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Can International Students Apply for Asylum in the UK?

The Nationality and Borders Act 2022 has made it illegal to claim asylum in the UK if you entered the country illegally. However, you can still claim asylum if you entered legally, and it is now unsafe for you to return to your home country.

The process of claiming asylum in the UK can be long and challenging. Manchester Immigration Lawyers can help, and you can contact us at 0161 826 9783 or visit us online.

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    Overview of Eligibility for Asylum for International Students

    As a student asylum seeker, you will need to fulfil all of the standard eligibility criteria to require humanitarian protection. The main criteria to be aware of include the following:

    • You are at risk of persecution in your own country because of your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, and LGBTQ+ identity.
    • The authorities in your home country are not able to give you adequate protection.
    • You have not entered the UK unlawfully, such as having a valid student’s visa.

    Note that even if you fit these criteria, you may not be able to claim asylum for the reasons described below. If this applies, you will need to become an asylum seeker in different countries:

    • You passed through a safe country when coming to the UK, judged based on the chances of you facing harm if you had remained in that country.
    • You are a citizen of an EU country.
    • You have connections to a safe third country.
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    How Can International Students Claim Asylum?


    The first stage of any asylum claim is to register your case with an immigration officer. There are multiple points where you can do this, including immediately after arrival in the UK or at any point during your time in the UK if you think returning home would be unsafe.

    After registering your claim, you will need to attend an asylum screening interview. This is the first asylum interview. Here, you will be asked for your personal details and the reasons that you have decided to claim asylum in the UK. You will also be asked for the following documents in your screening interview:

    • Passport.
    • Student visa.
    • Any further ID documents that you have available, such as a marriage certificate, university records, or birth certificate.
    • Proof of address, including for university halls of residence, such as a copy of your tenancy agreement or a statement for utility bills.

    Attending a Substantive Interview

    Most asylum seekers will then be required to attend a substantive interview after their screening interview, This is a long, difficult, and potentially traumatic interview for asylum seekers. Over several hours, you will be asked to explain in detail the persecution you have faced or the reasons you fear persecution if you return.

    This interview can be held in person or via a video link, and whichever one you will attend will be explained in a letter inviting you to attend the substantive interview. In the interview, there will be an immigration office and an interpreter provided by the UK Home Office if required. You usually won’t be able to bring a legal aid lawyer, but in exceptional circumstances, you can bring someone with you for emotional or medical support.

    In the substantive interview, you will be asked a range of questions to clarify your personal details, the nature of your claim, including the persecution you faced, your journey to the UK, and if you claimed asylum in any nation you transited through. If you don’t understand any question, you are free to ask the immigration officer to rephrase.

    After you have your substantive interview, you will need to wait for a decision that will either give you refugee status or refuse your asylum application.

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      Reasons your Claim Can be Refused

      There are many reasons for an asylum claim as an international student to be rejected, divided into problems with the application and problems with the candidate. Problems with the asylum application include the following:

      • Delays in making your application.
      • Inconsistencies, discrepancies, or accuracy issues.
      • A lack of supporting evidence for your claims.

      Meanwhile, the problems with yourself as a candidate for asylum include the following:

      • Your story lacks credibility, and immigration officials don’t believe your humanitarian reasons for claiming asylum are genuine.
      • You have past immigration offences or criminal convictions in the UK.
      • You pose a national security or public health risk.
      • Your application contains fraud or lies.

      Alternative Means to Remain in the UK if Your Claim is Refused

      If your claim is refused, you will not have an automatic right to remain in the UK once your student visa runs out. However, you will be able to make a visa application for a different visa that will allow you to remain in the UK.

      A common visa for graduates is the Skilled Worker visa, formally known as a tier 2 visa, which gives you the right to work for approved employers in a role that is included on the list of eligible occupations. You must be paid a minimum salary for the work you do and will need a certificate of sponsorship from your employer. The maximum length of a Skilled Worker visa is five years, and after this period, you may have the option to gain indefinite leave to remain.

