A new law called The Illegal Migration Act 2023 has recently come into force. The Act has brought about significant changes to the UK asylum and immigration system for people who arrive in the UK on or after 20 July 2023. We are in the process of updating the Toolkit to reflect these developments. For now, please be aware that some of the information in the Toolkit may be out-of-date for people who arrived in the UK after that date. To stay up to date with any changes to the Toolkit, please sign up to our newsletter here.

Last updated: 26 October 2023

On 23 February 2023, the Home Office introduced a new ‘Streamlined Asylum Processing’ policy, where some people seeking asylum will have to complete a questionnaire (this means a form) instead of having an asylum interview. 

The form is meant to be sent to people who are from countries that have a high acceptance rate (this means that most people from these countries are granted status), so that the asylum backlog is cleared more quickly. The asylum backlog is the very large number of asylum cases that remain undecided by the Home Office.

There is a process for adults, and there is a process for children – they are different. Keep reading this page to learn about the differences between both processes.

On this page, you will find the following information: 

What is the Streamlined Asylum Process?

On 23 February 2023, the Home Office introduced a new ‘Streamlined Asylum Processing’ policy, where some people seeking asylum will have to complete a questionnaire (this means a form) instead of having an asylum interview. 

The form is meant to be sent to people who are from countries that have a high acceptance rate (this means that most people from these countries are granted status), so that the asylum backlog is cleared more quickly. The asylum backlog is the very large number of asylum cases that remain undecided by the Home Office. You can read more about the backlog here

Not everyone in the asylum system goes through the Streamlined Asylum Process. Some people will receive questionnaires, and some people will continue on with two asylum interviews (the Screening Interview, and the Substantive ‘big’ Interview). You can read more about who has the option of the questionnaire in the section below. 

There is a process for adults, and there is a process for children – they are different. Keep reading this page to learn about the differences between both processes. 

Some people receive a decision on their asylum claim very quickly after they have submitted their questionnaire, some people are invited to a short interview to clarify the answers they provided in the questionnaire before they receive a decision, and some people are still waiting for a decision. Everyone’s experience is different. 

The adult process – who does it apply to? 

This policy applies to: 

  • Adults from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Libya, Syria and Yemen who are over the age of 18 claimed asylum before 28 June 2022 and who have not had an asylum substantive (big) interview
  • Adults from Iraq and Iran who are over the age of 18 and who claimed asylum before 28 June 2022. You can find out more here
  • Adults from Sudan who are over the age of 18 and claimed asylum on or after 28 June 2022
  • People from any of the above listed countries who claimed asylum from 28 June 2022 until 7 March 2023

The policy is constantly being expanded, and we will do our best to keep this page updated. You can read our Toolkit page to check if you have already had your big interview. 

What we know about the policy and questionnaire so far comes from this Home Office guidance document. The document explains the policy to Home Office caseworkers. 

The Migration Justice Project at Law Centre NI have published a very useful and simply presented document answering the key questions we all have about the questionnaire, such as deadlines, what happens after a questionnaire is submitted, and whether you need a lawyer to complete the questionnaire. 

Important points 

On 1 March 2023, the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA) wrote a Joint Letter to the Immigration Minister, Robert Jenrick, asking for further detail on and making recommendations for a number of issues surrounding the Streamlined Asylum Process and accompanying questionnaire. You can read more about the Joint Letter by clicking here.

On 2 May 2023, the Minister sent a response to their letter. Some of the points he clarified about the Streamlined Asylum Process include:

Language: There does not appear to be any progress in having the questionnaire translated into a language other than English. The Minister argues that all Home Office communications are carried out in English so that staff can understand.

Families with children: If a person has children as dependents on their claim and they received a questionnaire, only the main claimant adult will have to fill out one questionnaire for themselves and their dependents. The streamlined asylum processing questionnaire for families in this situation is to be applied with the Family Asylum Claims Policy.  

Legal representatives: The Minister wrote that the majority of those who were sent the questionnaire have a legal representative, according to Home Office records. The Minister re-states that there is no need for legal advice or representation to be able to fill out the questionnaire, and that if a person who receives the questionnaire cannot complete it because they do not speak or write English, this will be considered by the Home Office.

