Claiming Asylum in the UK: An Overview
In the 1950s, the United Nations Refugee Convention agreed to the human right that someone who can’t live safely in their country of origin can seek protection in another country. Nearly 150 countries agreed to the convention, including the UK, and are still bound to honour the Refugee Convention under international law.
In today’s world, people still have the right to live safely somewhere other than their own country, but there are different criteria and processes that asylum seekers must follow and meet in each country to be granted refugee status.
Successful asylum applicants will be granted asylum, international protection and refugee status, be allowed to stay in the UK for 5 years, and have access to some UK benefits.
If you have time before you leave your home, it is best to check you have the documents outlined in this article and try to gather them.
- Claiming Asylum in the UK: An Overview
- What Documents Do I Need for My Screening Interview?
- What Documents Do I Need for the Asylum Substantive Interview?
- What Documents Are Considered Evidence?
- Can You Claim Asylum Without Documents?
- Am I Eligible to Claim Asylum in the UK?
- Can I Claim Asylum Before Arriving in the UK?
- What Happens Once I Arrive in the UK?
- I Am Already in the UK
- How Much Does it Cost to File an Asylum Application?
- Can Manchester Immigration Lawyers Help?
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Documents Do I Need for My Screening Interview?
The initial asylum interview with a UK Home Office immigration officer will be where you can share your story and provide your and your family’s details. It is very important to tell your interviewer everything as clearly and honestly as possible, as any inconsistencies may impact their decision on your application and they may class your claim as ‘inadmissible’.
At this asylum interview, you will need to bring:
- Your and your family’s passports
- You travel documents
- Any identification documents to establish your identity and nationality; for example, identity cards, birth and marriage certificates, driving licence
- Proof of any countries of previous residence
- Documentation of any previous asylum claims
- Proof of your travel route to the UK
- Medical evidence
- Anything else that may help your application
Afterwards, the interviewer will give you an application registration card (ARC).
You will also need to bring proof of address, whether that is for your own accommodation or a host’s accommodation. Acceptable proof includes a household bill, bank statement, or council tax notice with your or your host’s name and address on it.
If you are staying with someone else, you will also need a letter that is less than 3 months old from them to say you have permission to stay with them.
What Documents Do I Need for the Asylum Substantive Interview?
After your initial screening interview, the Home Office will process everything you have said and send you another letter to invite you to a much longer substantive interview.
At the substantive interview, which can last up to 6 hours, the interviewer will ask you a lot of in-depth questions about your history and why you are claiming asylum, and you will provide them with evidence to support your claim.
For this interview, you will have this interview on your own and need to take your:
- Passport and travel documents
- Birth certificate
- Proof of address
- Any evidence that will support your claim
What Documents Are Considered Evidence?
Providing evidence to support your asylum claim can be particularly challenging but can be very helpful for the Home Office if you do have any evidence that defends your story.
Evidence may include documentation such as a warrant for your arrest due to one of the eligible social characteristics, or a newspaper article about you or about people like you who are being persecuted.
Whatever evidence you decide to provide, it is very important that you are sure it is factually accurate and that the document is genuine. It is best if it is from a reputable source and you can show the Home Office how you received the evidence, for example, if it was posted to you by a family member, you must keep the postage envelope.
The Home Office is particularly sceptical about evidence from outside the UK, so it can be helpful to have any evidence translated by a certified translator. If they do not believe that your evidence is genuine then it can be very impactful on your asylum claim.
Can You Claim Asylum Without Documents?
If you have had to flee your country because you are not safe, it is very possible that you have not had a chance to gather all the documents and evidence requested by the UK government, and you may be worried that your lack of documentation will stop you from being granted asylum.
This is where seeking legal representation can be especially valuable; if you’re feeling worried about whether you are still able to claim, please call Manchester Immigration Lawyers today at 0161 826 9783 and we will be able to advise on the best steps to approach your claim without the necessary documents.
This is another point where the UK government’s Illegal Migration Bill places barriers for asylum seekers looking for safety; you will not be able to travel to the UK legally without a passport and it is illegal to use a fake passport or borrow someone else’s to enter the country. This means that technically, you can’t apply for asylum if you don’t have your own passport.
