Understanding the asylum and immigration system, and your own legal case, is more important than ever. Cuts to legal aid (free, government-funded legal representation) mean that more and more people have no lawyer at all and are forced to navigate this very complicated system without legal representation.
Even if you have a lawyer, it’s important to understand your own legal case – this is your case and your life and you need to keep track of what is happening and whether the lawyer is doing the things they should be.
Legal aid lawyers are so busy that they can find it hard to respond to you quickly. Remember that they need time to work on your case, and constantly ringing them will not allow them to do this. But if your lawyer is very slow in getting back to you, or doesn’t explain themselves properly, you should try to get your questions answered (and find someone to help ask the questions if necessary).
It’s ok to ask your lawyer questions: they are there to help you.
At Right to Remain, we find that people often get in touch with important questions and then mention that they have a lawyer, but they haven’t asked their lawyer these questions.
For example, if you have a question about going to report or missing a reporting event at the Home Office, speak to your lawyer. You shouldn’t miss reporting events unless you have to, and you must provide evidence of why you will miss/did miss the reporting. If you know in advance you will be missing your next reporting, your lawyer can let the Reporting Centre know and give you reasons/evidence.
If it is difficult to speak to your lawyer on the phone, then an easier way to speak to them might be to arrange an appointment.
Alternatively, you can send a letter or email. Often lawyers will find it easier to reply to emails than phone calls.
If you do not want to speak to your lawyer, because you are feeling too stressed, upset, or another reason, you can ask a friend/supporter to speak to them for you but they must provide written and signed consent to do this.
At times, a busy lawyer may find it easier to quickly speak to or reply by email to a friend/supporter who has knowledge of the legal system, but they should explain to you directly when there is important information or questions they need answering.
- You should always have a copy of your documents, and anything your lawyer has submitted to the Home Office. Keep all your paperwork together in one organised file.
- You should always know the last action your lawyer took: what they did, when, and when they expect a response.
- Your lawyer should speak to you before and after each stage in the process of applying for leave to remain (e.g. your Home Office interviews, the decisions on your case).
- Make sure your lawyer knows your contact details. If you change address or phone number, let your lawyer know as soon as possible.
- Contact your lawyer any time you receive a letter from the Home Office or from the Courts and Tribunals service.
- Contact your lawyer prior to any appointments with the Home Office (other than routine reporting/signing events).
People commonly say that they have had a certain lawyer for a long time and nothing is being done on their case. Find out why. Is your lawyer waiting for you to gather evidence? Has your lawyer done all they can and they are now waiting for a response from the Home Office? Has your lawyer actually said they can’t do anything further on your case? This is a common problem with fresh claims: you might approach a lawyer to help you with this, but they will need evidence to submit before they can do it. You may think they are working on the fresh claim, but they are very unlikely to be doing anything on the fresh claim if you have not provided them with new evidence.
It’s vital to know whether or not you have a current application with the Home Office. If you have no leave to remain and no outstanding applications, you are at high risk of detention and removal/deportation.
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