Preliminary information questionnaires

Legal Updates

preliminary questionnaire

The Home Office have begun issuing “preliminary information questionnaires” to some people who have recently claimed asylum – though it would seem not to everybody in that situation, yet.

We have heard about people receiving them across the UK, including in Belfast, Manchester, Sheffield, Southampton and Portsmouth.

You can download a blank copy of the questionnaire here to see what questions you or someone you are supporting will be asked. Note – this form was available publicly in January 2019. Any changes to the form made by the Home Office after that will not be shown in this form.

People are being given these forms by the Home Office after they have claimed asylum and had their screening interview (read more about the screening interview in the Right to Remain toolkit here) but before they have their main substantive asylum interview (read more about that here).

The Home Office have said they have introduced the form “to help us to consider your case and ensure that the decision maker dealing with your claim is fully aware of the reasons why you are claiming asylum”.

The person interviewing you in your substantive interview will have more information about your claim from the questionnaire, and may have done further research about your country of origin and the basis of your claim.

What’s changed?

Before the introduction of this questionnaire (and since they stopped requiring people to fill out a Statement of Evidence form), the Home Office would often only have the information you provided in your screening interview on which to base their questions in your substantive interview.

Some people submit a statement to the Home Office prior to their substantive asylum interview, but there has long been mixed opinion as to whether this is helpful or not for the person claiming asylum. Some lawyers feel that this gave an opportunity for the Home Office to “test” you on what you said in your statement, without you being able to refer to it in the interview. They could then use any discrepancies to say you are not credible and refuse your asylum claim.

In some cases, however, people have found it useful to submit a statement in advance so they do not have to vocalise or go into detail about a traumatic incident in their past – the Home Office could refer to the statement in their decision-making, rather than having to ask you lots of questions about the incident, during the interview.

Now, people will be required to fill out an 18 page questionnaire.

The form states that the information is “about the reasons why you need protection in the UK” but in fact covers a wide range of information, which the Home Office says in the form “can be shared with other UK government departments or agencies, local authorities” and also “with other countries, which may be responsible for considering you claim”. The form does state that the information provided will not be disclosed to the authorities of your own country.

It is compulsory to fill out the form and return it to the Home Office – if you do not, by the date requested, the Home Office may treat your asylum claim as withdrawn.

Questions in the form

The form asks initially for basic details such as your Home Office reference, your name, date and place of birth, nationality and contact details.

You are then asked to specify what your asylum claim is based on: political opinion; religion; race; nationality; or particular social group. You can read more about these in our Toolkit here.

The form then asks you (without specifying a length of answer) to explain why you fear returning to your home country; what made you decide to leave; any events that relate to your asylum claim or fear of a specific person, organisation or group; if anything happened to you en route to the UK; how you travelled to the UK; anything that has happened in the UK that has made you afraid to return home; what you believe will happen to you if you return; and information about your family members in your country or another country.

You are asked to list all of the places you have lived in the past 5 years, and how long for; what level of education you studied to; any places you have worked in the last 5 years and your roles; and the immigration status of any family members living in the UK. You are then asked to list the National Insurance numbers for you and any dependents, if you have previously been given permission to work.

The next section is about medical conditions, treatment, medication or other support you are receiving from a doctor/clinician (including mental health care); and any other information about your personal circumstances you think is relevant.

There is then a lengthy section on family members.

There are a couple of questions about whether you want to be interviewed in your substantive interview by a man or a woman; and if you need an interpreter for the interview. Finally, there is an opportunity to explain any documents you wish to submit in support of your claim – it is very important to check with your lawyer whether or not it is a good idea to submit documents to the Home Office at this point.

You can download a blank copy of the questionnaire here to see what questions you or someone you are supporting will be asked. Note – this form was available publicly in January 2019. Any changes to the form made by the Home Office after that will not be shown in this form.

What might be the impact of this form?

The questionnaire form asks for important information that the Home Office will use – combined with what you said in your screening interview, what you say in your substantive interview, any statements and documents you submit, and information they have about your country – to make a decision on your asylum claim.

It is therefore really important to ask a lawyer to help you complete the form. However, if you do not have a lawyer, the Home Office will still expect you to complete and return the form yourself.

The form is long, and is an additional requirement for legal aid lawyers who are already overstretched in the time they have to spend on each asylum case. This could lead to errors being made, which could have a negative impact on your case. Make sure you check what has been written in the form and keep a copy yourself.

We have heard that because of the difficulties in getting an appointment with busy lawyers before the deadline for returning the form, some lawyers are applying for an extension of the deadline.

If you do not complete the form and return it to the Home Office in time, your asylum claim may be withdrawn. If your asylum claim is withdrawn, you are at risk of being removed from the UK. There is no right to appeal a decision to withdraw an asylum claim, and if you wanted to make another claim, it would be treated as further submissions (to be considered as a “fresh claim”. Read more about that in the Toolkit here).

Read more on withdrawal of asylum claims in the Home Office guidance here.

We are already hearing about this form causing problems for people, and would like to hear from you if you have any positive or negative experiences of it. You can either comment below, or post in the Right to Remain Toolkit group on Facebook.



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