Claiming asylum in the UK

Claiming asylum in the UK can be broken down into manageable steps.

  1. Claim asylum
  2. Screening Interview
  3. Substantive Interview
  4. Asylum decision

The asylum process in the UK can be quite complicated. Asylum is a human right, it is supported by the United Nations Refugee Convention and is recognized by the UK. 

Claiming asylum in the UK

In the UK, the Home Office, a government department, makes asylum decisions. These are the main steps in claiming asylum in the UK.

Claiming Asylum

A person can claim asylum when they enter the UK, or while they are already in the country.

Claiming asylum when entering the UK means telling the Border Officer that you wish to claim asylum. If you are claiming asylum this way, you will normally be taken for your first interview, called a ‘screening interview’ straight away.

If you are claiming asylum while in the country, you must first call the Home Office to book an appointment with the Asylum Screening Unit or find a solicitor who can do this for you. The appointment will normally take place between 5 and 15 days after the first phone call with the Home Office.

Screening Interview

The screening interview normally takes place at Lunar House in Croydon (London,) or in Belfast for people who are claiming in Northern Ireland.

The screening interview will be the first time that you discuss your reasons for wanting to claim asylum. You should come prepared with your evidence and documents for the interviewer to look at as part of your interview.

Be prepared that the interviewer will ask questions about your personal information, family, background, and reasons for wishing to claim asylum.

At the interview, the Home Office will take ‘biometric information’ – fingerprints and photographs as part of the asylum process. If you have a passport, you will need to give this to the interviewer and it will be replaced with an ARC card (Application Registration Card)

At the end of the interview, you will be given a copy of your interview. It is important to keep this for your records.

Substantive Interview

After the screening interview, you or your legal representative will receive a letter inviting you to a substantive interview. The interview can last between two to seven hours, and the interviewer will ask in detail about your personal circumstances. You are entitled to ask for breaks at any point.

Your legal representative is allowed to attend, and you have the right to ask for a translator if your first language is not English and you feel that this would support you better in answering the interviewer’s questions.

Asylum Decision

The Home Office should make a decision within six months of the claim first being made.

If the claim is accepted, the Home Office will normally grant 5 years refugee status. As a refugee, you will be able to live, work, study and access welfare benefits in the UK.

If the claim is refused, it is advisable to seek legal representation to help you to lodge an appeal and advice on the next steps. 


Refugee status, Humanitarian Protection, and another form of Leave to Remain.

Not Granted

Possible appeal, the potential for a fresh claim if there is new evidence.


The appeals process is outlined in another article we are writing soon.


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