What is causing the huge Home Office delay in processing asylum claims?

Legal Updates

Many people in our community tell us both in person and online that they have been experiencing very long delays from the Home Office in moving forward with their asylum application.

We know that waiting a long time for a Home Office decision can be a very stressful and exhausting experience.

In this blog post, we try to explain: 

When are people facing delays?

This can happen at different stages of the asylum process. 

For example, many people are waiting many months or even years to be invited for a substantive (big) interview by the Home Office. Others are waiting a long time after their substantive interview has happened to receive a Home Office decision on their asylum claim, and some people who received a refusal of their initial asylum application are then waiting a very long time for a decision on their fresh claim

The current Home Office website page on asylum decisions is very misleading, because it says that people will usually receive an initial (first) decision on their asylum claim within 6 months. This is now rarely the case. 

This week, the Home Affairs Select Committee (this is a group of Members of Parliament who are responsible for checking the work of the Home Office) revealed that of all the people who arrived in the UK by boat and claimed asylum in 2021, only 4% of claims have been processed by the Home Office. That means that 96% of people who arrived in the UK by boat in 2021 have not yet received a decision from the Home Office on their asylum claims. We are now in the final months of 2022. 

Headlines surrounding these numbers have been misleading, because they state that 85% of asylum applications made by people who arrived in the UK by boat in 2021 have received a positive decision and the grant of refugee status. This number is misleading because it is not 85% of all the people who arrived in the UK by boat and claimed asylum in 2021. It is 85% of those claims which have been processed by the Home Office (which is only 4%).

What is causing the Home Office delays?

A report published by the Refugee Council in July 2021 found that the average waiting time for an initial decision on an asylum case is likely to be between one and three years. It stated that Home Office delays in providing initial decisions on asylum claims were mainly caused by a failure by the Home Office to keep up with the number of decisions that needed to be made.

David Neale, Chief Inspector for borders and immigration, highlighted this failure by the Home Office in a report which was published in May 2022. So, inefficient decision-making and ‘internal failings’ of the Home Office have led to this crisis.

It has been suggested that the delays might have been caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. But an article by Free Movement which summarises what is going on in the UK asylum system says otherwise:  

The backlog of asylum seekers waiting more than six months for a decision to be made on their case has trebled [this means that it has increased 3 times as much] since Priti Patel took over as Home Secretary in 2019. 

While the pandemic might have made the issue harder to remedy, the trend began long before it began… The reason for the growing delays appears to be straightforward: fewer decisions are being made and the number of asylum claims has increased. 

The percentage of cases on which a decision is being made within 6 months has declined drastically since 2014. This is despite an increase in staffing levels

The majority of these asylum seekers will ultimately be recognised as refugees and allowed to remain in the United Kingdom long term.”

Delays and work permission for people seeking asylum

At Right to Remain, we receive many queries every month about getting permission to work while waiting for an asylum decision from the Home Office.

Most people who have claimed asylum in the UK are initially not allowed to work. This can be really difficult because it feels like you cannot move on with your life, and you cannot earn your own money whilst waiting for a delayed decision from the Home Office. 

However, the immigration rules allow for people seeking asylum to request permission to work if you have been waiting for more than 12 months on your asylum claim “through no fault of your own” (for example, a Home Office delay in giving you a decision). This may be 12 months after initially claiming asylum, or 12 months after submitting further submissions to be considered as a fresh claim.

Almost everybody granted permission to work under this policy is only allowed to work in a job on the shortage occupation list. This is a list published by the Home Office that shows jobs that have a shortage (this means not enough) people working in them in the UK. 

For information on contacting the Home Office to request permission to work, read our Legal Update blog on this topic. 

The Migration Justice Project at the Law Centre NI has drafted a guide to help people seeking asylum understand how and whether they can apply for permission to work while their claim is pending. The guide is available in a number of languages: English, Tigrinya, Somali, Farsi, and Arabic.

It includes information about applying for and receiving permission to work, what jobs you can apply for, applying for a National Insurance Number, and what this could all mean for your asylum support entitlement.

Steps you can take if you are facing delays

Waiting a long time for a Home Office decision can be emotionally exhausting and stressful, even if you eventually receive a positive decision and refugee status. 

If you are waiting for your substantive interview, we strongly suggest that you use the time to prepare for the interview because it is an important part of your claim. There’s also lots of things that you, your friends, and community supporters can do so that you are in the best situation possible when you have your interview. We have lots of tips for ways you can prepare for your interview when the day finally comes. 

If you are facing a delay at any point in the asylum process, it can sometimes be useful to get your local Member of Parliament (MP) involved in your asylum, human rights, or immigration case. You can find out who your local MP is by visiting the They Work For You website and typing in your postcode. Contacting your MP can be useful for two main reasons. First, they may be able to contact the Home Office on your behalf to speed up the time it takes for them to give you a decision. 

However, given the number of delays across the country, this might not be possible or successful. So, the second useful thing about contacting your MP about a delay is that it shows them just how many people in their constituency are facing Home Office delays; and this makes it more likely that they will raise the issue in Parliament which will give it more attention. For example, when the Home Affairs Committee was giving evidence last week, one MP was able to mention that someone in their constituency had been waiting for over 2 years for an initial interview. 

To find out more, read our Toolkit page. 

To find out more about delays and steps you might be able to take like complaining to the Home Office or bringing a judicial review, watch our YouTube video on delays

33 comments on “What is causing the huge Home Office delay in processing asylum claims?

