Though I haven't seen any data to back this up, it seems to me that second interviews at the Asylum Office are becoming more common. I've been hearing reports about second (or third) interviews from others and we are seeing it in our own practice as well. In this post, we will talk about the second interview: Why is it needed? What happens at a second interview? How should you prepare?

As a preliminary matter, I wonder how common second interviews actually are. I have never seen data about second interviews from the Asylum Division, and so we are left to speculate. In my own practice, second interviews are relatively rare. I would guess that maybe 5% of my asylum clients have been interviewed more than once. If my cases are representative (and that's a big "if"), 5% of the roughly 435,000 pending cases is 21,750 second interviews, which is a lot of second interviews (on the other hand, who are we kidding - at the rate cases are moving, most applicants will be lucky to get a first interview anytime soon, let alone a second interview!).

So why are second interviews needed? There seems to be several different reasons. In some cases, the Asylum Officer ("AO") completed the interview, but failed to gather all the relevant information from the applicant. Maybe the AO's supervisor--who must approved each decision--needed additional testimony. Other times, the security background check reveals information that requires further explanation, or the Asylum Office discovered new facts that they want to ask you about. In other cases, maybe the AO quit or retired without finishing the case, and the notes are inadequate to reach a decision. In some cases, country conditions change, and this may raise additional questions, or perhaps a change in the law necessitates another interview. Unfortunately, there is usually no way to know in advance why the Asylum Office has scheduled a second interview. This makes it more difficult to prepare, since what happens at the second interview depends on why that interview is needed.

In terms of what to expect at a second interview, you might be asked only a few perfunctory questions. On the other hand, you may need to re-do the entire interview--and answer questions in even more detail than at the first interview. In other cases, the AO may have questions only about a particular aspect of the case.

So how do you prepare for a second interview if you do not know what to expect? The obvious answer is to prepare for the worst. In other words, assume that your entire interview will be re-done and prepare accordingly (I did a post about what happens at an initial asylum interview here). Also, if you have notes from the prior interview(s), you should review those. If not, maybe you can think through what happened at the first interview in order to be better prepared. Did anything unusual happen? Were the AO's questions focused on certain parts of the case? Do you recall making any mistakes?

Remember that inconsistencies between what you say at a second interview and what you said at the first interview might cause the AO to conclude that you are not telling the truth, so be careful about how you answer questions. If you do not understand a question, tell the officer that you do not understand. If you do not know the answer or do not remember, inform the AO. Do not guess. If you guess and your answer is not consistent with prior testimony or evidence, it could result in an adverse credibility finding, which would likely cause your case to be denied.

In addition, if you think additional evidence--including country condition evidence--would be beneficial for your case, you should gather and submit that. I wrote more about what evidence to submit here and about how to organize and submit that evidence here.

Finally, many people want to know if a second interview indicates that a decision is imminent or whether it is a positive or negative sign about the case's outcome. At the end of the interview, you can (politely) ask the AO about the time frame for a decision. Often, the officer will not know, but there is no harm in asking. In my own experience, we often receive a decision within a few weeks or months after a second interview, but not always. In terms of the outcome, my sense is that a second interview is not a positive or a negative sign.

It is important to take second interviews seriously. They may be very brief, but they could also be extremely comprehensive. As with first interviews, those applicants who are well prepared will have an increased likelihood of success.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: