USA and the UK
- Overview of Asylum in the UK
- Am I Eligible to Claim Asylum in the UK?
- Can I Apply From Outside the UK?
- Can I Bring My Family Members?
- What Is the Process of Applying for Asylum?
- What May Impact My Claim?
- Can Children Apply on Their Own?
- What if I Am not Eligible?
- How Long Will I Wait for a Decision?
- How Long Can I Stay in the UK?
- What Can I Do if My Asylum Claim is Rejected?
- How Can Immigration Advice Service Help With Asylum Claims?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Overview of Asylum in the UK
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an international law that says everyone has the right to live free from persecution. Most asylum seekers live in countries neighboring the country they have fled from; however, the UK also offers asylum to eligible non-citizens who cannot live safely in their country.
The UK asylum system can be complicated, but despite this, over 7 out of 10 asylum claims are successful. Once an asylum seeker receives a positive decision, they will be granted refugee status and given humanitarian protection under the Refugee Convention.
In this article, we will explain the eligibility criteria and full process for applying for asylum in the UK, from initial interview to final decision.
Am I Eligible to Claim Asylum in the UK?
To claim asylum in the UK, you must not be able to live in your home country because of a well founded fear of persecution you may experience there. You must have fled your country because you have failed to receive protection from authorities in your own country and are at risk of persecution for the following characteristics:
- Political opinion
- Any other personal risks because of a social, cultural, religious, or political situation, for example, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or other particular social group.
Can I Apply From Outside the UK?
There is no legal way that you can apply for asylum from outside the UK; you must apply once you are in the country. The UK government introduced a new Illegal Migration Bill in 2023, which means that alongside the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, the UK government will not consider asylum seekers who do not travel to the UK by ‘safe and legal routes’.
If you arrive in the UK by illegal routes, you will be detained, removed from the country, and not allowed to re-enter or re-apply for asylum in the UK.
Can I Bring My Family Members?
You can include your immediate family members as ‘dependents’ as part of your application for asylum, which would include your partner or your children under 18 years old.
If you include them as dependents, they won’t be granted refugee status but will be able to stay in the UK for the same amount of time as you.
To begin the asylum process, you must notify the UK government from within the UK that you need to claim asylum. At each stage, you can request an interpreter if you need one; if you are not happy with the interpreter or you think they do not understand you properly, it is important you tell the immigration officer or Home Office interviewer immediately. You can also request a male or female interviewer or interpreter, but they won’t always be able to accommodate this.
If you are traveling to the UK, as soon as you arrive at a UK airport you must speak to a Border Force officer to tell them you are claiming asylum. They will take some of your personal details and you will either have an initial screening interview with an immigration officer immediately at the airport or receive a letter in a few months to invite you to a screening interview.
You may already be in the UK for a different reason at the point you become eligible for asylum, as many international students or visitors travel to the UK every year. If you are in the UK and it becomes unsafe for you to return to your home country, you must contact the Asylum Intake Unit as soon as possible; they will take a few personal details and invite you to an initial screening interview.
Throughout the asylum claiming process, you will be able to study but you will not be able to work unless you have special permission from the UK government. If being unemployed is going to cause any financial problems, you can tell your interviewer that you need financial support and they will register you as needing asylum support.
When you attend your screening interview, you will meet with an immigration officer and speak to them about your case. They will take your photo and fingerprints, ask you some questions about where you are from, and give you an asylum registration card (ARC).
You will need to take any family members that you are including in your application as dependents. They will have their photo and fingerprints taken too; children under 5 years old will not have to give their fingerprints.
Documents Required for the Screening Interview
The Home Office requests that you bring the following documents if you have access to them:
- Passports and travel documents
- Identification documents (identity cards, birth or marriage certificates, school records, for example)
- Anything else that may support your application
If you are already in the UK, you will need to bring proof of where you and any dependents are staying.
If you have your own accommodation, you will need to bring something that has your name and address written on it. The sort of proof the Home Office ask for is a bank statement, council tax notice, household bill, or tenancy agreement.
If you’re staying with someone else, the Home Office asks for the same kind of document with your host’s name and address on it plus a letter from within the last 3 months that says you are allowed to stay with them.
Many asylum seekers who have fled conflict do not have access to many of these documents. If you enter the UK with a fake passport or someone else’s passport, this is considered to be illegal and can negatively impact a person’s asylum claim.
For many people seeking asylum, it is not safe for them to apply for a passport in their country or to use their own passport to leave their country. The Refugee Convention recognises this challenge and says that as long as you have a good reason for traveling without your own passport, you shouldn’t be punished for using a different passport.
You can take evidence to the screening interview but your next interview, the longer substantive interview, is when the Home Office request all your evidence.
Some asylum seekers will be given refugee status based on their screening interview if enough evidence was given to begin with. However, you will likely receive a letter from the Home Office to invite you to an asylum substantive interview.
You must attend this interview otherwise the Home Office will usually withdraw your application if you don’t attend and you will have to apply again.
You will generally be interviewed alone, without your family, and this is when you explain how you were persecuted in your home country and why you are afraid of going back.
This interview can be emotional but it is very important that you tell the caseworker everything you want them to consider. It is acceptable if you feel upset and your interviewer will be understanding if you need a break during your interview.
Whether your interview happens face-to-face or over a video call, the interview will be recorded. For in-person interviews, the case worker will write in an interview record; for video calls, the audio will be recorded. After your interview, make sure you get a copy of this interview as it may be valuable to refer back to if your claim is rejected.
Documents Required for the Substantive Review
If you have access to them, you will have to send the original copies of the following documents to the Home Office before your interview:
- Birth certificate
- National ID card
- Evidence supporting your asylum claim
The evidence you provide will be used to show why you can’t live safely in your own country; this could be:
- A warrant for your arrest due to one of the characteristics listed in the eligibility section
- Your membership card for a political party that puts you in danger in your country
- Any newspaper clippings or documents from reliable sources about you or other people with the same persecuted characteristics as you
- Reputable reports on the situation in your country that makes it unsafe for you
What May Impact My Claim?
There are a few exceptional circumstances that may mean your asylum application won’t be considered, for example:
- You are from an EU country
- You have traveled to the UK via a ‘safe third country’
- You have links to a safe country where you would be eligible for asylum
The UK government considers a safe third country somewhere that you’re not a citizen of, you would not be harmed in, and would not send you to another country where you would be at risk.
Aside from the circumstances above, there are some other factors that may impact your asylum claim.
When claiming asylum, the Home Office will assess everything you say and all the evidence you provide and make a decision based on how believable your story is. If any of the information you provide is inaccurate or there are any inconsistencies in your story it can affect the decision on your asylum claim or can impact you later in the process.
For example, if you do not mention your family in your screening interview, but mention them at a later stage, it may appear suspicious that they were not mentioned at the beginning. This could also mean you won’t be able to apply for a Family Reunion visa later if you want them to join you in the UK.
If you miss out any information in the beginning stages of your asylum claim, tell the Home Office as soon as possible and explain why you did not tell them earlier.
Another thing that is important to remember is the deadlines provided by the Home Office. In any of your letters where a deadline is provided, it is essential that you make every effort to provide the requested information by that date; often the Home Office will assume you do not want to progress your asylum claim if you do not meet a deadline. If you are going to be late, you must tell the Home Office as soon as possible and provide a good reason.
Can Children Apply on Their Own?
Unaccompanied children can apply on their own but if you have an adult relative who is claiming asylum, you should apply as a dependent on their application.
Otherwise, if you’re a child under 18 years old, you should go to the Asylum Intake Unit with the adult who is responsible for you and use the walk-in service. This adult should bring their proof of address, like a bill, and some photo ID.