    • S Lakhaia on

      Hi, I’ve done my second interview last year in December. I received a letter from home office last month that they are now looking in my application. How long does it take for them to reach a decision

      • RtR on

        Hello S Lakhaia, unfortunately there is no set time for receiving a decision – it is different for everyone. We hope that you will receive a positive decision soon!

  1. Siegfried Breuning on

    As a lead volunteer of Wakefield District City of Sanctuary I am being asked by one of our asylum seekers who regularly attends our English classes to find him a solicitor in the Wakefield / Leeds area. This gentleman happens to be a professional lawyer himself. I have successfully helped people in years past but at present I am not up to date. Can you help in finding us a solicitor locally, if possible?

    • RtR on

      Hello Siegfried, thank you for your query. Unfortunately, it is increasingly difficult to secure Legal Aid representation because of the various backlogs and the fact that most lawyers are at capacity. You can always try the directories mentioned on our ‘Finding a Lawyer’ page, though finding one isn’t guaranteed. Best of luck, and solidarity to your client. https://righttoremain.org.uk/toolkit/lawyers/

  2. Kayode on

    The accommodation is hostel but in a hotel, because some people here that came in with boat has been here for 7-8month, I want to ask if the case is different because I came to uk through aeroplane

  3. Colin Cockshaw on

    Thanks for this informative article, but it does not explain why delays in processing claims occur. Is it incompetence, burocracy, need for better training, deliberate inaction, or….

    • RtR on

      Thanks for your message Colin. As the article outlines, the delays are due to a number of factors. Most of all, they are down to staffing shortages and Home Office organisational failings.

  4. Ammara moman on

    I have been waiting for decision from 9 months and my main interview came after 2 years and 3 months. Now I wrote to my local MP about delay in my decision and home office replied him that they can’t give any time frame to make a decision. And it’s been total 3 years since I have been waiting for my asylum case. What should I do in this regard?

    • RtR on

      Hello Ammara, thank you for your message. I am so sorry to hear of your extremely distressing experience. You have taken all the right active steps so far. Unfortunately, many people are in the same position and have been waiting many months or even a year for a decision on their claim from the Home Office for the reasons listed above. If you have a lawyer representing you, you may want to explore whether issuing a Judicial Review of the Home Office’s delay would be an option in your case. You can learn more about Judicial Review here: https://righttoremain.org.uk/toolkit/jr/

      Best of luck to you.

  5. Arslan Sarmisk on

    I applied for asylum at the airport on a visitor visa. Is there any difference in asylum case processing time between me and those asylum seekers who enter through the English Channel?

  6. Annette Estrella on

    Thankyou for this article . I just emailed my MP. I have applied for asylum 2years now but I haven’t been called for interview. I also applied for work permit but I didn’t get any response. It is really frustrating

  7. John George Killick on

    Hi, Am I correct in saying that due to the huge backlog of asylum claims. The Home Office personnel have been told “not to go too deep in challenging peoples claims”. I though I read this some where but cannot find it at the moment. Regards John

  8. Almujtaba Mohamed on

    Hi I have been in the UK around three years now and I still didn’t receive any invitation for interview from the home office and I did contact the MP of my area but the home office respond was we can’t give you a specifc time but we will invite as soon as we can

    • right-to-remain on

      Hello Almujtaba, thank you for your message. I’m so sorry for the immense delay you’ve faced in receiving an invitation to interview. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do other than wait for an invitation. You can also spend the time preparing for your interview, and use our detailed Toolkit page to guide you: https://righttoremain.org.uk/toolkit/asylumiv

      Best of luck to you.

  9. Julio on

    Hi where from time start about 12 months and apply for work , like it start from final interview or when we screening how I know I able to apply for work , how I know about my 12 months period

  10. Rukh666 on

    Nice explained but just to let you know i believe i am waiting for the longest, i & my partner claimed asylum in feb 2k18, main interview done after 4 years feb 2023 & now its been more than 8 months i am still waiting for a decision. Overall 4 years & 8 months, & still no sign of decision. Idk what the future holds for me.

    • RtR on

      Farrukh, thank you for sharing your story with us.

      We are so sorry that you and your partner are living through this painful limbo. We hope that your future will be full of stability and hope.

      In solidarity, Right to Remain.

  11. Vianney on

    Hello, I did have my big interview in October,my ARC is expiring soon. No communication about a decision or another ARC from the HO even after applying for a replacement.
    Iam in stable work, my employer needs to know whether I can continue working or not whilst waiting for a new ARC or decision which ever comes first.

    • RtR on

      Hi there, sorry for the delay you have experienced.
      You can fill out the ARC enquiry form on the gov.uk website if your ARC card is expiring soon.
      You can ask your employer to use the Employer Checking Service, here
      In solidarity, Right to Remain

  12. Esther IGE on

    My name is Esther I applied for Asylum on the 16th of February 2021 still no response on my big interview but due not having a solicitor
    Please any help

    • RtR on

      Hello Esther, thank you for your message. Unfortunately, as detailed in the blog, most people in the asylum system are waiting a very long time for answers/results at every point of the process due to huge Home Office delays and a backlog. This is not necessarily because they do not have a lawyer but because of the delay from the Home Office. We hope that you will receive a positive answer soon, and we are so sorry for the distress this is causing. Best of luck.

      In solidarity,
      Right to Remain

  13. Steve on

    When will I receive ARC? Is it several days after calling homeoffice, small interview or big one? If I call homeoffice lunar house to claim asylum on 2 Jan 2024, and small interview on 01 March 2024 and big one on 1 Feb 2025. WillI I get ARC in Jan 24, or March 24,or even February 2025?


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