Terms and definitions

Glossary of terminology relating to asylum seekers and refugees in UK.

This glossary is intended as a basic explanation of terms used across the refugee sector.

The definitions are not legal definitions.

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Age-disputed child

An age-disputed child is an asylum applicant whose claimed date of birth is not accepted by the Home Office and/or by the local authority who have been approached to provide support. This term is usually used to refer to people who claim to be children, but who are treated as adults by the Home Office and/or the local authority. Whether an individual is treated as an adult or as a child has serious implications for the way in which the person’s claim for asylum is treated, and the support received.

Article 3 (of ECHR)

Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) states that ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’. A person can make a claim for protection based directly on Article 3 of ECHR as states are prohibited from returning a person to a country where she/he may suffer a violation of his/her rights under Article 3.

Article 8 (of ECHR)

Article 8 of the ECHR states that “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence”. Article 8 issues may be raised as part of an asylum application, or in the context of an appeal against deportation or removal. Article 8 is a qualified rather than an absolute right and the second part of it sets out circumstances where authorities may interfere with the right. The Immigration Rules were amended in 2012 to reflect the qualified nature of Article 8. See Immigration Rules.

Article 31

Article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention prohibits states from penalising a refugee for illegal entry when the purpose of their entry is to claim asylum.

Asylum seeker

An asylum seeker is someone who has lodged an application for protection on the basis of the Refugee Convention or Article 3 of the ECHR.

Asylum and Immigration Tribunal

The first tier Asylum and Immigration Tribunal hears and decides appeals against decisions made by the Home Office in matters of asylum, immigration and nationality. Decisions can be appealed in the second tier (Upper) Tribunal on points of law. In some limited circumstances a decision of the Upper Tribunal can be challenged on a point of law in the Court of Appeal.

Asylum Screening Unit

The asylum screening unit  in Croydon is the entry point into the asylum system. It is here that in-country asylum seekers make their initial asylum claims and where immigration officers conduct screening interviews. Within the screening unit the Asylum Intake Unit assesses cases for the Detained Fast Track and Detained Non-Suspensive Appeals processes. See Screening Interview, Detained Fast Track, Detained Non-Suspensive Appeals.

Asylum interview

An asylum interview is a substantive interview about a person’s reasons for claiming asylum in the UK.

Asylum support

Asylum seekers who are destitute may be able to receive accommodation and/or subsistence support from the Home Office. It was previously known as NASS support. An application for support has to be made on the ASF1 form. Accepting accommodation will mean the asylum seeker must go to the dispersal area in which they are offered accommodation. If they have additional care needs, due to chronic illness or disability they may also be eligible to support from their local authority.

Asylum Support Adjudicators

Asylum Support Adjudicators consider appeals by asylum seekers against Home Office decisions to refuse or terminate asylum support.


ASYS is the Home Office asylum seekers support system database, which contains details of asylum seekers applying for and receiving support.

Application registration card (ARC)

ARC is a credit card sized document issued to asylum applicants after screening to show that they have applied for asylum. It is also used as evidence of identity, immigration status and entitlements in the UK. It holds identifying information including fingerprints and reporting arrangements in a microchip within the card.

‘As soon as reasonably practicable’

Section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 gives the Home Secretary power to deny support to asylum seekers who have not applied for asylum ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’. In December 2003, the Home Secretary provided further clarification by announcing that asylum seekers would be considered to have made their claim ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’ if they could give ‘credible explanation’ of how they arrived in the UK within three days of applying for asylum. However, support and accommodation must be provided if the applicant would have to live in inhuman or degrading circumstances otherwise.

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Case resolution process

The case resolution process was set up by the Home Office to deal with unresolved cases of those who claimed asylum before April 2007. Claims were dealt with by the Case Resolution Directorate at the UK Border Agency. It was originally expected that case resolution would take until 2011 to complete, but in practice the process ended in 2015.

Convention Travel Document (CDT)

A Convention Travel Document, also known as ‘blue document’ is given to people with refugee status to use as a valid travel document in place of passport to travel overseas. This document is valid for all countries except the one from which the person sought asylum.