Up to date contact details: The Minister urges people to make sure their contact details as recorded by the Home Office are up to date.

Credibility: The Minister says that the Home Office staff will make a distinction between minor errors in translation (for people who fill out the form and do not write English natively) and core discrepancies (this means big differences) between someone’s questionnaire and the evidence they submit. Core discrepancies will impact upon someone’s credibility (this means whether the Home Office believes them), but minor errors or differences will not.

Interviews: The letter says that if someone’s completed questionnaire does not provide enough information for the Home Office to grant them refugee status, they will be invited for an interview much like the Asylum Substantive Interview. Importantly, this means that even if you send in an incomplete questionnaire, you will never be immediately refused. You will always be invited to an interview to clarify and add to the answers you have provided in the form. 

What to do if you or a friend receive a questionnaire

We know that many people who receive(d) the questionnaire do not have a lawyer – and this can be frightening. 

However, just because you do not have a lawyer, this does not mean that you cannot fill out the questionnaire and progress through the Streamlined Asylum Process. 

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE 

For people who receive the questionnaire, Refugee Action have published a helpful page to the Streamlined Asylum Processing questionnaire. The page includes:

  • Answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the questionnaire available in English, Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Dari, Farsi, Kurdish Karmanji, Kurdish Sorani, and Tigrinya.
  • Resources for volunteers working with people seeking asylum
  • A template letter to request an extension of the deadline from the Home Office.
  • Translations of the questionnaire (for which Refugee Action cannot guarantee accuracy). You cannot submit this translation of the questionnaire to the Home Office, but you can use it to help you understand the questions you are answering.

For people supporting those who receive the questionnaire, Refugee Action have also published some helpful resources, including: 

  • A template letter to provide evidence of local legal aid capacity which can be attached to the extension request.
  • Guidance for what non-profit caseworkers can or cannot do to help someone who has received an asylum questionnaire.

What to do if you are entitled to a questionnaire but have not received one

We know that many people who ‘qualify’ to receive the questionnaire have yet to receive it. If you are from one of the countries whose nationals should receive the questionnaire (and claimed asylum or arrived in the UK within the relevant time), and you have not received the questionnaire, you can email to request it from the Home Office on this email address: asylumcentralcommunicationshub@homeoffice.gov.uk.

It is better to send it from your own email address. In your email you should include your full name, date of birth, and your Home Office reference number or Port Reference number.

Legal advice and legal support

A key issue is whether or not you need a lawyer or immigration advisor to help you fill out the questionnaire. 

There has been a lot of confusion, because the Home Office states in the form that “a friend who does understand English can also assist you to explain why you are claiming asylum, but they must not provide you with immigration advice”. 

However, the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (sometimes called ‘OISC’), which is the UK regulator for immigration advisors released a statement to say that: 

While only regulated legal advisers working at Level 2 & above can provide asylum advice to claimants completing the Asylum Claim Questionnaire, you can offer unregulated assistance relating to language issues and technicalities of completing/submitting the forms.

You can read the full statement on OISC’s position here.  

While someone who is not a lawyer is technically allowed to help with certain parts of filling out the form, this cannot cross over into providing legal advice. This is a tricky balance to strike. If someone who is not qualified to provide legal advice does so anyway, they could face criminal charges. 

At Right to Remain, much of our work is focused upon empowering people to provide legal support, even if they are not legal advisers. This includes providing emotional, moral, and practical support to people who are in the legal system, without providing advice. 

To learn more about the difference between providing legal support and legal advice, you can read our Toolkit page about Legal Support.

The Refugee Action guidance for what non-profit caseworkers can or cannot do to help someone who has received an asylum questionnaire is also useful. 

Withdrawal of asylum claims 

On 1 March 2023, the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA) wrote a Joint Letter to the Immigration Minister, Robert Jenrick, asking for further detail on and making recommendations for a number of issues surrounding the Streamlined Asylum Process and accompanying questionnaire. You can read more about the Joint Letter here.

