Applying for Asylum in Northern Ireland

The following information relates to claiming asylum in Northern Ireland specifically. For comprehensive guidance on Claiming Asylum in the UK click on 'I am seeking asylum’ provided by Asylum Help. Available in 15 key languages.

Applying for asylum (international protection) should be based on a fear of returning to their country of origin. In accordance with the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, persons must have left their country and be unable to return because of a well-founded fear of persecution, based on reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group.

A claim for asylum is expected to be submitted at the ‘first available possibility’. The timeframe usually considered reasonable is within the first couple of days of arrival. Every effort should be made to make a claim immediately. Timing is important as a late claim may affect the credibility of the application and eligibility to receive support. 

Arriving via airport or seaport, it may not always be possible to claim asylum because Immigration Officers may not be available. If a claim for asylum has not been made on arrival at a port, asylum seekers should come to Bryson Intercultural/Migrant Help, at the Belfast City office, where an asylum claim can be recorded and initiated: Bryson House, 28 Bedford Street, Belfast, BT2 7FE. An Asylum Advisor at Bryson Intercultural will notify Home Office UK Visas and Immigration, located at Drumkeen House, in South Belfast. Our Asylum Advisors are OISC trained and compliant to deliver this professional service. Lodging an asylum claim may be done in person or via a legal representation.

A telephone interpretation service is available at Bryson Intercultural/Migrant Help. Interpreters are required to treat any information provided as strictly confidential. Consent and confidentiality will be discussed by the Asylum Advisor.

Once the Home Office are informed of a new asylum seeker, a Port Reference Number is generated. Should Emergency/Initial Accommodation and financial support be required, this will be arranged after authorisation from the Home Office has been granted. Assistance will then be given to complete an application (ASF1) for NASS Support, which incorporates more permanent accommodation and a financial allowance that might be received weeks or months later.

Emergency Accommodation is arranged for adult applicants, if necessary, through Serco services company. Some asylum seekers are self-supporting, relying on savings, or their family and friends, and do not require assistance with accommodation.

Applications for Support may also be completed via free phone by calling Migrant Help’s Asylum Support Application UK on 0800 8000 631.

Unaccompanied children (under 18-years-old) are referred to the Social Services Gateway Team who look after them during the asylum process. After reaching the age of 18 years, and if still in the asylum system, they are referred back to our service for support.

Guidance will be provided on the need for legal representation. Each applicant is means tested to ascertain Legal Aid entitlement. In most cases access to a solicitor is free of charge.

Useful links: Home Office guidance on Asylum applicants’ rights and responsibilities and an Asylum Application Information leaflet in 15 languages.

Screening Interview

For comprehensive guidance on the Screening Interview in the UK click on ‘Prior to Screening’ provided by Asylum Help. Available in 15 key languages.

The following information relates to the Screening Interview and Screening process in Northern Ireland specifically.

After lodging a claim for asylum in Northern Ireland the next stage of the asylum process is the Screening Interview. The main reason for a screening interview is to establish the applicant’s identity, how they arrived in the UK and what particular needs they have. A further interview called a Substantive Interview (main asylum interview) will take place at a later date, which will involve in-depth questioning specific to the reasons international protection is being sought. An interpreter will be made available if one is needed.

A screening appointment letter will be provided by the Home Office with date and time of interview included. If the person has come to Bryson Intercultural to request asylum, the letter is usually given to them that same day. Under normal circumstances, the interview usually takes place within 2 weeks of requesting asylum.

If an application for asylum has been made by a main applicant with dependents (partner, or children under 18-years-old), everyone must attend the screening interview.

In Northern Ireland, the Screening Interview will take place at the Asylum Intake Unit in Drumkeen House, in South Belfast (1 Drumkeen Complex, Upper Galwally, Belfast, BT8 6TB). Upon arrival, applicants will be asked to wait in reception until their name is called for interview. The Screening Interview can last several hours. The Asylum Intake Unit has facilities for families and a separate area for children.

The asylum screening process is split into several parts. These include:

  • Gathering biometric information (taking fingerprints and photographs), which will be stored on a card that will be given after the screening process. This is called an Application Registration Card (ARC) and will confirm that the applicant has claimed asylum and record the identity given to the Home Office
  • Carrying out identity and security checks
  • Completing a screening interview:
    • basic questions asked about identity and details of family members
    • confirmation on when to report to the Home Office (this is a mandatory obligation).
    • discusion of travel to the UK
    • any medical conditions, need for medication or medical attention
    • brief explanation of why country or origin was fled
    • questions relating to criminal convictions and to national security
    • preference to have a man or a woman to interview during the substantive interview
  • Questions to determine:
    • requirement of medical attention
    • if the person is a victim of torture
    • if the person has been trafficked and/or exploited
    • if children have another parent in the UK
    • if any children are doing final exams at school
    • if the person is pregnant.

