How To Apply For Asylum In The UK?


If someone wants to claim for asylum, proper consideration has to be taken because this may mean you will be locked up in a detention centre designated by the Home Office while your claim is being assessed. To be eligible, you must have left your country and be unable to go back because you fear persecution.

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

Asylum is a word being used by many but some don’t really know its meaning. Asylum is defined by the Article 1A of the 1951 Refugee Convention as a person:

“…owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having nationality and being outside the country of former habitual residence…is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it…”

  1. Eligibility

To be recognised as a refugee, you must:

  • be unable to go back to your own country (if you’re stateless, this is the country you usually live in) because you fear persecution
  • be unable to live safely in any part of your own country
  • have failed to get protection from authorities in your own country

This persecution must be because of one of the following:

  • race
  • religion
  • nationality
  • political opinion
  • membership of a particular social group that puts you at risk because of the social, cultural, religious or political situation in your country, eg your gender, gender identity, sexual orientation

Family members

You can include family members (‘dependants’) in your application if they’re with you in the UK, including:

  • your partner
  • children under 18
  1. Checklist of Points To Consider When Assessing an Asylum Claim

In deciding whether asylum applicant is a refugee, decision-makers consider the following:

  • What is the applicant’s basis of claim?
  • Which of the applicant’s claims about past events can be accepted? Are the applicant’s claim as to his /her past experiences consistent with objective country of origin information relating to the relevant period, including generally well known facts?
  • Taking into account the applicant’s statement and behaviour, does the applicant have a subjective fear of persecution?
  • Objectively, are there reasonable grounds for believing that the harm feared might in fact occur in the applicant’s country of origin?
  • Can the applicant return to a part of the country in which he/she would not be subject to the harm feared?
  • Is the harm feared a form of persecution?
  1. 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, eg 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, eg:

  • 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, eg council tax notice, tenancy agreement or household bill
  1. 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

You may be asked to come back another day if you show up without an appointment.

You don’t need to make an appointment if you have nowhere to live – you can go to the screening unit from 7:30am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. Arrive early to make sure there’s enough time to complete your screening.

You can’t get financial help for travel to or from the asylum screening unit.

How to make an appointment

Make an appointment for screening by phoning the screening unit.

Asylum screening unit appointments line
Telephone: 020 8196 4524
Monday to Thursday, 9am to 4:45pm
Friday, 9am to 4:30pm

They’ll call you back and ask simple questions about you and your family. You won’t be asked why you’re claiming asylum. The call may take up to 30 minutes.

You’ll be asked if you need help with housing.

You can ask to have an interpreter at your screening.

  1. After your screening

After your screening, your case will be given to a caseworker and you’ll either:

  • be given an application registration card (ARC) or standard acknowledgment letter (SAL)
  • be detained

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
  1. Get a decision

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

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

Ask your legal adviser if you want an update on your application.

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 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

– Source: Home Office website https://www.gov.uk


Don Magsino MBA is a student of Oxford Brookes University at Post-Graduate Degree in Law in Oxford, England, UK. He is a graduate of Ateneo De Manila University Graduate School of Business. He is a qualified and practicing Immigration Law in the UK. 07446888377 / 0207 316 3027. His London Office is located at 239 Kensington High Street, London W8 6SN. He is accredited by the Law Society in England and Wales and regulated by the OISC Level 3 (highest level in immigration professions). He has won difficult cases in immigration law.

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