Registration of the asylum application

United Kingdom

Country Report: Registration of the asylum application Last updated: 24/04/24


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The Secretary of State for the Home Department is responsible in law for registering asylum applications.[1] This responsibility is carried out by civil servants in the UK Visas and Immigration section (UKVI) of the Home Office. If a person claims asylum on entry to the UK, immigration officers at the port have no power to take a decision on the claim and must refer it to UKVI.[2]

Where a couple or family claim asylum, the children normally apply as dependants on the claim of one of their parents. Also, one partner may apply as the dependant of the other. This means that the outcome of their claim will depend upon that of the main applicant. It is policy to inform women separately that they may claim separately from their partner,[3] although there is no recent research or regular auditing to check that this is routinely done.

Following a judgment in the Supreme Court, known as ‘G v G’[4] which found that a child named as a dependant on an asylum claim should generally be considered to have made a claim in their own right, policy guidance[5] was introduced to comply; namely that children’s protection needs must be considered and if necessary, determined separately from the parents, where they are different. The questionnaire given to adult applicants has been amended to reflect the need to identify any protection needs specific to the child.[6] Where the child has protection needs that are the same as the main claimant, all the claims will be dealt with together under the Family Asylum Claim process.[7] This does not apply where the child has no protection needs, and new guidance has been issued for those in this situation.[8]

There is no specific time limit for asylum seekers to lodge their application. A claim may be refused if the applicant ‘fails, without reasonable explanation, to make a prompt and full disclosure of material facts.’[9] However, ‘applications for asylum shall be neither rejected nor excluded from examination on the sole ground that they have not been made as soon as possible’.[10] In practice, where someone is present in the UK in another capacity, e.g. as a student or worker, and then claims asylum after some years, whether or not they have overstayed their immigration leave, this may be treated as evidence that they are not in fear. Financial support and accommodation can be refused if the person did not claim ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’,[11] but not if this would entail a breach of human rights (see Reception Conditions).[12]

First applications made from inside the UK must be registered by appointment at the Asylum Intake Unit (AIU) – formerly Asylum Screening Unit (ASU) – in Croydon in the South East of England unless the asylum seeker is in detention or unless an applicant successfully argues that they cannot be expected to travel to the AIU.[13] This includes all applications not made at the port of entry, even if only hours after arrival and where the asylum seeker has left the port. The Nationality and Borders Act 2022 enshrines in law the requirement to make an asylum claim at a ‘designated place’. It has been explained that this is to make clear that claims cannot be made in territorial waters and that anyone attempting to do so will be brought to the UK to make their claim.[14]

There is no government funding for fares to the AIU. Particularly where asylum seekers are newly arrived in the UK, and may be confused, disoriented and understanding little English, making this journey successfully is very problematic.

Applicants are required to telephone the AIU before they can apply in person, and give some basic personal details over the phone, but not details of their asylum claim. They are then given an appointment to attend and register their claim. In the meantime, they are unable to access financial support or government-provided accommodation. In exceptional circumstances – destitution or extreme vulnerability – the Home Office can accept walk-in applications or offer a same or next-day appointment. In practice, it is hard to prove that the applicant is destitute or sufficiently vulnerable and applicants are advised that they may need to advocate for their need to be seen without an appointment.[15]

There is no rule laying down a maximum period within which an asylum claim must be registered, after the authority has first been notified of the claim. Anecdotal evidence of long delays to obtain appointments was confirmed in a response to a Freedom of Information Act request[16] showing that the average waiting time in the first quarter of 2022 was 67 days, up from an average of 20 for the same period in 2021.[17]

A person who claims asylum on being arrested or detained or during detention is not taken to the AIU but may be screened in detention or at a regional office or even in a police station. The screening interview in such a case is carried out by an immigration official, not a police officer, but information disclosed during a police interview under caution may be disclosed to the asylum authorities.

At the screening interview, fingerprints are taken and the route of travel is inquired into. The asylum seeker is asked basic details of their claim. Although confidential space is now provided for interviewing at the Croydon screening unit, there is no supervised childcare for this first stage of the process.[18] The lack of childcare provision at the AIU remains an obstacle to disclosure of sensitive information such as an experience of torture or rape since children may be in the same room as the parent while information on the basis of the claim is taken.

The government published new guidance relating to this stage of the process in 2018 which has been revised on several occasions to reflect current law and policy.[19] Although details of the asylum claim should not be required at this stage, a decision will be made as to which kind of procedure the application will be routed through, including inadmissibility (on Safe Third Country grounds) and suitability for detention.

