To seek political asylum is to ask for protection from persecution for political reasons in your home country. What this means, in essence, is that you disagree with the actions of the government of your home country and that this disagreement places you in danger.
Eligibility for political asylum
To claim political asylum, you must demonstrate that it would be unsafe for you to remain in your home country, that you face political persecution, and that the government of your home country will not protect you against this persecution.
You must show that the persecution you face is politically motivated and that you have been persecuted and discriminated against on that basis.
Examples of political persecution include the government restriction of movement, speech or religion, and the removal or limiting of rights of particular social groups.
How to apply for political asylum
The first step is to make yourself known to the border officials when you enter the UK and state your intention to seek political asylum.
In the case where you are already resident in the UK, you should contact the asylum screening unit to make an appointment.
You will be screened either by the border official or at the asylum screening unit. This is an initial meeting to take basic information from you regarding your identity, your reasons for claiming asylum, details of any family members, your medical history and current medication, and whether you need help with housing.
You should present your passport or travel documents, and any other supporting documents at the screening.
Supporting documents should include:
- Proof of identity, e.g. birth certificate, marriage certificate, identity card, school record
- Medical information, e.g. prescriptions for current medication, letter from your doctor, hospital treatment documents
- Police registration certificate, where required
- Where you already live in the UK, proof of your address, e.g. bank statement, household bill, council tax notice, tenancy agreement, or other documents that show your name and address together. These documents should be no more than 3 months old.
Your biometrics (photograph and fingerprints) will be taken at the screening, and a caseworker will be assigned to you. If you are not confident in your English language skills, you may request that an interpreter be present.
After the screening, you will be informed what your next steps should be, such as how often you should contact your caseworker or whether you will be detained.
An asylum registration card (ARC) will be forwarded to your address in the UK. The purpose of the ARC is to demonstrate your identity, whether you are permitted to work in the UK, and that you have the right to healthcare and education.
The next step will be to attend an asylum interview. As with your screening, you should take your passport and supporting documents to your interview, along with your ARC. If you wish, you may submit a statement in writing to your caseworker in the run up to the interview.
You will be interviewed alone, although you may request that an interpreter and a legal representative are present.
The purpose of the interview is for you to explain the persecution you have or will face in your home country and why it isn’t safe for you to return there.
Your caseworker will keep a record of this interview, a copy of which will be forwarded to you.
How long does it take to get political asylum?
You won’t receive a decision immediately after the interview. Processing of asylum applications generally take up to 6 months, although where extra information is required or your case is complicated this waiting time may be longer.
While your application is processed, you may remain in the UK.
What happens if political asylum is refused?
Where your application for political asylum is refused, you may be able to appeal, although this must be done within 14 days of the decision.
Where your application for political asylum is unsuccessful but it is decided that it would be unsafe for you to return to your home country, you may be allowed to remain in the
UK for humanitarian reasons. This would permit you and your dependants to stay in the country for 5 years.
In the case of an unsuccessful application for political asylum, unsuccessful appeals, and where you are not permitted to remain in the UK for humanitarian reasons, you must return to your home country either voluntarily or by force.
What is detention?
Once you have been screened by the UK border officials, you may be detained at an immigration removal centre while your application for political asylum is processed.
Should your application for asylum be successful, you will be allowed to leave the centre and live in the UK.
Where you are denied political asylum, you will leave the centre to return back to your home country.
Where the UK authorities believe that another country should provide you with asylum, you will be detained at the immigration removal centre.
Where you have not initially been detained while your application for political asylum is processed but you fail to attend meetings with your caseworker, you may be detained at the centre.
Detention generally won’t be used for children or the elderly, for a family with children, for pregnant women, for victims of trafficking, for proven victims of torture, or for individuals who suffer from mental or physical conditions that can’t be managed in a detention centre, or where those individuals pose a potential threat to other detained persons.
What rights does an asylum seeker have?
While your application to the UK government for asylum is being processed, you are protected by the following rights:
- fair and lawful treatment without discrimination
- the ability to practice your religion
- that your application for asylum is processed in a fair and accurate way
- support and accommodation, if applicable
- free healthcare
- legal representation
In return, you are expected to make a truthful application, respect the religions and belief systems of others, stay in contact with your caseworker and attend all appointments, respect and adhere to UK law, take proper care of your children and to leave the UK if asylum is denied.
Should you provide false information in your application for political asylum, you may be returned to your home country or face up to 2 years’ imprisonment in the UK.
Can you apply to the UK for political asylum while outside the country?
No. To apply to the UK for asylum on any grounds, you must be in the country. It is not possible to apply for asylum, for instance, before you leave your home country.
Can you work in the UK while your asylum application is processed?
You will generally not be allowed to work in the UK while waiting for a decision on your application for asylum. However, there are exceptions to this.
Where you already have permission to work in the UK, for instance, on a short-term work visa, then you may continue to work until your visa runs out.
If you have been waiting for a decision for more than 12 months, then you may apply for permission to work in the UK.
Should you be given permission to work in the UK while your application is processed, it must be employment. You may not set up as a self-employed person.
You are allowed, however, to work on a voluntary basis without payment while you wait for a decision.
Settling in the UK
Should your application for political asylum be granted, you will be given the status of refugee and allowed to live in the UK.
Where your partner and children are outside the UK, were not included as dependants in your asylum application and the relationship and family existed before you applied for asylum, you may apply for them to join you.
Once you have lived in the UK as a refugee for five years, you may apply for settlement, also known as indefinite leave to remain.