What is a “credible fear interview” with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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A credible fear interview is an expedited screening that is conducted after a foreign national informs a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at a port of entry that he or she has a fear of returning to their native country. The credible fear interview with Customs and Border Protection focuses on three main areas: fear of persecution, fear of torture, and fear of return. As the name implies, these fears must meet a credible standard.

Immigration rules provide guidelines for what is considered credible fear, but there is no bright-line test. Often the determination of credible fear is up to the discretion of the interviewer. A general standard, though, is that you must be able to demonstrate there is a significant possibility that you will be subject to persecution because of your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, if you are returned to your native country.

If the Customs and Border Protection officer makes an initial finding of credible fear, they will refer your case to an immigration judge for a full hearing on your asylum request. At the full hearing, you will be given the opportunity to present documentation and evidence justifying your request for asylum. The immigration judge will make the final decision on whether or not you should be granted asylum. If the immigration judge denies your request, you will be subject to removal proceedings.

If the Customs and Border Protection officer makes an initial finding that you do not have a credible fear, then you are subject to immediate removal. If you do not agree with the immigration officer’s finding of a lack of credible fear, you can appeal the determination and request a full hearing before an immigration judge. The judge will hear evidence and information to support your claim. Keep in mind that the burden of proof is on you – you must present evidence of your qualification for asylum. The U.S. government is not required to disprove your claim until you have presented and perfected your proof in support of asylum.

Before or during the credible fear screening process, the Customs and Border Protection officer may give you information for legal support services. The U.S. government usually will not provide you a lawyer, only a list of available resources. Because the timeframes are very compressed during the credible fear screening process, you should contact an immigration attorney as quickly as possible so that they can assist you in the presentation of your case.

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