Letters of Support: Do’s and Don’ts

Legal Updates

A letter of support is like a recommendation letter that can be drafted by a friend, supporter, or organisation to back up the story of someone who is making an asylum claim or an immigration application.

It can be submitted to the Home Office or court as a piece of evidence in the person’s case, so it is important that the contents of the letter are relevant to and supportive of their case. 

The Home Office says that evidence should “be from an official or impartial source”, so it can be difficult to know what sort of information to put into a letter of support, and how to present it. 

This guide lays out helpful drafting tips provided by immigration lawyers in our community.   

Purpose

At the outset, it is important to know exactly what your friend or the person who has requested the letter is asking you to corroborate (this means to confirm or give support to). Are you sure that you are the right person to back up the point they are trying to make in their application? 

If they have a lawyer, you can speak with them to confirm what sort of information would make for a strong letter of support. Whether or not they have a lawyer, it might be a good idea to think of the following questions to help you figure out the purpose of the letter of support –

  • Is it to support the basis of a claim for asylum (e.g., persecution on the basis of an element of their identity)? 
  • Is it to support the fact that they have a certain medical condition or disability? 
  • Is it to support the fact that they attended a certain course / educational training during a certain time? 
  • Is it to support the fact that they lived at a certain address for a certain period of time?
  • Is it to support the fact that they are an active member of your community or group in the UK (for their private or family life application)? 

Make sure that both they and you are sure of the purpose that your letter should serve – and that it would benefit, not weaken the application – before you begin drafting. 

If the person who has requested the letter has given you consent (this means permission) to access some of the relevant papers in their case – like a Home Office decision letter, interview records, or appeal transcripts – this could be useful in helping you to draft a letter of support. Reading this information can help you to understand things like why their case might have been refused by the Home Office before. 

How to draft a letter of support 

We asked the lawyers in our community about how best to draft a letter of support. Here are some general tips that can serve as a guide to you before you start writing. 

Do’s

Letterhead: If possible, use paper or a document with a letterhead (perhaps with your organisation’s logo). Always date the letter, and make sure to sign it – this is very important. 

Who are you addressing? Make sure you know who the letter is going to address. If it is to the Home Office, address it to the Home Office (Secretary of State for the Home Department). If it is to the court, address it to the court. 

Who are you? Explain who you are, the nature of your relationship with the person who has requested the letter, and why this is relevant to their application or case (purpose of the letter). Set out your relationship with the person: how you know them, how long you have known them, the frequency of your contact with each other, etc. 

Paragraphs: Number your paragraphs – this will help lawyers to reference the points you make in their submissions, and it will also help the judge to navigate the evidence in court too. 

Stay focused: Only write about the parts of your relationship that are specific, and that will bolster their application or case. 

Chronology and structure: Always write in chronological order, starting from when you met the person until the present date. 

Attach relevant documents: If possible, attach proof of your identification. If the person is a member of your charity or organisation and they have a certificate of membership, it might be a good idea to attach that to bolster your letter, too. 

Attendance notes: If you are a member of a charity that is supporting the person, you can refer to attendance notes to share exact dates and details of certain events in the letter. 

Certify translation: If the letter of support or any documents you attach are in a different language, you must have them translated by a certified translator. The translator must sign the translation and certify that it is accurate to the best of their knowledge. 

We also asked about things you should avoid when drafting a letter of support.

Don’ts

Do not write like an expert: Be aware of the limits of your expertise. For example, if your letter is about someone’s mental health, and you are not a mental health professional, you can describe how someone is presenting – things they’ve said, how they’ve behaved – but try not to diagnose them as having “depression”, “anxiety” or being “traumatised”.

Bias: Avoid biassed language, for example by stating that you think that the behaviour of the Home Office has been “unfair” or “unjust”. Try to sound neutral – remember, the Home Office is looking for impartial and objective evidence.

Unnecessary information: You need not summarise the facts of the case – this will be done elsewhere. 

