For people escaping persecution in their own country, applying for asylum is often the only route to safety.
It’s a legal process to start a new life elsewhere after leaving everything behind.
In the UK, claiming asylum involves being recognised as a refugee through a screening and interview process.
This is not the same as a typical visa application. But there are still specific steps to follow and the final decision comes from the Home Office.
If you want to claim asylum in the UK, this article provides an overview of what’s involved.
Asylum exists to offer security and protection to refugees from around the world.
Last year, the UK received more than 44,000 applications for asylum and 52 per cent were successful. This means more than half of the applicants were granted refugee status or another form of legal protection.
But who can be classed as a refugee and apply for asylum?
To be recognised as a refugee you must have failed to get protection in your own country and already left your home. There must be a genuine fear that you would be persecuted if you went back.
Recognised reasons for persecution are:
If you and your family fall into one of the categories above then you may be able to apply for asylum in the UK.
The best time to apply for asylum is as soon as you arrive in the UK, which is usually at the border. If you wait, your application could be denied.
You will need to provide some documents as part of the application, such as:
It’s also a good idea to gather any other documents that you might need (if you have them) before you apply.
If you’re already in the UK, you will need to provide proof of address. For example, you can use a bank statement or a letter from the person you’re staying with.
The next step is to register your claim for asylum at a screening. This is a meeting with an immigration officer, which can take place at the border or within the UK.
You will have to provide biometric information (a photograph and fingerprints), as well as answer some background questions. You can request an interpreter if you need one.
After the screening, you will get an Asylum Registration Card (ARC) and be assigned a case worker.
You will then have an interview with the case worker.
This is an opportunity to explain why you’re applying for asylum and the dangers you would face in your own country. If you have evidence, show it to the case worker, as well as any identity documents.
Most applicants get a decision within six months. Sometimes you may need to attend more interviews, or the case worker might have to carry out extra checks. In this case, it could take longer for a decision to be made.
While you’re waiting for a decision, you might have to go to reporting meetings with your case worker. You may even be detained at an immigration removal centre.
If you’re not detained, you might get help with the cost of accommodation and living expenses. This is known as Asylum Support and you can find out more at the British government website.
If the application is approved and you’re granted refugee status, you will be able to stay in the UK for five years. After that, you can apply for settled status.
If you don’t get asylum then you will have to leave the UK. But there is also an appeal process to challenge the decision.
Applying for asylum is not a decision to be taken lightly. It can be a very stressful situation with a lot of uncertainty. That’s why it’s important to seek help and guidance if you need to.
Getting legal advice from an immigration adviser can be useful. Not only can they help you with filling out forms, but they can also represent you at meetings. But they can only give advice, not make a decision on an application.
If you do seek legal advice, make sure the immigration adviser is registered with a professional body, like the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) or the Law Society.
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