Prepare for an asylum interview

This advice applies to Wales. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland

After you apply for asylum, you’ll have to do one of the following:

  • go to an asylum interview

  • fill in a questionnaire

  • fill in a questionnaire and then go to an asylum interview

It’s really important that you get advice from an immigration specialist. Your case is more likely to be successful if the evidence you have is prepared properly - it’s hard to do this on your own.

As an asylum seeker, you might be entitled to legal aid (depending on your savings and income). If you get legal aid, you won’t have to pay for legal advice. If you’re eligible, don’t let anyone charge you - you’ll spend money for no reason.

If you get a questionnaire

You should ask your legal adviser to help you with your questionnaire. You’ll need to return the questionnaire by the deadline on your letter. You can ask for more time if you need longer to complete the questionnaire or to find legal advice.

It’s a chance for you to tell the Home Office more about your background.

The questionnaire will include questions about:

  • why you’re afraid of returning to your home country

  • what happened to you and when

  • how you entered the UK

  • which countries you passed through to get to the UK

Your letter should tell you whether you need to fill in the questionnaire instead of going to an interview or before you go to your interview.

If you’ve been invited to an asylum interview

Your asylum interview (or ‘substantive interview’) is an important step in your application for refugee status - it’s a chance for you to put your case across to someone from the Home Office. They’ll make a decision based on what you say.

Your application will usually be rejected if you don’t go to your interview.

Your interview will happen after your ‘screening’ - it could be anything from a week to a year or even later. The Home Office will send you a letter telling you when your interview will be. 

Before the interview

If you’ve not been sent a questionnaire, it might be a good idea to send a written statement to support your claim before your interview - you should ask your legal adviser for help with this.

You should ask for the interview to be recorded. You must do this at least 24 hours before the interview.

It’s a good idea, just in case:

  • an interpreter makes a mistake

  • you’re not sure if you mentioned something

Your interview letter will tell you how to do this, or you can contact your local Citizens Advice if you need help.

You can also ask for a male or female interviewer (and interpreter, if you need one) - do whatever makes you feel more comfortable.

Planning travel

You’ll have to travel to your interview - they usually take place in big cities like Belfast, London, Leeds and Liverpool.

If you’re receiving Asylum Support, you should be sent a travel ticket. It might not arrive until the day before your interview. If it doesn’t arrive, call the number on your interview letter.

Who to take with you

Your letter will say who you need to take with you. You don’t need to take your children to the interview - even if you’re applying on their behalf. They might be distracting for your interviewer.

Try finding a friend to look after your children - if you can’t find anyone, call the number on your interview letter. They’ll either:

  • find a new date when you can find childcare

  • find childcare for you that’s close to the interview

You can’t take a friend or family member to the interview. It’ll normally be you, the interviewer and the Home Office interpreter if you need one. You can take a lawyer and their interpreter. This won’t be covered by legal aid unless you’re:

  • a child

  • a vulnerable person - for example, if you’re disabled or seriously ill

What to take with you

Your interview can’t go ahead if you don’t take all of these with you (or whichever documents you have):

  • your application registration card (ARC)

  • your passport or travel document

  • a birth certificate

  • evidence of where you’re living - for example a utility bill

At the interview

The interview is your chance to talk about everything that’s led to you applying for asylum. It’s likely to be emotional for you, but it’s important that you’re honest throughout.

The Home Office could use it against you if you say something in your questionnaire or interview that’s different from your screening interview. If you said something wrong at your screening interview, you should explain why to your interviewer. 

There’s no set time for how long the interview can take - it could last a few hours.

If you sent in a questionnaire or written statement beforehand, the questions will be based around the information you gave. You should also expect the interviewer to ask questions about:

  • why you’ve left your home country

  • why your home country is dangerous for you

  • how you got to the UK

  • when you got the UK

  • why you didn’t claim asylum in a safe country - if you passed through one to get to the UK

  • why you entered the UK illegally - if you entered illegally

If you don’t know how to answer a question

It’s fine to tell the interviewer that you don’t know the answer to a question - it’s better to say “I don’t know” rather than guess. Or if there’s something you’re not comfortable answering, you can say you don’t want to answer.

Ask for a break if you need one - the interviewer should understand.

After the interview

You have 5 days after the interview to send in a statement (or ‘make representations’) - you can mention anything you didn’t talk about during the interview. You’ll be told how to do this after the interview.

To make your statement, take the following steps:

  1. Listen back to the recording of the interview, if you have one.

  2. Check that nothing was misinterpreted - for example, by an interpreter.

  3. Think about everything that you wanted to mention on the day - and make sure you covered anything that would help your case.

  4. Include anything you missed out in the statement.

You’ll be told where to send the statement on the day of the interview.

What happens next

You’ll get a letter in the post from the Home Office. If you don’t hear 30 days after your interview, you’re unlikely to hear for another 6 months (or more) - even though the Home Office will tell you they have a target of 30 days. If you didn’t have to go to an interview, you should hear within 6 months.

If you have a specialist (or lawyer), they should be writing to the Home Office every 3 months. Ask them to contact the Home Office regularly if they’re not doing this already.

You’re entitled to Asylum Support until you get your decision. Asylum Support means you will get housing and money to support you. You won’t be deported while you’re still waiting for your decision. You can find out more about the interview and asylum process on the Right to Remain website.

Help us improve our website

Take 3 minutes to tell us if you found what you needed on our website. Your feedback will help us give millions of people the information they need.

Page last reviewed on 27 September 2019