Certificate of identity

Certificate of Identity, also known as the ‘Home Office travel document’ can be issued to people who have humanitarian protection or discretionary leave. The Certificate of Identity is not valid to travel to the country of origin.

‘Clearly unfounded’ claims

When the Home Office believes that the asylum seeker comes from a safe country and would not face a risk of being persecuted, it deems it a ‘clearly unfounded case’. Cases from certain countries are always certified as clearly unfounded. If a case is certified it is only possible to bring an appeal against the refusal of asylum from outside the UK.


The COMPASS project was launched in 2009 to set up the contracts for the provision of support to asylum seekers in the dispersal areas. The contracts which were let during 2012 are all with private companies. The support providers who have the current contracts are Clearel Ltd in London & the South of England and Wales, G4S Care and Justice Services in the Midlands, East of England, North East England, Yorkshire and Humberside, and Serco Limited in the North West of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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Detained Fast Track

The fast track procedure is used to determine asylum applications from people who the Home Office assesses to be ‘suitable’. Applicants in the detained fast track are held at an Immigration Removal Centre and the initial decision on their case and any appeals happen at a faster pace than in the community. A case is considered suitable for the fast track process where it appears to the Home Office that the asylum claim can be decided ‘quickly’.

Detained Non-Suspensive Appeals

Cases which the Home Office certify as clearly unfounded, usually because the asylum seeker comes from a country regarded as safe, may go into the detained non-suspensive appeals process. In such cases an appeal against refusal can only be brought from outside the UK.

Discretionary leave

Discretionary leave is a form of immigration status granted to a person who the Home Office has decided does not qualify for refugee status or humanitarian protection but where there are other strong reasons why the person needs to stay in the UK temporarily.


Dispersal is the process by which the Home Office moves an asylum seeker to accommodation outside London and the South East. They are first moved to initial accommodation while their application for asylum support is processed. Once the application has been processed and approved they are moved to dispersal accommodation elsewhere in the UK.

Dublin III Regulation

Dublin III Regulation provides all EU member states with a mechanism for allocating responsibility to a single member state for processing an asylum claim. A number of principles apply, such as family unity The state where the person first entered the EU is responsible for dealing with an asylum claim.

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European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)

The ECHR is an international legal instrument adopted under the auspices of the Council of Europe. Its provisions are enforceable in UK law courts.

Exceptional leave to remain (ELR)

ELR was a form of immigration status in use before April 2003. It was granted to asylum seekers who the Home Office decided did not meet the definition of a refugee as defined in the Refugee Convention but it decided should be allowed to remain in the UK for other reasons.

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Family reunion

Family reunion is the policy enabling people given refugee status or humanitarian protection to bring their spouse and dependent children join them in the UK.

Fresh Claim

When an asylum seeker has had their claim rejected, but then new evidence becomes available which was not considered in their initial claim, they may submit the new evidence to the Home Office as a fresh claim for asylum.


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Gateway Protection Programme

The Gateway Protection Programme is a government scheme which brings certain particularly vulnerable refugees living outside their home country to resettle permanently in the UK. Many refugees resettled under the Gateway Protection Programme have been living in refugee camps for several years and have no prospect of returning to their own country.

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‘Hard case’ support

See Section 4 support.

HC1 form

Application form for help with medical costs.

HC2 certificate

Certificate which allows someone to claim free prescriptions and some dental and optical services.

Human Rights Act 1998

The Human Rights Act incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into the UK law.

Humanitarian protection (HP)

Humanitarian protection is a form of immigration status. It is granted by the Home Office to a person who it decides has a need for protection but who does not meet the criteria for refugee status.

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Illegal Entrant

This term is applied to people who enter the country by clandestine means (such as hiding in a lorry), by deception (which can include lying about identity or using false documents) or are in the country in breach of a deportation order.

Immigration judge

An immigration judge is a person appointed by the Lord Chancellor to decide appeals made to the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal.

Immigration removal centre

Immigration removal centres are detention centres. They are used to detain people under Immigration Act powers, including those at any stage of the asylum process, not as the title might imply, just prior to removal.

