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Claiming asylum

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    Get advice early

    Asylum law is complicated and it is important that you get good legal advice and someone to put your case for you. You should find a solicitor as soon as possible, as there are very short deadlines for providing the evidence needed to support your claim for asylum.

    Finding a solicitor in England or Wales

    To find a solicitor in England or Wales who deals with immigration and asylum law:

    • visit the Law Society's Find a solicitor website and search by "Immigration and changing countries", or
    • phone 020 7320 5650

    What your solicitor will need to know

    You should tell your solicitor the following:

    • when you left your home country and arrived in the UK
    • how you got to the UK and the way you came here
    • why you left your home country
    • whether you are afraid to return to your home country and, if so, why
    • your family circumstances
    • what documents you have given to UK Visas and Immigration
    • whether you have been given any documents to fill in and return and, if so, when you have to return them.

    How your solicitor can help

    Your solicitor can:

    • help you to make an appointment to make a claim for asylum
    • help write formal statements for you
    • give you advice on how strong your case is
    • apply for you to be released if you are detained (that is, locked up)
    • prepare your case and represent you if you appeal
    • give you advice on what will happen to your case, and
    • get any further information you might need to explain your claim, such as a medical report or a report from an expert about circumstances in your home country.

    Solicitors' charges

    If you have little or no money, you are likely to be entitled to free legal advice - legal aid - to help with your asylum claim. Your solicitor will explain this, and what she or he can do for you under legal aid. Your solicitor will tell you how much they will charge you if you cannot get free advice.

    Applying for asylum

    To be recognised as a refugee, you will need to show that you have a real risk of being persecuted (treated badly) because of your race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group and that your home government is unable or unwilling to protect you.

    When you apply for asylum you will also apply for permission to stay in this country for human rights reasons. If you can show that you would face inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment if you were returned to your home country, then you will have a claim for 'humanitarian protection'.

    You may have other reasons, based on human rights law, that mean you should be allowed to stay in the UK. Your solicitor will be able to tell you whether your claim for asylum, humanitarian protection or other permission to stay is likely to succeed.

    Screening interview

    You should apply for asylum as soon as reasonably possible. This can be at the airport or seaport where you arrive. If you apply after you have arrived in the UK, you have to apply to the Asylum Screening Unit in Croydon.

    Either on the same day you apply for asylum or soon after, you will have a 'screening interview' where UK Visas and Immigration will ask about your personal details and how you arrived in the UK. Your fingerprints and photograph will be taken and you will be given an Application Registration Card (ARC) which proves that you have applied for asylum. UK Visas and Immigration will then decide how to deal with your claim.

    At the interview you will need to show UK Visas and Immigration a valid passport or another form of identification (ID). If you do not have acceptable identification, get advice from your solicitor straight away.

    Asylum interview

    After the screening interview, you will need to go to a longer interview to explain why you are applying for asylum.

    You should give as much information about your claim as you can, including any medical or experts' reports if available. The interview is important, as UK Visas and Immigration will use the information you give to make their decision about your claim. The information in your screening interview may be compared against what you say in the asylum interview.

    The interview is important, and you can ask your solicitor whether he or she can go with you, although there is normally no legal aid for this. If your solicitor does not go with you, you should ask for the interview to be recorded.


    You can be detained (locked up) at any stage of your claim. UK Visas and Immigration must give you their reasons for detaining you. If you are detained, you should immediately contact your solicitor and ask about applying to be released. Instead of being detained, you may be tagged (this means your movements are tracked electronically) or asked to visit a reporting centre regularly.

    It is important that you tell UK Visas and Immigration where they can contact you at all times, and that you also tell your solicitor.


    If your claim is refused, you should immediately ask your solicitor for advice about appealing against the decision, as there are very strict time limits for appeals. In some cases you can only appeal from outside the UK. Your solicitor may be able to prepare your case and represent you. There is a different form of free legal aid that you may be entitled to called Controlled Legal Representation. Your solicitor will explain this, and will tell you how much they will charge you if you cannot get free advice.

    Money and housing

    If you have no way of supporting yourself, you can apply to UK Visas and Immigration for asylum support. This used to be known as National Asylum Support Service (NASS) support and some people still refer to it as NASS support. You may be given cash and/or temporary housing. You may be sent (dispersed) to another part of the country to be housed. Your solicitor will be able to explain what help you are entitled to.

    Fast-track cases

    If UK Visas and Immigration think that your claim is straightforward, they may put your case through a fast-track process, which means that it will be dealt with quickly and you will be detained. You should speak to your solicitor as soon as possible if you are placed on a fast-track scheme.

    Being removed from the UK

    If your claim for asylum is finally refused (all appeals have been unsuccessful) and you have no other basis on which you can stay in the UK, you will have to leave the UK. UK Visas and Immigration can force you to leave and may detain you in order to do so. It is very important that you contact your solicitor immediately if your application is refused. If you do not cooperate with the government to get a travel document so that you can be removed from the UK, this is a criminal offence.

    Finding a solicitor in Scotland

    This information is published by the Law Society of England and Wales. To find a solicitor in Scotland:

    An information leaflet on asylum and immigration is available in the following formats:

    Alternative formats

    We can make the information in this leaflet available in other formats and selected languages on request. Please email for more information.


    While we have made every effort to provide accurate information, the law is always changing and affects each person differently. This information is no substitute for specific advice about you personally and we will not be liable to you if you rely on this information.