However, if you have a valid reason for not having or using your own passport—for example, you weren’t able to safely apply for or use a passport in your home country—the Refugee Convention states asylum claims should not be affected.
Am I Eligible to Claim Asylum in the UK?
Since 2021, the number of refugees leaving their home country to seek asylum has increased across the world dramatically as global conflict and persecution increase.
There may come a point where you do not think it is safe for yourself or your family to stay in your home and feel forced to flee your country in pursuit of a life free of fear. Typically, most refugees will settle in a safe country neighbouring their own or the first EU country they can travel to, but some will look further afield and may be eligible for refugee status in the UK.
Before travelling to the UK to apply for asylum, it is best to consider your options and where you are eligible for refugee status. In the UK, the Home Office will only consider your claim if you can’t live in any part of your country safely because you fear persecution there.
Your application can include you, your partner, and any children under 18 years old.
Before applying in the UK, you must have tried to seek protection from the authorities in your own country and been unsuccessful, and the persecution must be because of one of these characteristics or membership of a particular social group that is under threat:
- Political opinion
- Any other high-risk characteristic, for example, gender or sexual orientation
Asylum claims can be rejected if the UK Home Office thinks that your claim is unfounded. At this point, it can be valuable to seek legal advice to see if you are eligible for asylum in the UK before you apply. Call Manchester Immigration Lawyers today at 0161 826 9783 for information or advice on if you are eligible to claim.
Can I Claim Asylum Before Arriving in the UK?
It is important to note that it is impossible to claim asylum before arriving in the UK and you can only apply for asylum once you are in the country.
It is best to avoid arriving illegally in the UK as there is a law that aims to deter illegal entry and makes seeking asylum in the future challenging.
The UK government introduced the Illegal Migration Bill in 2023, which is a UK law that seeks to discourage illegal migration into the country. Most importantly, it is important for you to know that if you travel to the UK by illegal and unsafe routes, the UK government has a duty to detain you and remove you from the country. Once you have been removed from the country, you will not be allowed to re-enter or attempt to claim asylum in the UK again.
What Happens Once I Arrive in the UK?
Once you have travelled to the UK legally and safely, you will have to find a Border Force officer at the airport and notify them that you want to claim asylum.
When applying for a visa to enter the UK, you must be truthful otherwise your visa application is considered invalid and it is classed as illegal entry.
When you tell a Border Force officer, you will either have a screening interview immediately with an immigration officer in the airport or will receive a letter inviting you to your screening interview a few months later.
I Am Already in the UK
Many people are already in the UK studying, visiting family, or maybe even on holiday when they become eligible for asylum in the UK and are no longer able to return home for fear for their life.
In this case, you can still apply for asylum but will have to contact the Asylum Intake Unit by phone; they will ask you a few identifying questions to register your call and then will send you an invitation letter to invite you to your screening interview.
How Much Does it Cost to File an Asylum Application?
Thankfully, there is no fee to apply for asylum in the UK and no cost for each of your interviews. You will have to pay for the travel to and from your asylum interviews and to have any documents translated by a certified translator.
It is worth noting that if your claim is rejected and you wish to progress the decision to a first tier tribunal or judicial review, there will be associated fees.
Can Manchester Immigration Lawyers Help?
Leaving your home and seeking asylum in a potentially unfamiliar country can have an enormous impact on someone’s life and mental health. In the process of worrying about the safety of yourself and your family, you may not have managed to gather the correct documents and evidence to support your claim.
In this particularly high-stress time in your life, it can ease your burden by having a reputable immigration lawyer to increase the chances of completing your asylum application correctly.
Manchester Immigration Lawyers are compassionate award-winning immigration lawyers who will be able to support you not only with checking your asylum supporting documents but also with the entire asylum application process.
Contact us at 0161 826 9783 to speak to a legal advisor today, or contact us online through our website.
Asylum claims also may not be considered if your home country is in the European Union, you have a connection in a country where you could have claimed asylum, or you travelled through a ‘safe third country’. A safe third country is one that you are not a citizen of, would not be harmed in, and wouldn’t send you to a country where you are unsafe.
Due to a growing backlog in asylum decisions, only 10% of asylum claimants are waiting less than 6 months and the average waiting time is now between 1 and 3 years.