Expediting the Asylum Process Amid Long Wait Times

Asylum-seekers face ever-growing backlogs in obtaining asylum office interviews and decisions on their asylum claims. For example, in the 2022 fiscal year, USCIS received around 239,000 affirmative asylum applications, a historic high and a major jump from the previous year, when USCIS received approximately 62,800 affirmative applications. The backlog has increased already-significant wait times for adjudication, with some clients waiting over a decade for an adjudication.

While most asylum applications are languishing, USCIS has prioritized the adjudication of asylum applications of citizens from Afghanistan, who as a result of US military evacuation have greatly increased. From 2013 to 2021 fewer than 1,000 Afghans were granted asylum. In 2022, 1,438 citizens from Afghanistan were granted asylum. Anecdotally, immigration lawyers have seen adjudications for Afghan asylum seekers within one to two years of filing. However, apart from citizens from Afghanistan, very few individuals are receiving asylum interviews since 2021.

U.S. asylum law states that applicants should receive an initial interview within 45 days of filing the application and that a final decision should be made within 180 days. However, this is almost never the case. Today, foreign nationals who have applied for asylum with USCIS face an estimated wait time of more than six years to adjudicate their case. For those foreign nationals with pending asylum applications, a writ of mandamus may be useful tool to request that immigration authorities expedite your case.

A writ of mandamus is a legal remedy filed in federal district court that can be used to compel a government agency or official to fulfill their official duties when they have unreasonably delayed or refused to act. Attorneys can file for mandamus to prompt USCIS to process pending applications. Mandamus may be used to compel the adjudication of an asylum application or to schedule an asylum interview.

It is important to note that a writ of mandamus cannot guarantee an approval of your asylum case, but can compel the government to take action in an otherwise “stuck” case. If your case has been pending an unreasonable amount of time, it is important to consult with an attorney to determine whether mandamus may be right in your case.


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