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How long do asylum interviews last?

The length of an asylum interview can vary greatly depending on the complexity of the asylum seeker’s case. However, most initial asylum interviews last 2-6 hours. There are several factors that impact how long an asylum interview will take.

Factors That Determine Asylum Interview Length

Here are some of the main factors that determine how long an asylum interview will last:

  • Amount of evidence to review – Asylum officers will spend time examining any evidence the asylum seeker submits to support their claim. This can include documents, photographs, medical records, newspaper articles etc. The more evidence submitted, the longer the review process may take.
  • Use of interpreter – If the asylum seeker requires an interpreter, this can extend the length of the interview, as questions are asked and answered in two languages. It takes longer for responses to be relayed through an interpreter.
  • Complexity of claim – More complicated asylum claims involving multiple incidents of persecution or claims based on membership in a particular social group often require longer interviews than more straightforward political opinion or religious persecution cases.
  • Number of applicants – If the asylum application includes family members, the interview takes longer, as each applicant is interviewed separately. Children under 14 may have shorter interviews.
  • Applicant’s ability to recount details – Applicants suffering from trauma may struggle to clearly recall and recount details, which can prolong the interview.

In addition to these factors, the asylum officer conducting the interview will spend time at the beginning explaining the process and putting the applicant at ease. At the end of the interview, they will also go over next steps and answer any questions. This further adds to the total interview length.

How the Asylum Interview Process Works

To better understand why asylum interviews can vary substantially in duration, it is helpful to look at how the asylum interview process typically unfolds:

  1. Introductions – The asylum officer will introduce themselves, explain their role, and try to put the applicant at ease.
  2. Oath – The applicant will be sworn in and make an oath that their testimony will be truthful.
  3. Basic biographical information – Questions to confirm applicant’s identity, nationality, family members etc.
  4. Summary of asylum claim – Applicant summarizes the basis for requesting asylum.
  5. Detailed questioning – Officer goes through applicant’s statement in depth and probes for more details on their experiences of persecution or feared persecution if returned home.
  6. Testimony – Applicant answers questions and gives detailed testimony on their experiences.
  7. Evidence review – Officer reviews any documents, photos, or materials submitted as evidence.
  8. Closing questions – Opportunity for officer to ask any outstanding questions.
  9. Next steps – Officer explains next steps in the asylum process once interview is complete.

As you can see, the main portion of the interview focuses on the asylum seeker’s testimony and evidence review. The length of time spent on these sections accounts for most of the variability in how long total interviews take to complete.

Average Asylum Interview Length

While circumstances cause substantial variation, there are some general averages for typical asylum interview durations:

Type of Asylum Case Average Interview Length
Straightforward, single applicant 2-3 hours
Complex, single applicant 3-5 hours
Family group, straightforward claims 4-6 hours
Family group, complex claims 6+ hours

These averages demonstrate how much longer family-based cases tend to take compared to individual applicants. It also shows how complex cases with detailed testimony or evidence submitted are generally double the length of more clear-cut claims.

When Interviews Exceed 6 Hours

While most asylum interviews do not exceed 6 hours, there are exceptional cases when an interview goes significantly longer. Some reasons interviews may surpass 6 hours include:

  • Applicant speaking at length off topic – Asylum officers try to gently steer the conversation back to the relevant details.
  • Trauma/recall issues causing applicant difficulty recounting details – Officers may allow additional time and take breaks if trauma is making coherence difficult.
  • Interpretation issues – Complex cases with rare dialects may require frequent clarification, pauses and repetition.
  • Highly complex evidence to review – Certain cases have hundreds of pages of documents that must be examined.

Even in these outliers, asylum interviews rarely exceed 8-10 hours. Interviews are not scheduled back-to-back, so officers have flexibility in rare cases when additional time is truly needed.

Breaks During Lengthy Interviews

For asylum interviews exceeding 4 hours in length, the asylum officer will generally offer breaks at appropriate intervals. Whether it is lunchtime, a quick stretch break, a restroom break, or just an opportunity to get water and reset, brief breaks help asylum applicants stay focused and comfortable during lengthy interviews.

Can Interview Be Continued Over Multiple Days?

Generally, asylum officers try to complete the entire asylum interview in one day. However, in very rare cases when an interview has exceeded 8 hours and remains incomplete, it may be continued over multiple days. This allows the applicant adequate rest before resuming the intensive interview.

Splitting an interview over 2+ days only occurs in a fraction of cases when coverage of the case simply cannot be finished in one day. Some reasons include:

  • Extremely complex case – Testimony and evidence review may take 15+ hours.
  • Applicant’s stamina is exhausted – Applicant is unable to concentrate after a full 8 hours.
  • Officer availability – Officer has competing priorities and cannot continue that day.

While multiple-day interviews do sometimes happen, most asylum applicants should expect their interview to conclude within one 6-8 hour session.

Preparing for a Lengthy Interview

Since most asylum interviews last 2-6 hours, applicants should take steps to prepare for a lengthy, grueling experience:

  • Get plenty of rest the night before
  • Eat a good meal before the interview to help concentration
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes you can sit in for hours
  • Bring water, snacks, medications needed throughout the interview
  • Have your attorney prep you for the types of detailed questions you will be asked

By anticipating that the interview may be draining both mentally and physically, applicants can take measures to sustain energy and focus for the duration.

Having an Attorney Present

Applicants are allowed to have an attorney present with them during the asylum interview. This can be very beneficial for several reasons:

  • Attorney can help applicant recall important details
  • Attorney can ask for breaks if they see applicant is tired
  • Attorney can clarify questions and elicit more complete responses
  • Attorney can raise objections if they feel questions are inappropriate or irrelevant

In complex or sensitive cases, having a knowledgeable attorney present helps streamline the process and reduces the interview length and burden on the applicant.


Asylum interviews are intensive, in-depth sessions that require mental stamina and recollection of traumatic events. While simple cases can be completed in 2-3 hours, most asylum applicants should expect their interview to last between 4-8 hours including breaks. By understanding the factors that extend interview length, applicants can be better prepared both physically and mentally to provide detailed testimony and respond to probing questions over the course of a full work day.