Once the Screening Interview is completed and the asylum application has been recorded a decision will be made about whether the applicant should continue on the asylum process or be detained. If they are detained the reason for this will be explained. A Case Worker / Case Owner is appointed and free legal representation will be given. If the application for asylum is refused they may be removed from the UK. If they qualify for an in-country appeal, this will take place while they are detained.

For other applicants who proceed at this stage, an Applications Registration Card (ARC) is generated and will later be issued. Most asylum seekers are expected to report to Drumkeen House on a regular basis. They will be given an IS.96 document, which explains reporting conditions and details surrounding temporary admission into the UK. This is also recognised as a form if ID.

Travel expenses to Home Office for reporting

Asylum applicants who live three miles or more from Drumkeen House and receive Home Office support may be eligible for travel bus tickets for reporting. If an application for travel compensation is successful, the Home Office will issue the travel tickets.  

Substantive Interview

For comprehensive guidance on the Substantive Interview in the UK click on ‘Prior to Substantive Interview’ provided by Asylum Help. Available in 15 key languages.

The following information relates to the Substantive Interview in Northern Ireland specifically.

The purpose of the Substantive Interview (main asylum interview) is to further establish the reasons an asylum applicant has fled their country of origin and to consider whether they are in real danger and in need of international protection in the UK.

Asylum applicants should receive a letter inviting them to attend the Substantive Interview, which will take place at the Asylum Intake Unit in Drumkeen House, in South Belfast. A copy of this letter should also be sent to their legal representative. This letter provides information about arrangements for the interview. Children should not normally be present during the Substantive Interview. A male or female interviewer and interpreter can be requested, if the asylum applicant feels this will make them more comfortable when talking about sensitive or difficult personal matters. Legal representatives should help with arranging this. 

The Substantive Interview is an opportunity for the asylum applicant to provide more information to the Home Office on why protection is needed. It is important that as much detail as possible is given, and how the individual or family is affected. It is important to give information about occasions in which they have been threatened or harmed in the country they come from, and events since leaving, if applicable. They should also include what is believed may happen if they or their family are returned home. This will help the Home Office make an informed decision.

After the interview a Case Owner will make an initial decision. About a third of applicants are granted protection at this stage. An appeal may be possible.

Post-Decision: Positive Decision

For comprehensive guidance on a Positive Decision click on ‘Post Decision - Positive’ provided by Asylum Help. Available in 15 key languages.

The following information relates to the Post-Decision stage in Northern Ireland specifically.

If it is accepted that the asylum applicant has a well-founded fear of persecution or it would breach their human rights to expect them to return to their country of origin, they will be allowed to stay in the UK for a set period of time. Asylum applicants will be notified of this decision via letter from the Home Office. The legal representative will also be informed.

Family members who are dependent on the asylum claim will also be allowed to stay for the same duration when Leave has been granted. The time period is dependent on what basis permission to stay has been granted. Information on what the person can and cannot do is provided with the decision in the paperwork given by the Home Office.

Upon receiving a positive decision, a Biometric Residence Permit will be provided. This is similar to the ARC. It is a form of ID and is proof of right to stay, work and study in the UK.

Individuals are entitled to apply for jobs and have access to mainstream state benefits at this stage.

Extern provide a support service for individuals and families who have been granted protection status and given Leave to Remain in the UK. They work to assist during the transition period from being an asylum seeker to being a refugee. They support with the 28-day notice period, which is given to move out of NASS accommodation. They provide medium to long term specialist and practical support and advice to resettle in the community.

When the period of Leave to Remain is due to expire, a further application to the Home Office must be submitted 28 days prior to the Leave period running out. Advice should be sought from a legal representative at this time.

Post-Decision: Refusal

For comprehensive guidance on Refusal Decision click on ‘Post Decision - Refusal’ provided by Asylum Help. Available in 15 key languages.

The following information relates to the Post-Decision stage in Northern Ireland specifically.

Following the Substantive Interview the Home Office may decide to refuse the claim for asylum. A right to appeal against the Home Office decision may be available. If the Home Office refuses the claim it will provide a letter setting out the reasons. The letter will be written in English and the applicant should discuss the contents with their legal representative. The letter will confirm why the Home Office believes that they do not meet the grounds for Refugee or Humanitarian Protection.

If the applicant is fully refused asylum, with no dependants under 18 and become 'appeal rights exhausted' or has chosen to withdraw their asylum application, they will lose their entitlement to support 21 days after their claim has been fully determined. They will receive a letter from the Home Office and will be given 7 day notice to leave their property, if residing in Home Office accommodation.

Short-term support if an application was unsuccessful

If support is terminated the applicant may be eligible for short-term support while preparing to return to your country or for other reasons. This is known as Section 4 support because it is given under the terms of Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Section 4 support is for refused asylum seekers. An application for Section 4 support can be made via Bryson Intercultural/Migrant Help or a legal representative. For further information on Section 4 support, provided by the Home office, click here