Thinking about boundaries 

Some organisations are approached by many people who request letters of support for their applications or cases. 

It is important to consider what they are specifically asking you to write about (purpose of the letter), and whether you (as an individual or an organisation) have really developed a strong enough relationship with them for that purpose. It is best that the person has a genuine relationship with you or the organisation / community that you are a part of before they request a letter of support from you. It can be difficult to write a letter of support (which will later be used as a piece of legal evidence) for someone that you do not know well enough. 

Some organisations have implemented boundaries to make sure that all the letters of support they provide are genuine and of a good quality. For example:

  • Someone needs to have been an active member of their organisation for a certain period of time before they request a letter. 
  • Someone needs to contribute to certain activities / responsibilities at the organisation to demonstrate a certain level of commitment before they request a letter. 
  • Only certain (more senior) members of the organisation can draft letters of support.
  • Some organisations expect the person to continue to be an active member of the organisation (e.g., religious group) after the letter has been drafted and submitted, so that they can prove to the Home Office that the relationship is genuine. 

Remember, if the person who has requested a letter is legally represented, it is better to consult with their lawyer to ensure the purpose of the letter. If they do not have a lawyer, it is a good idea to sit down together to make sure you are both clear about what the letter should address and how this would be helpful.  

We hope that this blog post will be helpful to you in drafting a letter of support – or thinking about asking someone to draft a letter in support of your own application. 

If you would like to share your tips for or experience of writing letters of support with us, feel free to get in touch at contact@righttoremain.org.uk.

10 comments on “Letters of Support: Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Rania A on

    Hello what is the homeoffice address I am suppose to send to when I am registering a new baby at the homeoffice and ask for a Limited leave to be for the born child

    Reply
    • RtR on

      Hello Gnaani, according to the lawyers we consulted, it is best practice to specifically address who the letter is going to instead of using a more general address.

      Reply
  2. Behrouz Babadoust on

    on 21st August 2023

    Hi there, me and my wife have submitted our case to the Home Office, it is for eight months. We need a solicitor to have our case pursued.
    I profoundly appreciate your help as I am struggling with my cancer diagnosis as well.

    Reply
    • RtR on

      Hello Behrouz, thank you for your message. I am so sorry to hear of your diagnosis, and I wish you a speedy and full recovery.

      At Right to Remain, we are not lawyers. We provide resources about the asylum system to help people progress through it whether or not they have a solicitor. You can access those resources through our Toolkit which is a step by step guide to each stage of the asylum process. You can access it here: https://righttoremain.org.uk/toolkit/

      You can keep updated on changes to the law and policy by signing up to our newsletter here: https://righttoremain.org.uk/newsletter/

      Best of luck to you and your wife.

      Reply
  3. Emma Oliver on

    I am a practice nurse, and have patients that are a married couple who have chronic health needs. They are being moved out of their hotel accomodation and would benefit from being near supportive family and or friends (either near London or Bristol). Can I write a letter that will help them? They do not know where they will be sent, just that it’s in 2 weeks’ time.
    If so does anyone have a template letter I could use as a start?
    They want this to keep with them to present when asked to get on a bus.

    Reply
    • RtR on

      Hello Emma, yes you could write a letter of support using the guidelines in this blog. Unfortunately we do not have a template, but your qualification and expert opinion as a practice nurse would certainly be helpful for them or future patients.

      In solidarity,
      Right to Remain

      Reply
  4. pink on

    Good work Right to remain.. Thank you for all the important information.
    But it really seems impossible to get a legal aid lawyer in UK. Do you have some statistics on success rate of asylum cases without a lawyer. A fellow asylum seekers got refuge status recently without a lawyer so I am planning to do the same.

    Reply
    • RtR on

      Hello Pink, thank you for your message and kind words!

      Unfortunately we don’t have access to any statistics on success rates. However, we know for a fact that many people have navigated through the system successfully without a lawyer – it is possible, even though it takes a lot of work from your end. Do make sure to consult our Toolkit for help, and to form a community around you to support you through it!

      Reply

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