If your asylum claim is denied by the Home Office, you should speak to your lawyer as soon as possible. We use the word lawyer to mean the person representing you in your legal case – you may use another word, like “solicitor”.
Your lawyer (or you, if you do not have a lawyer) needs to look carefully at the Home Office decision. Read more about this below.
You may be able to make a formal legal challenge of the Home Office refusal. This is called an appeal. Read more about this below.
If you are going to challenge the Home Office refusal, you will need evidence to support your claim. You can find out more about this on this page. The information about evidence will also be useful for other stages of the legal process – for example, if you are making a fresh claim.
If you have a legal aid lawyer, they will have to assess whether they can continue to represent you. This is called a “merits test” and they can only continue with your case if they can argue you have at least a 50% chance of succeeding on appeal. Read more on our legal aid page.
If you are receiving asylum support (financial support and/or accommodation) you will continue to receive this after a Home Office refusal, if you have a right to appeal the refusal (see below). This support will stop when you are “appeal rights exhausted”. Read more on our asylum support page, and our appeal rights exhausted page.
Read this page for information about what happens after your claim has been refused, and what you can do. It is useful to read this information and prepare while you are still waiting for a Home Office decision, as there are many delays and you may be waiting a long time.
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Look at the Home Office decision
If you want to challenge the Home Office refusal of your claim, you need to look closely at their decision letter. If you have a lawyer, they should do this with you. Read the Action Section in the yellow box below.
Think about how you could challenge this refusal. You are likely to need to get evidence to succeed in this challenge. Read the sections on evidence below.
If your lawyer thinks the Home Office decision is very bad and major errors have been made, they may contact the Home Office to ask them to reconsider their decision. This is only likely to succeed in a very strong case.
In most cases, you will need to make a formal challenge of the refusal. Read below to see if you will have the right to appeal, and how to do this.
- If you receive a refusal on your case from the Home Office by post, keep the envelope. You may need to prove when it was posted, and the actual day you received it. Write the date you received it next to the postmark.
- Go through every paragraph of the refusal letter and write comments. Are there mistakes such as dates or places in your story? Can you identify how these errors have occurred? For example, is the error also recorded in the written transcript of your asylum interview? If it is, you may also need to check the audio recording of your interview. Was it a mistake in interpretation?
- Look at your other documents to identify when the error has occurred. These might include the record of an asylum screening interview, asylum interview, or any statements/evidence submitted to the Home Office. An asylum Reasons for Refusal Letter (RFRL) may reference the different documents with abbreviations: Screening Interview (SCI), Asylum Interview Record (AIR), Witness Statement (WS).
- Are you missing any of the documents that are referred to? If you do not have one or more of these documents, you can either ask the lawyer that was handling your case at that stage (if you had one), or you can request that the Home Office send you a copy of your file. This is called a subject access request and you should receive a response within one month, although it will take longer if you do not provide the Home Office with the information they need to establish your identity.
You can read more about subject access requests on the Home Office website. Some requests are being refused because the 2018 Data Protection Act gives the Home Office the power to refuse to share personal information under an “immigration exemption”. At the time of writing, some people are still succeeding in obtaining their files.
- Have all areas of your claim been considered? If you are claiming asylum, has it been considered under the correct Refugee Convention grounds? If you are applying under human rights grounds as well as claiming asylum, have these been considered properly in the decision letter? For example, if you have claimed asylum and applied to stay under Article 8 (family and private life), has your Article 8 case been considered in the decision?
- You can write a statement about the things you think are wrong with the refusal letter. You can get a friend/supporter to help with this if you find writing in English difficult. If you have a lawyer, they should write and submit this statement for you. You should submit this statement to the Home Office and, if you have the right of appeal, to the court in advance of your appeal hearing.
- What evidence can you find to support your statement? This might be evidence specific to your case, country of origin information, expert evidence. See below for more information.
- Have there been problems because you couldn’t remember something clearly, especially if the event was traumatic? You can find useful resources about memory recall and traumatic events on the Centre for the Study of Emotion and Law website.
Appealing a Home Office refusal
There is currently only the right of appeal within the UK if the Home Office refuse an application based on:
- a human rights claim
- an international protection claim
- a decision to revoke Refugee Status or Humanitarian Protection, or
- a decision on an EU Settled Status application made after 31 January 2020.
Not all applications based on human rights or international protection have a right of appeal. Read more on the Appeals page of this guide.
For example, you do not have the right of appeal in the UK if your asylum or human rights claim is certified by the Home Office because they think it is “clearly unfounded”.
If you are making a human rights claim when you are subject to deportation after a criminal sentence, the Home Office may certify the claim unless you can show that “serious and irreversible harm” would occur if you had to appeal outside of the UK. The Home Office is less likely to certify your claim if your child is a British citizen. Read more on the Deportation page of this guide.
If your claim is certified, you may able to appeal the negative decision on your application from outside of the UK. It may also be possible to challenge the certification of your claim through a judicial review. Read more on the Judicial Reviews page of this guide.
Getting evidence for your appeal
If you have a lawyer, they should gather evidence for your appeal. This is likely to include general evidence about your country of origin. This may also include evidence specific to you.
If you do not have a lawyer, you will need to look for this evidence yourself.
The information about evidence below is also useful for other stages of the legal process, such as if you are making a fresh claim. Read more on the Fresh Claims page of this guide.
If you are appealing on the basis of your human rights – your right to family and private life – you should also read the Evidence page of this guide.
Country guidance information
Country guidance information (including that used by the Home Office) may be helpful for your case if what you said happened or could happen is supported by general evidence about your country. If information about your country suggests you would be safe, you will need to either show that that information is incorrect/out of date, or that your specific situation does not fit the general pattern.
