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You must apply for asylum if you want to stay in the UK as a refugee.

To be eligible you must have left your country and be unable to go back because you fear persecution.

You should apply when you arrive in the UK or as soon as you think it would be unsafe for you to return to your own country. Your application is more likely to be denied if you wait.

After applying you’ll have a meeting with an immigration officer (known as a ‘screening’) and then an asylum interview with a caseworker.

You’ll usually get a decision on your application within 6 months.

You can get up to 2 years in prison or have to leave the UK if you give false information on your application.

If you are unsure of your position or would like to ensure that your application is handled by a knowledgeable specialist, get in touch with one of our friendly team members now on 0203 384 4389 to find out exactly how we can assist you to get it right first time round, saving you time, money and the heartache of being refused.

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Further Information

Waiting for your decision

You’ll be told after your screening what you must do while you’re waiting for your asylum decision, for example report to a caseworker regularly (known as ‘reporting meetings’).

You must tell the authorities if your situation changes.

You won’t usually be allowed to work while your asylum claim is being considered.


To stay in the UK as a refugee you must be unable to live safely in any part of your own country because you fear persecution there.

If you’re stateless, your own country is the country you usually live in.

This persecution must be because of:

  • your race
  • your religion
  • your nationality
  • your political opinion
  • anything else that puts you at risk because of the social, cultural, religious or political situation in your country, for example, your gender, gender identity or sexual orientation

You must have failed to get protection from authorities in your own country.

Your claim might not be considered if you:

  • are from an EU country
  • have a connection with another country you can claim asylum in, for example if you’ve claimed asylum in an EU country before arriving in the UK

Family members

You can include your partner and your children under 18 as ‘dependants’ in your application if they’re with you in the UK.

Your children under 18 and your partner can also make their own applications at the same time, but they won’t be treated as your dependants.

Documents you must provide

You’ll need documents for yourself and your dependants (partner and children under 18) for your asylum screening.

Documents you should bring (if you have them) include:

  • passports and travel documents
  • police registration certificates
  • identification documents, for example identity cards, birth and marriage certificates or school records
  • anything you think will help your application

Documents to prove your UK address

If you’re already in the UK, you and your dependants must bring documents that prove your UK address.

You’ll need different documents depending on whether you’re living in your own accommodation or staying with someone else.

Living in your own accommodation

You’ll need to provide documents showing your full name and address. This could be a:

  • bank statement
  • housing benefit book
  • council tax notice
  • tenancy agreement
  • household bill

Staying with someone else

You’ll need to provide:

  • a recent letter (less than 3 months old) from the person you’re staying with to confirm you have their permission to stay
  • documents showing the full name and address of the person you’re staying with, like a council tax notice, tenancy agreement or household bill

Register Your Asylum Claim

You register your asylum claim at a ‘screening’. This is a meeting with an immigration officer where you tell them about your case.

You’ll have your screening at the UK border if you claim asylum as soon as you arrive. You can also be screened once you’re in the UK if you become eligible for asylum.

At your screening you’ll:

  • be photographed
  • have your fingerprints taken
  • have an interview to check who you are and where you’re from

You’ll be asked why you want asylum. You can bring written evidence to support your claim if you want, as well as your identification documents.

You’ll need to say if you or your dependants are taking any medication and give any relevant medical information.

You can ask for a male or female interviewer, but your choice might not always be available.

Screening at the UK border

You must tell a Border Force officer that you want to claim asylum.

Your application will be registered and you’ll be screened – ask for an interpreter if you need one.

Screening in the UK

You must make an appointment with the asylum screening unit if you’re already in the UK.

You must bring:

  • the documents you need for your application
  • any dependants (partner and children under 18) who are claiming asylum with you

After your screening

After your screening your case will be given to a caseworker.

You’ll be sent an asylum registration card (ARC) to your UK address, unless you’ve been detained.