      Alternatively, there are currently unique programs targeted at people fleeing from Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Hong Kong, which you may be eligible for. These programs can allow you to bypass the usual asylum processes on the way to humanitarian protection.

      Depending on your circumstances and if you have family in the UK, you may be eligible for a different visa. Make sure to check each visa’s eligibility requirements to find out. If you need help applying for a visa once your asylum claim is rejected, please contact Manchester Immigration Lawyers at 0161 826 9783 or visit us online.

      How Your University Can Help

      All international students will have to follow the same process if they decide to claim asylum in the UK. However, each university will be able to offer a different level of support. Most universities can give you access to resources on asylum seekers where you can learn more about how the asylum process works, and you will need to directly contact your university to find out what they have available.

      While you are waiting for your asylum claim to be processed, you should be able to continue your studies. However, some claims are given a “no study” condition. You can liaise with the UK Home Office and your university to have this condition removed.

      Finally, some universities, known as “Sanctuary University”, financially support asylum seekers and refugees to prevent their studies from being interrupted while getting asylum in the UK. You may be able to access university scholarships if you wish to attend such an institution as an asylum seeker.

      Can Families Join Asylum Seeking Students?

      The close family of student asylum seekers can sometimes bring their family with them as “dependents.” However, please note that they can still not enter the UK illegally and gain asylum, and they will have to come to the UK through legal routes. To be eligible for a dependent visa, the following must apply:

      • You are a government-sponsored student on a course longer than six months or a full-time student studying a postgraduate course longer than nine months.
      • Postgraduate courses starting after New Year’s Day in 2024 must be a PhD or research-based postgraduate studies.
      • You can prove your relationship via marriage, civil partnership, and birth certificates.
      • You have sufficient funds to support your family.

      Alternatively, if your family is already in the UK, you can simply include them as part of your asylum application process. If you are granted asylum, then they will have the same status.

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        How Can Manchester Immigration Lawyers Help?

        As has been shown in this article, claiming asylum in the UK can be challenging. However, international students are in a unique position for asylum seekers of having been in the UK legally already, which can be hugely helpful in getting asylum in the UK. Moreover, students can gain unique benefits including that they can access student finance or university assistance.

        At Manchester Immigration Lawyers, we have helped many asylum seekers with their applications. We have helped them to properly complete their application, given legal representation at tribunals and appeals, and liaised with the Home Office to track the progress of our clients’ applications.

        If you want to learn more about the range of services we offer to international students who are asylum seekers, please contact us at 0161 826 9783 or visit us online.

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        In 2023, the UK government introduced a scheme to send asylum seekers who entered the country illegally to Rwanda, which the government considers a safe third country. Here, the asylum seeker will have their claim processed and will settle in Rwanda.

        However, even if this scheme becomes widely used, it will not impact international students. This is because they have entered the country legally, so they are not targeted by this scheme.

        Currently, just over 20% of asylum seekers’ claims are refused, which means you won’t be granted refugee status. However, you do have a right to appeal the decision within 14 days as someone already in the UK.

        You will be able to make your appeal via the online MyHMCTS system. Here, you will need to explain why you believe you are eligible for asylum.

        As an asylum seeker, you will still be required to pay the higher international student fees. However, once you have refugee status, you will pay domestic fees. Currently, domestic student fees are £9,250 for full-time study and £4,625 for part-time study per year.

        Furthermore, you will also be able to claim student finance. This is a type of student loan operated by the UK government, which will help you to cover maintenance costs and your student fees. You will then pay back this student loan according to your income after graduating. At the time of writing in November 2023, the threshold income for paying back student finance was £27,295 per year.

        There is currently a substantial backlog for the government to deal with asylum applications, so they are taking longer than usual to process. Most applications take several months, while some people have to wait over a year. Ensuring your application is properly completed should reduce the chances of delays.

        Meanwhile, your asylum application will not have a processing fee. However, you will need to pay for any specialist legal representation or advice you require beyond that which legal aid provides.