When making a decision on your claim, the Home Office will refer to their internal country guidance notes. The Home Office guidance for your home country may be flawed – it may be out of date, or not reflect the concerns of human rights organisations. You can find the Home Office’s country documents here.
The Home Office guidance, and your Reasons for Refusal Letter, will refer to country guidance cases. These are asylum appeals chosen by the immigration tribunal to give legal guidance for a particular country, or a particular group of people in a particular country. The decisions in these cases are assumed to be based on the best possible evidence about that country at that time. Until there are significant changes in that country, a country guidance decision sets out the law for other people seeking asylum from that country. You can find the latest country guidance decisions here.
These cases can be quite old and may not reflect a current or changing situation. Your individual situation might be different from the circumstances explored in the country guidance case. Or the Home Office refusal letter may only refer to cases or paragraphs that support their decisions. Other cases or decisions might contradict that.
Expert evidence may be obtained by your lawyer if your case goes to appeal, but it is something you or a supporter can think about as well. Evidence could come from an academic, university researcher, or experienced professional who is an expert on your country of origin, or a particular aspect of your case. They can be asked to look at your testimony and comment on whether it fits with what they know about the subject. They could also be asked to comment on why your case might not fit the general pattern.
Note: you are not asking the expert to say whether or not you are telling the truth. You are asking them to use their knowledge to comment on how your story fits into known information on that topic.
Usually, a lawyer will “instruct” an expert, and pay them a fee. This fee will normally be covered by legal aid, if you case is eligible for this.
If you do not have a lawyer, you could try contacting experts yourself. If a supporter or local group has connections to an NGO or a university, they may be able to find an expert who is willing to do this for free.
If the expert cannot produce an export report for free, a reasonable price might be £300-£400. Remember this amount is just for producing the report.
An expert may not be required to attend the appeal, especially if they have simply verified they think a document is genuine, but you should check that the expert would be willing to appear in court just in case. If you are paying the expert yourself, they may ask for more money if they are required to come to court.
If the expert asks to be paid, your friends/community could consider fundraising for this. You need to decide if this is a good use of funds – is there a crucial element of your case that the Home Office doesn’t believe, that an expert report could realistically help with?
An expert may be useful in other aspects of a case too. If there are reasons why you can’t give testimony easily, because of memory or psychological problems, they can comment on this. If there have been problems understanding things, an expert could comment on language problems or learning difficulties.
If your case includes a claim to a family or private life in the UK, a teacher, psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker may be able to comment on the impact the removal/deportation of you or your child might have on their development.
You may find it useful to look at the ‘Best Practice Guide to Asylum and Human Rights Appeals‘ section on expert evidence. This is a guide written by lawyers for lawyers, but you may find parts of it helpful or be able to ask someone with legal knowledge to help you go through and read what an “expert” in this context is, and what they can and can’t say.
When challenging a Home Office refusal of your asylum or human rights claim, specially if you are appealing the decision, you may need objective evidence.
Objective evidence may be general information about the situation in your country, from reliable sources such as human rights organisations or trusted media sources. It could also include an expert statement on your country or situation (see above).
Objective evidence is especially important if your credibility has been questioned by the Home Office, because the evidence isn’t based on what you say happened or could happen.
The evidence needs to be relevant to your asylum claim and either cover the time period when your previous persecution occurred, or be recent evidence if you are talking about a future fear of persecution.
Objective evidence in this section refers to sources that aren’t connected to you. Generally, good places to find this evidence are through human rights organisations or reputable media sources.
Good places to look for information on human rights in a country of origin:
For more suggestions of where to look for evidence, see the country information page on the Right to Remain website, where sources are also listed thematically.
All the sources listed above are all considered to be reliable sources of information, which have a good reputation for being accurate, and the media sources listed are ones that have good world news sections and are interested in human rights. If you are getting evidence from other sources, think about who has written the report or article. If it’s a group that is in opposition to a government, the Home Office and the courts might not consider it to be objective/good evidence.
What you can do after being refused by the Home Office
- Think about what might happen next, and make a plan of action. After a refusal, you need to think about what your options are and what might come next. If your asylum or human rights claim has been refused, use the diagram above to see what the process involves after this point.
Read the section on appeal rights, above. Prepare yourself for the appeal if you have the right to appeal the decision. If you don’t have the right to appeal the decision, read our pages on judicial reviews and fresh claims.
If your lawyer says they can no longer work on your case, you can look for a new lawyer and think about how to explain your case is strong. Read more on our information about lawyers page.
If there are weaknesses in your case (where the Home Office say they do not believe you) can you get evidence to support your story? Read the Evidence sections above. You could use this to convince a new lawyer to take on your case, or to appeal the refusal if you have to continue without a lawyer.
- Stay strong, and look after yourself. Going through the asylum system is very difficult and stressful. Sometimes it can be hard to think about anything else. But constant worry about your case can leave you feeling emotionally exhausted, and less able to cope with the process.
Everyone has a different way of coping – think about what works for you. While your immigration status is of course very important, it’s also important to try and give yourself a break from thinking about it. Think about activities that can distract you or help you relax for at least a short period every day, which can help your mind and body recover a little.
Talk to people you trust. You may be very upset or even feel ashamed if your application/claim is refused, but don’t hide it from people. You’re going to need people to help you – don’t be afraid to ask for their solidarity.
Don’t leave it till it’s too late for them to do anything.
- You may wish to go and speak to your MP about your refusal, especially if you don’t have the right to appeal. Think about how to explain what has happened clearly and calmly. What has gone wrong? Why is the decision unjust? What do you want your MP to do about it? Read more here.