Immigration Rules

The Immigration Rules are regulations which govern the detail of immigration and asylum law. Changes to the rules are normally made via a Ministerial Statement to Parliament, generally in the form of a written statement.

In-country applicant

An in-country applicant is a person who applies for asylum at the Home Office Asylum Screening Unit  in Croydon  after passing through immigration control.

Indefinite leave to remain (ILR)

ILR is a form of immigration status given by the Home Office. Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) is also called ‘permanent residence’ or ‘settled status’ as it gives permission to stay in the UK on a permanent basis.

Induction (asylum support)

Induction is the part of the process asylum seekers go through in order to access Home Office support.  In the induction process asylum seekers receive information about the asylum and support processes and their rights and responsibilities in the UK.

Initial accommodation

Initial accommodation is provided to destitute asylum seekers while they wait for the outcome of their application for Home Office support. If the application is successful an asylum seeker is moved to dispersal accommodation elsewhere.

Integration loans

Integration loans are available to people who have been granted refugee status or humanitarian protection.

Interim support tokens

Asylum seekers who claim Home Office support are given interim support tokens during the period when they are being dispersed. The tokens provide short-term support until their subsistence payments are available through their asylum registration cards at their local Post Office.

International Organization for Migration (IOM)

The International Organization for Migration is an intergovernmental organisation which works in the field of migration worldwide.


Asylum seekers who apply at a port of entry may be granted temporary admission to the UK and given an IS96 letter, which can later be used to obtain an ARC. IS96 letters may also be issued to people who are released from detention.

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Judicial review

In the context of asylum claims, judicial review enables the applicant to challenge a decision on the basis that the original decision was based on the incorrect application of law. Judicial reviews cannot be used to challenge the asylum decision itself, this is the role of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal.

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Legal representative

Legal representative is a barrister or a solicitor, solicitor’s employee or other authorised person who acts for an applicant or appellant in relation to a claim.

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A NASS 35 is a document which states that the holder is no longer entitled to asylum support as they have received a positive decision on their asylum application. It is used to demonstrate that they are eligible for welfare benefits and have the right to work.

National Assistance Act 1948 (NAA)

The National Assistance Act 1948 gives local authorities the responsibility to provide accommodation and services to people with a disability or other care need. It also puts an obligation on local authorities to conduct an assessment of anyone who might require residential care. From 1996 to December 1999, destitute in-country asylum seekers were supported by local authorities under the terms of this Act.


Naturalisation is a process of becoming a British national.

New Asylum Model (NAM)

The New Asylum Model was introduced for all new asylum claims in April 2007. NAM entailed a ‘case owner’ from the UK Border Agency being responsible for processing the application from beginning to end. The system is no longer in place.

Non-compliance refusal

A non-compliance refusal is a refusal of an asylum claim on the grounds that the applicant has not complied with a direction given by the Home Office. These can include failure to provide appropriate documentation or failure to attend a Home Office interview.

Non-suspensive appeals (NSA)

When a claim for asylum falls under the non-suspensive appeals process it means that the applicant only has the right to appeal against a negative  Home Office decision once outside of the UK.


Non-refoulement is the central obligation of the 1951 Refugee Convention requiring a state not to ‘expel or return a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where her life or freedom would be threatened …’

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Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC)

The OISC regulates immigration advice in the UK.

One-Day Induction

The One-Day Induction process provides those asylum seekers who only need subsistence type Home Office support with information about asylum and support processes, their rights and responsibilities, and how to access health care.

One stop appeal

The one stop appeal procedure aims to ensure that all grounds for appeal are dealt at one appeal only.


An overstayer is a person who was allowed into the UK for a limited period but who has remained longer than the time allowed without permission from the Home Office or under the immigration rules.

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Port applicant

A person who applies for asylum to the immigration officer at an airport or seaport when she/he first arrives, ie. before passing through immigration control.

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A refugee is a person who ‘owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country…’ (Definition quoted from the 1951 Refugee Convention)

Refugee Convention

Refugee Convention means the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951 and the 1967 Protocol.

