Fleeing your home country might not be a thought that crosses your mind often, but to some it is a reality they live with every single day.
Millions of people around the world are either refugees or asylum seekers, and I am one of them. Some would say that the world is now facing the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.
Growing up in Venezuela I was exposed to the term “asylum” from a very young age. Many of my family members and close friends had left the country due to the governmental and humanitarian crisis there.
I applied for political asylum last year since my safety in Venezuela could no longer be guaranteed. The process is quite extensive and varies from person to person. For some people, like my sister, it might take three months to receive an asylum decision. But others, like my aunt, are still waiting to receive an interview date five years after applying.
To initiate the application process you need to demonstrate that you were persecuted or feared persecution based on your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.
You will need to file a Form I-589 which is the Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal. The form can be filled out by yourself or you can ask someone to help you, such as a lawyer or paralegal.
The nerve wracking process started for me after I submitted that form and waited for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to send me a receipt.
After receiving a receipt notice, I got a fingerprint request notice two weeks later. After that, it took another two weeks after they scanned my fingerprints to get an interview date.
When I received my date, my world flipped upside down. I started preparing thoroughly for the interview since I knew they would ask me to backup the allegations I had made in the original form.
Not only did they ask me about my allegations, but they also asked about every little detail that you can imagine. I had mentioned in my application that a car had tailed me on my way to work. They asked about the color of the car and how many people were in it.
So many emotions went through my body as I anticipated the next question.
At one point during the interview I teared up when I told the officer my story. I remember the nervousness never left my body until I got out of the building.
Once your interview is done, you will be told if you should be granted asylum or if your case should be referred to a court for further analysis. The immigration official will either tell you to come back in two weeks to receive your decision or that you will receive it by mail.
I applied for asylum in September of last year, and I was told I would receive my decision in the mail around Oct. 11. I’m still waiting.