There is no provision for publicly funded legal assistance to attend the screening interview except for unaccompanied children. Applicants who have applied from within the UK may have had legal advice prior to screening, but those applying at a port will not have had that opportunity. The Screening Unit does not have direct access to appointments for legal representatives, but officers can use a public access part of the government website called ‘Find a Legal Adviser’ which enables a search for contact details of legal representatives listed by subject matter and by region. The officer can search in the region where the asylum seeker is going to be sent for initial accommodation (see Reception Conditions). There is no obligation on screening officers to help in finding legal representation and in practice this is unlikely to happen.

Registration of unaccompanied children

The policy is to treat unaccompanied children differently and this system is now the norm.[20] The policy guidance, first issued in July 2016 and updated most recently in June 2022 reflects the practice that had emerged following a report by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England,[21] and a judgment of the Court of Appeal.[22]

When a child claims asylum the Home Office will consider whether there are any immediate safeguarding concerns, for example if the child may have been a victim of trafficking, and action those as needed. After that a welfare form is completed and a copy will be given to the social worker. The case is then transferred to the asylum decision making team for processing. The child will also be given a statement of evidence form to be completed within 60 days of the welfare form. The Home Office will then consider whether an interview is needed in order to decide the claim.[23]

Where a person has claimed asylum and there is uncertainty about whether or not they are a child following an initial age assessment, they will be given the benefit of the doubt. Where a full age assessment has been carried out, or two Home Office staff have assessed the applicant as significantly over 18 or there is clear and credible documentary evidence that they are over 18, the person will be treated as an adult.[24] For children arriving across the Channel, there have been reports of poor practice in carrying out initial age assessments on arrival.[25] Research by the Refugee Council published in 2022 including its own statistics shows that many of these decisions made at the border are later overturned.[26]

For those accepted to be a child or where the benefit of the doubt has been given, if they are encountered before being cared for by a local authority are interviewed by an immigration officer in a ‘welfare interview’ which is designed to elicit information about the safety of the child and enable a referral to be made. If the child is already in the care of the local authority the appointment with an immigration officer is to register the claim. At both types of interview the child’s biometrics are taken. If under 16, the process requires a responsible adult (independent of the Home Office) to be present for the biometrics. There is no requirement for a responsible adult to be present at the welfare interview, however if one is available, including a legal representative, then they may attend.[27]




[1] Section 113 Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act (NIAA) 2002.

[2] Para 328 Immigration Rules, Part 11.

[3] Home Office, Gender issues in the asylum claim, September 2010, available at:, para 7.1; Home Office, Dependants and former Dependants, May 2014, available at:

[4] Supreme Court, G (Appellant) v G (Respondent), Judgment, [2021] UKSC 9, 19 March 2021, available at:

[5] Home Office, ‘Operational note: considering children’s protection needs’, July 2021, available at:

[6] Home Office, ‘Preliminary information questionnaire for asylum claims’, last updated 2 August 2021, available at:

[7] Home Office, Operational note: considering children’s individual protection needs, 30 July 2021, available at:

[8] Home Office, Dependants and former dependants: caseworker guidance, 26 July 2023, available at:

[9] Para 339M Immigration Rules, Part 11.

[10] Para 339MA Immigration Rules, Part 11.

[11] Section 55 NIAA 2002.

[12] House of Lords, Limbuela v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2005] UKHL 66, available at:

[13] Home Office, Asylum Process Guidance: Registering an asylum application in the UK, available at:, para 7.1.

[14] Statement of changes to Immigration rules December 2020, available at:

[15] Right to Remain, Toolkit (information for people making an asylum claim), available at:

[16] Home Office, Freedom of Information request (our ref: 68213): internal review, 8 July 2022,

[17] In February 2024 the Home Office refused a Freedom of Information request for updated data on the grounds that it is no longer held on a central database, in a reportable format.

[18] See Joint Committee on Human Rights, Violence against Women and Girls Sixth report of session 2014-15, HL Paper 106 HC 594, recommendation 37, available at:

[19] Home Office, Asylum Screening and Routing, June 2022 available at:

[20] Home Office, Processing children’s asylum claims, June 2022, available at:

[21] Adrian Matthews, Office of the Children’s Commissioner, Landing in Dover: The Immigration process undergone by unaccompanied children arriving in Kent, 2012, available at:

[22] Court of Appeal, R (AN and FA) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] EWCA Civ 1636.

[23] Home Office, Processing children’s asylum claims, 31 December 2020, available at:

[24] Home Office, Assessing age for asylum applicants: caseworker guidance, 31 March 2023, available at:

[25] Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, An inspection of the initial processing of migrants arriving via small boats at Tug Haven and Western Jet Foil December 2021 – January 2022, 21 July 2022, paragraph 6.31  

[26] Refugee Council, Identity Crisis: How the age dispute process puts refugee children at risk, September 2022, available at:

[27] Home Office, Processing children’s asylum claims: caseworker guidance, 28 June 2022, available at:  

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection