Because of the Coronavirus public health crisis, there have been some temporary changes to the asylum and immigration process.
This page was last updated on 10 November.
If you have a question about how Covid-19 might affect your particular situation, you can try contacting the Home Office Coronavirus helpline (although we expect it will be very busy).
Telephone: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm). Calls are free of charge.
Contents of this page
- Asylum screening interviews
- Asylum substantive interviews
- Further submissions (fresh claims)
- Asylum support (housing, financial support)
See also sections below that apply to all asylum and immigration applicants: appeals, reporting, detention.
Asylum screening interview
The Home Office are still registering asylum claims.
If people do not claim asylum at the port of entry, screening interviews usually take place at the Asylum Intake Unit in Croydon (south London).
In response to the Covid-19 crisis, the Home Office are now also doing some asylum screening interviews in Glasgow, Belfast (which was already a screening interview location if you arrived to the UK in Northern Ireland), Liverpool, Leeds, Solihull and Cardiff.
If you are in Belfast, the Home Office recommend contacting Migrant Help to arrange an appointment with Bryson Asylum Services.
In all other locations, the Home Office recommend first phoning the Asylum Intake Unit on 0300 123 4193 and you will be advised where you should attend your screening interview.
As before the crisis, it is possible to register your asylum claim without phoning for an appointment first, if you are street homeless (you have nowhere to stay and would otherwise have to sleep on the streets) or in some other circumstances of vulnerability. However, the Home Office strongly recommends calling the Asylum Intake Unit appointment line on 0300 123 4193 first to find out where you should travel to.
Substantive (big) asylum interview
The Home Office paused face-to-face interviews at the start of the lockdown, but have now (since July) begun doing some substantive asylum interviews by video call. The Home Office were already using video link for some asylum interviews prior to the Coronavirus crisis.
If you are told you have an interview, you will be told to attend a Home Office or partner organisation location in person, but then the interview itself will be by video (you won’t be in the same room as the interviewer).
10 November – the Home Office have confirmed they will be continuing with asylum interviews during the English lockdown/restrictions being in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Further submissions (fresh claims)
Previously, most people who wanted to submit further evidence to be considered as a fresh claim (read more in the Right to Remain Toolkit here) had to go and do this in person in Liverpool.
This requirement has been stopped for now – there are no face-to-face appointments in Liverpool taking place.
You can submit further evidence by post or email.
The Home Office prefer evidence to be sent by email but this will not be possible for everyone.
Remember if you are sending it yourself (without the help of a lawyer), you will need to explain who you are, and what the evidence is, and how it amounts to a fresh claim – do not just send the evidence without explanation.
The details for sending the evidence are:
Refused Case Management Further Submissions Unit
The Capital Building
Old Hall Street
You do not need to contact the Further Submissions Unit by telephone first – you can just email your evidence, along with a completed further submissions form. For an explanation of the questions the form asks, see the Right to Remain Toolkit section on fresh claims.
The maximum size of attachment (the documents you are sending) to the email is 20MB, you can send multiple emails if you will go over this amount. It would be useful to connect the multiple emails by saying in the email, for example “this is email 1 of 5”; “this is email 2 of 5.”
If you want to know about the progress of a fresh claim/further submissions you have already submitted, you can email the Home Office at email@example.com
On 27 March, the Home Office announced that people would not be asked to leave their asylum accommodation (as they normally would if they had received a positive decision – for example, refugee status; or if their claim had been refused by the Home Office and appeal) until at least the end of June.
The Home Office continued to pause evictions from asylum accommodation from 1 July, but have now started issuing “notice to quit” letters (also called “move on” letters). The process is starting first of all in England, and a similar process will begin in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland at a later date (not yet specified).
November lockdown – The Home Office have temporarily paused evictions from asylum accommodation for people who are “appeal rights exhausted”. Evictions for people on Section 4 support are also on hold because of a legal challenge.
The Home Office position on visas was that if you had “a visa or leave that was due to expire between the 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020, you’ll be able to stay within the UK to 31 August 2020.”
Now that time has passed, there is no general extension of visas, but it is possible to make an individual request to be able to stay for longer. See the Home Office guidance here.
If you are on a spouse visa with a minimum income requirement (read more about that here), and have experienced a loss of income due to coronavirus, the Home Office will “consider employment income for the period immediately before the loss of income, provided the minimum income requirement was met for at least 6 months immediately before the date the income was lost. The Home Office have also announced that if your salary has reduced because you’ve been furloughed, they will take account of your income as though you’re earning 100% of your salary. This currently applies until 1 January 2021. Read the Home Office guidance here.
For more information on more technical immigration matters such as visas, see the Free Movement blog post here.
Face-to-face appeal hearings were suspended during the lockdown but most courts and tribunals buildings are now open in line with public health advice. Some hearings may still be held remotely (by video link).
If you had a hearing that was cancelled during the lockdown, the Tribunal should be in touch with you about what is happening (or you can contact them if you haven’t heard anything). You should only attend a Tribunal if you have had confirmation from them that you are having a face-to-face hearing. You should not go in person if you (or anyone accompanying you) has tested positive for Coronavirus or if you are showing symptoms. Contact the Tribunal in those circumstances to see if you are able to go ahead without attending in person.
You can find the current status and contact details of courts and tribunals using the court and tribunal finder service (type in, for example, the town/city where your hearing was due or is due to take place) here.
Reporting to the Home Office
Reporting to the Home Office was paused for several months.
The Home Office now says that:
Some reporting centres will open from 20 July for limited hours, outside of peak travel times. You’ll get a text message, email or letter when you have a new reporting date.
You may wish to make sure the Home Office has the correct mobile number for you if you are worried about missing a message about reporting. You can also find email addresses for all the reporting centres on the Home Office website here.
5 November – following the announcement of a second lockdown in England, the Home Office have informed Migrants Organise that they intend to maintain in-person reporting for some people during the lockdown. Not everyone has been asked to start reporting again after the pause during the first lockdown. If you have been told to report during the lockdown, wherever possible speak to a lawyer about challenging this instruction, especially if you have health conditions that make you medium or high risk if you contracted Coronavirus. Read more in this blog post from Migrants Organise.
Detention centres are closed to visitors, apart from in exceptional circumstances.
Thank you to everyone leaving questions and comments below. Please note we will only publish questions if we have a definite answer we can give. We can only provide general information about the asylum and immigration process, and actions that can generally help people – we cannot provide any legal advice. We will not publish comments/questions if they include any identifying details such as full name, date of birth, detailed case history.
SUPPORT OUR WORK
On reaching the UK, people face a hostile environment. Without help, many will be forcibly sent back to the wars, persecution and misery they have fled.
Your donation will help us to help people in their struggle for the right to remain in the UK, and to campaign for migration justiceDONATE TO RIGHT TO REMAIN