Refugee status

Refugee status is awarded to someone the Home Office recognises as a refugee as described in the Refugee Convention. A person given refugee status is normally granted leave to remain in the UK for 5 years, and at the end of that period can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. See ILR.


Removal is a process whereby immigration officers enforce return from the UK to another country.  


Most asylum seekers who are not detained are expected to report to a reporting centre or police station.


Resettlement if the process whereby refugees living outside their country of origin are moved to another country for permanent resettlement. See Gateway Protection Programme.

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Screening interview

Screening interviews are meetings between asylum seekers and immigration officers to establish: identity, route to the UK, liability to return to a third country, eligibility for support, liability to prosecution, liability to detention and suitability for being dealt with under the fast track procedure. During the interview asylum seekers have their photo and fingerprints taken and are issued with an asylum registration card. See ARC.

Safe country list

A list drawn up by the Home Office of countries where it believes that persecution does not take place.  Asylum seekers from these countries are likely to have their asylum application refused and are unlikely to be allowed to stay in the UK for their appeal.

Safe third country

The Home Office deems certain countries to be places where a refugee is safe from persecution: for example all EU states, Canada, the USA, Switzerland and Norway. If an asylum seeker travels through any of these states en route to the UK, he or she may be returned there on grounds of having travelled through a safe third country. Returns to EU states are covered by the Dublin III agreements. See Dublin III.

Section 2

Section 2 of the Asylum & Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc) Act 2004 gives the Home Office power to prosecute asylum seekers who a valid document which states their name, nationality or citizenship.

Section 4 support

Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 gives the Home Office power to grant support to some destitute asylum seekers whose asylum application and appeals have been rejected. Support granted under Section 4 is also known as ‘hard case’ support.

Section 9

Section 9 of the Asylum & Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc) Act 2004 gives the Home Office power to withdraw support from families with children under 18 whose asylum application and appeals have been rejected and who are thought not to be co-operating with efforts to remove them. It also prevents local authorities from providing such support for the whole family although they may have the power to provide support to the child.

Section 55 (Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002)

Section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 gives the Home Office power to deny support to asylum seekers deemed not to have applied for asylum ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’. See ‘As soon as reasonably practicable’.

Section 55 (Borders Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009)

Section 55 of the Borders Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 requires the Home Office to make arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in discharging its immigration and nationality functions.

Section 57

Section 57 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 states that Home Office support can be withheld if the asylum seeker fails to provide complete or accurate information to the authorities or fails to co-operate with further enquiries.

Separated children

Separated children are children under 18 years of age who are outside their country of origin and separated from both parents, or previous/legal customary care giver. Separated children are typically asylum seekers, but not in every case.

Standard acknowledgement letter (SAL)

In some cases, the Home Office will not be able to issue an asylum registration card, see Application registration card.

Instead, a standard acknowledgement letter may be given which acknowledges an asylum application.

Subsistence support

Subsistence support is the cash element of Home Office support. Asylum seekers who have accommodation, for example with friends or relatives, can apply for subsistence support only. This form of support is also known as cash support.

Substantive interview

See Asylum interview.

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Temporary admission (TA)

Temporary admission is notice of a liability to be detained. It is given to asylum seekers applying for asylum at the port of entry who the Home Office does not put into detention. Those granted temporary admission are issued with an IS96 document.

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Unaccompanied children seeking asylum

Unaccompanied children seeking asylum are children who have applied for asylum in their own right, who are outside their country of origin and separated from both parents, or previous/legal customary primary care giver.


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Voluntary Assisted Return & Reintegration Programme (VARRP)

Voluntary Assisted Return & Reintegration Programme is a UK scheme to help people return permanently to their home country. The scheme is operated via Refugee Action who provide advice and assistance to people considering voluntary return to their country of origin.

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UK Border Agency (UKBA)

UKBA was an agency of the Home Office with responsibility for immigration control in the UK. In March 2013 it was announced that UKBA was being abolished and its functions taken back into the Home Office.

UK Border Force

The UK Border Force is responsible for border control operations at ports. It used to be part of the UK Border Agency but was separated from UKBA in March 2012.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refuges (UNHCR)

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is the UN agency with a mandate to protect refugees worldwide.



updated May 2013