If you want to stay in the UK as a refugee, you must apply for asylum as soon as you arrive in the UK or believe it would be unsafe for you to return to your own country.
The first stage of applying for asylum is called “screening”. It is a meeting with an immigration officer, after which the Home Office will decide whether your asylum claim can be considered.
If your case can be considered in the UK, it will be given to a caseworker, and you will be invited to a “substantive” interview. Your caseworker will decide on your application. Usually, the decision is given within six months; however, there is no specific time limit for the Secretary of State for the Home Office to reach a decision. The general assumption is that it must be decided as soon as possible.
It can take longer to get a decision if there are complications with your claim.
For example, you need to attend extra interviews, or your documents need to be verified.
Currently, vulnerable people, including unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, are prioritised.
Don’t forget that each case is assessed on individual circumstances, so if your case is complicated, it might take longer. If you need an update on your application, ask your solicitor.
What to do if your asylum claim has been delayed for over 12 months? Don’t start panicking. Write to the Home Office and try to find out why there is a delay and how long it will take. It is best to ask your representing solicitor to do this on your behalf.
The fact that there is a global pandemic does not release the Home Office from its duty to act reasonably and provide reasonable and case-specific justification for the delays.
Suppose you are unsatisfied with the answer and believe the delay is unreasonable and unnecessary. In that case, you may wish to issue legal proceedings, also known as Judicial Review, against the Home Office.
This process can be expensive and time-consuming, but it will most likely help you achieve the desired decision.
Every Judicial Review starts with a Pre Action Protocol Letter (PAP letter) to the Home Office. You can do it yourself, but instruct your solicitor to do this to avoid any unnecessary complications.
The PAP letter alleges that the delay in deciding on your asylum claim is unreasonable. Ask the Home Office to prioritise your asylum claim and ensure a decision is made as a matter of urgency.
If you experience stress and anxiety caused by that delay and have it backed up by medical evidence/ social workers, mention it to strengthen your claim. Being unable to confirm your status in the UK can exacerbate existing mental health conditions and inhibit your ability to move forward from past traumatic experiences. Possible issues you might face while waiting for the decision to be made include not being able to find work and/or access mainstream benefits, mental health deterioration, and others.
Application for Judicial Review should be made promptly and strictly within 3 months of the date of the action against which the claim is to be made.
Ensure all the details and the reference number are correct as they may and will lead to a delay in responding to your PAP letter.
If you owe a litigation debt to the Home Office, your application may be refused.
Failure to pay ANY costs awarded against you by the court/tribunal may affect the success of any future application you make.
Sometimes the Home Office may have to liaise with other government agencies to verify and request information. Then the decision ultimately depends on the reply of those agencies and is beyond your caseworker’s control.