If you don’t have an adult looking after you, you can speak to the police or social services or go to the Asylum Intake Unit on your own.
Any children who are being looked after by social services must make an appointment with the Asylum Intake Unit over the phone and will need to have some information ready. You will need to tell them:
- Your name, birthday and nationality
- Passport number or the number on your national ID document, if you don’t have them, they will ask for the number on your birth certificate
- Your carer’s name and contact details
- If you suffer from any medical conditions
While you’re waiting for your decision, you will be allowed to attend school for free and to continue your studies. Many schools have systems in place to help you fit in at school and to make sure you are receiving the support you need.
What if I Am not Eligible?
If you don’t meet the eligibility criteria for asylum in the UK, or are unable to arrive in the UK by a safe and legal route, there are a few other options you could consider. Instead, you may be eligible to apply for:
- A work visa
- A student visa
- A Family Reunion visa
- An Investor or Entrepreneur visa
- A Visit visa
- The Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme
- The Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy
- The Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas) visa
- Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme
- Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme for vulnerable refugees
Not all of these routes will grant you refugee status or international protection, and each has different eligibility and requirements.
Working out which route to the UK or which visa you are eligible for can be a difficult process. IAS are experts in immigration law and have the knowledge and experience to assess your unique situation and advise you on the best way to travel to and settle in the UK. Call us today on +1 844 290 6312 or contact us online.
When applying for any visa, you must be truthful in your application. The UK government may not consider your asylum claim if they see that you have not been honest in your visa application to travel to the UK.
How Long Will I Wait for a Decision?
Asylum applications have more than doubled between 2020 and 2022 and the UK is making fewer decisions each year, leading to a growing backlog of asylum decisions.
Screening interviews rarely happen immediately for people arriving in the UK and now you may have to wait more than a year to have your screening interview. After, you may wait up to two years to have your substantive review and then several months to receive your initial decision.
The average waiting time for the whole process was 20 months in 2021 and some people have even been waiting for 5 years.
How Long Can I Stay in the UK?
Successful asylum applicants are granted refugee status and are allowed to stay in the UK for at least 5 years; after 5 years, you will be able to apply to settle in the UK.
Sometimes you may not be granted protection but will be allowed to stay for other reasons, but the amount of time you can stay may be different and will depend on the UK government’s decision.
What Can I Do if My Asylum Claim is Rejected?
If your asylum claim is rejected and there is no other reason for you to stay, you will be asked to leave the country or be moved to an immigration detention center. However, you can appeal your decision within 14 days of the date on your rejection letter.
At the first stage of your appeals process, you will ask a First Tier Tribunal to reconsider your case and evidence and ask them to give you a new decision on your asylum claim.
If the First Tier Tribunal also decides you do not qualify for refugee status, you can escalate it further for judicial review. Here, the Judge will decide if there has been a legal error in how your decision was made.
If you do not submit your appeal in time, you will not be allowed to stay in the UK.
IAS is a full-service immigration service that can give you advice and support throughout the whole asylum process, whether you are looking into applying or about to begin the appeals process. We are experts in immigration and asylum and offer a range of services to suit your needs.
For bespoke advice today or more information on how we can help you, call +1 844 290 6312 or contact us online.
Last modified on November 10th, 2023 at 5:53 am
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You are not allowed to work while you are applying and waiting for asylum in the UK unless you have been given special permission by the UK government.
During your screening interview, you can tell your interviewer that you need asylum support and you will be entitled to basic accommodation; unfortunately, you can’t choose where you live.
Asylum support also includes a weekly allowance of £47.39 per person per week and if you’re pregnant or have a child, you will be given a little bit of extra money to cover additional costs
There is government support available for pregnant people, and you can apply for a one-off payment of £300 if your baby is due in less than 8 weeks.
Asylum seekers will also have access to the UK’s free National Health Service and children up to 17 years old will be able to attend local state schools, which are also free of charge.