Substantive Asylum Interview

ⓘ Information card

The asylum, or substantive, interview is when the Home Office interviewer will ask you in detail about your reasons for claiming asylum. The interview may last several hours and you will be asked lots of questions. You may be asked the same questions several times in different ways.

Some people will have the interview in the same room with the interviewer and their interpreter, and some people will be invited to have the interview by video link. You can read more about video asylum substantive interviews here.

It can be a very long, difficult and traumatic interview, and could be the most important part of your asylum application.

It is very important that you tell your reasons for seeking asylum in as much detail as possible. For survivors of violence and persecution, this can be very difficult. You are entitled to request breaks during the interview.

You are going to be asked questions about things that may be very difficult to talk about. Be prepared for not being believed. It is common for the Home Office interviewer to explicitly say they do not believe you.

You need to be very clear, give as much detail as possible, and try to remember to include all the important information.

If you are an adult, your lawyer will not be in the interview with you. You are also in general not allowed to take anyone else, such as a friend, into the interview with you.

Have friends, neighbours and supporters on hand to talk to before and after the interview.

See the Asylum Interview section of the Right to Remain Toolkit for more information.

Now read the problem cards below. Discuss with a friend (or have a think if you’re doing this on your own) what you might be able to do in this situation. When you have finished discussing/thinking, click to reveal a suggested action.

⚠️ Problem card

You are worried about sharing the details of your story in front of a male interviewer and interpreter.

⚠️ Problem card

You were tired and confused when you had your screening interview. You can’t remember what date you said you left your country.

⚠️ Problem card

You are worried that there may be mistakes in interpretation or how your answers are written down during the interview, and that it will be your word against the Home Office’s.

⚠️ Problem card

You have documentary evidence about your case but you don’t know if you should give it to the Home Office when you go for your interview.

⚠️ Problem card

You are worried about explaining what has happened to you – and what might happen to you if you are returned – to a stranger, in a position of authority, who may be hostile and unfriendly.

⚠️ Problem card

You don’t know how to get where your asylum interview will be held.

⚠️ Problem card

You are worried about getting dates wrong when you are asked questions about your story, because some of the events happened a long time ago and you were very distressed by what happened.

⚠️ Problem card

You did not disclose that you identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex (LGBTQIA+) in your initial interview, but fear persecution based on this.