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What Does an Asylum Officer Do?

By Kenneth W. Michael Wills
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An asylum officer has an important job under the purview of immigration processes, laws and procedures for his or her nation. The main role of the asylum officer is to investigate asylum claims and to decide whether to grant asylum to applicants based on immigration law, interviews with the asylum seeker and results of security investigations. Such officers have a duty to extend asylum to qualified applicants; they also have a duty to protect and preserve the security of the citizens and residents of their representative nation while detecting and turning away fraudulent applicants who might place a cumbersome burden on the asylum process.

Asylum usually is granted to applicants who either flee or are forced out of their home nation because of persecution or the fear of persecution. People who are seeking asylum are often referred to as refugees. The persecution could stem from various issues based on ethnicity, gender, religion or political views, or the person might be fleeing from a nation that has been ravished by war or is embroiled in conflict. The asylum officer will review the asylum seekers’ application to determine whether the applicant qualifies in accordance with international treaties and the host nation’s laws. Thereafter, the officer will interview the applicant to assess the truthfulness of the applicant’s statements and look for inconsistencies in the applicant’s account.

These cases can be complex, and no two cases are exactly identical. For this reason, the officer must apply excellent legal research skills. The officer will make sound determinations concerning the accurate application of legal statutes — both nationally and internationally — to each individual case. Following an interview with the asylum seeker, such legal research usually is the next step.

Character assessment usually follows the legal research component after the asylum officer determines that the applicant meets relevant legal criteria for asylum. Based on the candidate’s statements during interviews and on the asylum application, the officer will apply sound judgment in determining the credibility of the asylum seeker. Many asylum seekers are seeking refuge from persecution, but there are many applicants who attempt to use the asylum process fraudulently to gain entry and residence in other nations. The officer uses his or her skills, experience and judgment to recognize those instances and prevent the intended goals of such applicants.

Regardless of an applicant’s intended goals or credibility, the asylum officer will scrutinize the results of security checks conducted on the asylum seeker. If an asylum seeker poses a security threat, the officer will attempt to recognize and address how such a status impacts the asylum application. This is important to the host nation that might grant asylum in the interest of preserving the nation’s security.

The officer also will apply strong social research skills in assessing information about the asylum seeker's country of origin in an attempt to understand the potential impacts and constraints of daily life in that nation. An asylum officer will use good communication skills to conduct effective interviews with a diverse range of people coming from varying backgrounds. This allows the officer to arrive at conclusions during each phase of the application process.

In addition to these duties, an the officer might also participate in the processing of refugees at refugee centers in other nations. Regardless of where the asylum officer serves, his or her duties are straightforward. The application of those duties, however, can be complex.

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