Office of Asian & Pacific Islander Affairs

iowa department of human rights

March 1, 2018

Office of Asian & Pacific Islander Affairs 


USCIS Interviews of Burmese Iowans

Last week, the Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs was notified by members of the faith community that Burmese in Iowa are receiving letters from the US Customs and Immigration Service – an agency under the US Department of Homeland Security – asking they attend an interview at a set day and time in a specified district USCIS office. 

At the interview, no interpreter will be provided, and legal representation is permitted. The spouse of the letter recipient is also required to attend. Interviews can last up to four hours.

USCIS will grant a request to change the location of a scheduled interview to a local office via this email address:

Several versions of the letter were sent, and the Office of Asian & Pacific Islander Affairs is advising Burmese in receipt of a letter to consult a reputable immigration attorney prior to the interview to understand their legal standing and due process afforded to them as a refugee, legal permanent resident or US citizen.

Due to the varying letters and the nuances contained in them, consulting with an attorney will ensure better and more informed choices presented on the day of the interview.

For many refugees, the cost of a quality attorney is a significant hurdle. Time-off from work when both heads of household are summoned to the same meeting is an added, undue burden.

Both interpreters and immigration attorneys may be sought by contacting this Iowa non-profit - Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy & Resource Center (EMBARC), with locations in Des Moines, Waterloo and local community-based partnerships in other parts of Iowa.

Together with the Community Attorneys of Iowa, Justice for Our Neighbors and other reliable legal advocates with immigration law expertise, EMBARC is helping to facilitate all requests from Burmese community members seeking legal representation and an interpreter.

Wondering if you can help? Please contact EMBARC or sign up to volunteer. Those willing to lend their immigration law expertise or wondering how they can support Burmese refugees are also urged to contact EMBARC at their Des Moines or Waterloo offices.