if the case is denied and the foreign national is not legally in the United States, the case will be referred to an Immigration Judge.

The Application Process. The ten-page application must be received at Immigration within one-year of the foreign national’s arrival. There are exceptions to this deadline.

The Timeline. When a foreigner applies before Immigration, the interview will almost always be scheduled within 45 days of filing. Once the interview is completed, the foreign national can expect a decision within just a few weeks of the interview date. Since the interview will be scheduled so quickly after filing, it is important that the foreigner have all of their documents ready when they submit their application.

Immigration Judge. When Immigration charges a person with inadmissibility or removability, the agency makes its case before an Immigration Judge. One of several ways that a foreigner can remain in the U.S. is by winning an asylum case.

The Application Process. While all foreigners must file an asylum application within one year of their last arrival in the United States, an Immigration Judge has the authority to move up the one-year deadline. Judges are the “master" of their courtrooms and can impose an earlier deadline. This presents a challenge for foreigners who find it difficult to obtain all the documents needed to support their case, especially when some of that evidence must be released by foreign authorities, such as the police.

The Timeline. It is possible that after submitting the application, the Immigration Judge’s calendar will require scheduling the final hearing six to eight months later. As a result, the foreign national will have time to gather additional evidence. Sadly, several Blandon Law cases have been won after providing death certificates which show that family members have been killed abroad since the filing of the asylum application.

Unlike Immigration, an Immigration Judge can also rule on whether the foreign national is eligible for withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture. Those granted withholding of removal or relief under the CAT will never be eligible for lawful permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship. Travel permission is also not granted. They only receive work authorization while they are in the U.S.

Foreigners should also keep in mind that if they are not fluent in the English language, they must bring an interpreter to their interview before Immigration. If filing for asylum before an Immigration Judge, the government will provide an interpreter for the court hearings, at no expense to the foreign national.

Read more asylum updates on my blog,

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