If the Home Office can’t send you an ARC immediately, they’ll send you an appointment letter telling you what to do next.


You’ll have an asylum interview with your caseworker. They’ll make a decision about your application.

They’ll also explain the asylum process and tell you what to do while you wait for an asylum decision, such as go to regular reporting meetings.

You may be detained if you don’t go to your reporting meetings.

Tell your caseworker if you have any special needs, for example if you have a disability or need medication.

Your ARC

TheARC shows you’ve applied for asylum. You can use it to:

  • show who you are
  • show whether you have permission to work
  • get health or education services

You must take your ARC with you when you go to your reporting meetings.

Being detained

You may be detained at an immigration removal centre while you wait for a decision on your application.

You’ll either be:

  • released if you get permission to stay in the UK
  • held until you’re removed from the UK if you don’t get permission to stay

You can also be detained and removed if it’s decided that another country is responsible for offering you asylum.

You may be able to appeal against the decision.

When you won’t be detained

You won’t usually be detained if you’re:

  • a child
  • elderly
  • a family with children
  • pregnant
  • accepted as being a victim of trafficking
  • able to provide independent evidence of torture
  • suffering from a mental or physical condition that can’t be managed, or presents a risk to others, in an immigration removal centre

Asylum Interview

Your asylum interview will take place soon after your screening.

Your application will usually be rejected if you don’t go to your asylum interview.

You’ll get a letter telling you when and where to attend and if any of your dependants also need to be interviewed.

Sending a written statement

You can choose to send a written statement to support your claim. This must be written in English and sent to your caseworker before your interview. Include your Home Office reference number.

The interview

You’ll usually be interviewed alone, without your family members. An interpreter will be provided, if you need one.

The information you provide will be treated in confidence and will not be disclosed to the authorities in your own country.

Use this interview to explain:

  • how you were persecuted in your country
  • why you’re afraid to go back to your country

You may be asked questions about difficult topics but it’s important that you explain what has happened to you and your family.

You must tell the caseworker everything you want them to consider or it can count against you.

Bring all the evidence you have of your persecution. You may be asked to send further evidence to your caseworker after the interview, if they think it might help your application.

You should also bring your birth certificate, passport and medical records if you have them.

Your caseworker will make notes in a document called an ‘interview record’. You’ll get a copy of this at the end of the interview.

Legal representative

As your legal representative, we can accompany you to your asylum interview.

Get a decision

Your application will usually be decided within 6 months. It may take longer if it’s complicated, for example:

  • your supporting documents need to be verified
  • you need to attend more interviews
  • your personal circumstances need to be checked, for example because you have a criminal conviction or you’re currently being prosecuted

You’ll be given or refused permission to stay in one of the following ways.

Permission to stay as a refugee

You and your dependants may be given permission to stay in the UK for 5 years if you qualify for asylum. This is known as ‘leave to remain’.

After 5 years, you can apply to settle in the UK.

Permission to stay for humanitarian reasons

You may get permission to stay for humanitarian reasons if you don’t qualify for asylum. This means you need to stay in the UK for your protection.

You and your dependants may be given permission to stay in the UK for 5 years. This is known as ‘leave to enter’ or ‘leave to remain’.

After 5 years, you can apply to settle in the UK.

Permission to stay for other reasons

You may get permission to stay for other reasons if you don’t qualify for permission to stay as a refugee or for humanitarian reasons.

How long you can stay will depend on your situation.

You may be able to apply to extend your stay or settle in the UK towards the end of your stay.

No reason to stay

You’ll be asked to leave the UK if you don’t qualify for asylum and your caseworker decides there’s no other reason for you to stay.

You may be able to appeal against the decision.

You’ll have to leave if you don’t appeal in the time allowed, or if your appeal is unsuccessful. You can:

  • leave by yourself – you can get help with returning home
  • be forced to leave – you’ll get a letter before this happens, then you may be detained without warning at an immigration removal centre and then removed from the UK

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