On 2 May 2023, the Minister sent a response to their letter, and clarified some points about the withdrawal of asylum claims:

If you do not respond to the questionnaire through no fault of your own, the Home Office will take into consideration your personal circumstances and will not withdraw your asylum claim. Any explanations for non-return will be considered, and asylum claims will not be withdrawn if there is a reasonable explanation.

If you have not received the questionnaire for reasons beyond your control (if it was sent to the wrong address), it will not be held against you.

Your asylum claim will be withdrawn if you explicitly tell the Home Office that you no longer wish to pursue your claim, or if you do not comply or avoid communicating with the Home Office. 

If your claim has been withdrawn and you want to engage with the Home Office at a later date, you can submit Further Submissions (see the full letter here for details).

You can learn more about Fresh Claims and further submissions in our Toolkit page below. 

The children’s process – who does it apply to?

In an attempt to clear the asylum backlog, the Home Office introduced the ‘Streamlined Asylum Process for Children’ in March 2023. 

This was originally a process to fast-track children’s asylum claims made before 28 June 2022. On 13 July 2023, it was extended to include claims made from 28 June 2022 to 6 March 2023.

The process is only open to children with initial asylum claims from the following nationalities: Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Syria and Vietnam. These are the top 5 grant nationalities for children – this means that children from all 5 countries are usually granted asylum 95% of the time. 

It is very important to note that these nationalities are different from those in the adult process. 

The Children’s Streamlined Asylum Process applies to children from the 5 listed countries who have turned 18 whilst waiting for an asylum decision. If a child turns 18 while waiting for an asylum decision, they will still be part of the children’s streamlining process, and should not be sent an adult streamlining questionnaire.

The Streamlined Asylum Process for children applies to children who are accompanied by adults, and those who are unaccompanied (this means in the UK without a parent or guardian). 

For children outside of these 5 nationalities, their claims will continue to be decided the normal way. You can read our Young Asylum Guide to learn more about the stages of the traditional asylum process for unaccompanied children here

Preliminary Information Meeting

The Streamlined Asylum Process for children introduces a ‘Preliminary Information Meeting’, which is a meeting to assess whether asylum can be granted without the need for an interview. 

This can take place at any point after the child has their welfare interview. It is not necessary for the statement of evidence form to have been submitted.

What happens at the Preliminary Information Meeting?

The Preliminary Information Meeting is between the child and the Home Office decision maker. A responsible adult (such as a social worker or guardian, or a family member) will also need to be present. 

The Home Office should provide an interpreter if needed. If the child would feel more comfortable with an interpreter of a specific gender, they can request this. Home Office guidance states that ‘efforts to attempt to accommodate this request should be made’.

According to Home Office guidance, a legal representative is permitted to attend, but their presence is not required and the Home Office will not necessarily delay the Preliminary Information Meeting to ensure that a legal representative attends.

If there is no legal representative present at the meeting, the responsible adult present should take notes. The notes should mention any issues with the interpreter or the interviewer, or any of the questions which are asked. 

The meeting lasts approximately 1 and a half hours. 

It is likely to cover: 

  • Information about the child’s identity and nationality and family
  • Information about the child’s journey to the UK
  • Brief information about the child’s reason for claiming asylum
  • Information about evidence submitted as part of the claim. 
  • Information about welfare and safeguarding

According to the guidance, no credibility issues should be raised (this does not mean that the interviewer will be inclined to believe the child, however). 

The meeting will not be audio recorded. However, applicants will be given a copy of the written transcript afterwards. 

During the meeting, the responsible adult present should advocate for the child’s welfare, and ensure that they ask for a short break if needed. 

What happens after the Preliminary Information Meeting?

No negative decision can be made after a Preliminary Information Meeting.

If the decision maker is satisfied that the elements of the asylum claim have been established, the child will be granted asylum without the need for a substantive interview. 

If the decision maker thinks a positive decision cannot be made after the meeting, the young person will later be asked to attend a substantive interview. 

If this happens, the young person will have to submit a Statement of Evidence form (if they haven’t already) and attend a substantive interview