Why It Is Important To Get Your File From The Home Office

For many immigrants, particularly those who have been in the UK for several years, it is often very difficult to understand what is happening in their case.

This is even more problematic where individuals have made numerous applications and used many different legal representatives to do so.

One of the first things that I tend to do when such clients come to me for help is to apply for a copy of their entire file from the Home Office.

This helps me to understand the full history of the case and deal with any problematic issues at the outset.

If an application has been with the Home Office for a very long time, the file will contain information about what steps the Home Office have been taking on your case and why no decision has yet been taken.

A file might reveal that a decision was in fact  taken but sent to the wrong address.

The file is also useful for getting into an insight into what the Home Office intend to do with the person in question.

For example, I saw on one client’s file a note from a case worker that the Home Office had decided to grant him leave to remain for various reasons but that decision had never been implemented.

For clients in detention, the file will contain details about why the Home Office want to detain them.

On some occasions, there are no good reasons for the detention, which can result in legal proceedings for compensation for unlawful detention.

So for example, another client’s file revealed that the Home Office had decided several months earlier that he could not be safely deported, yet they had refused to release him.

If you are seeking to instruct a new solicitor and you have been in the UK illegally for many years, it is advisable to try and obtain a copy of your file from the Home Office in advance.

This will be of great help to your solicitor.

Of course your solicitor can apply for the file on your behalf but it will save you time and money if you do this yourself.

How to Obtain your File from the Home Office

Under the Data Protection Act 1998, you can request a copy of your file from the Home Office.

This is called a Subject Access Request.

You need to send the following things to the Home Office:

  • a valid cheque or postal order for £10, payable to ‘the Home Office Accounting Officer’
  • enough personal information to identify you, like a copy of your passport or driver’s licence, original utility bills and your Home Office reference number if you have one
  • an original, signed authority from the person you’re applying for if you’re applying for someone else – copies are not accepted

If you’re applying for a child who is under 12 years old, you don’t need to provide a signed authority. Instead you should provide evidence that you’re the legal guardian of the child.

If you don’t provide these, the Home Office will reject your application and return it with a letter telling you what is missing. Your request won’t be processed.

You should make a separate application for each person making a request. Each request should include the fee, identification and authority.

The most recent guidance from the Home Office on Subject Access Requests recommended completing a detailed application form available from their website.

The guidance also states that the application must be accompanied by a copy of photo ID which must be certified by a solicitor; barrister; legal executive; legal representative registered with the Office of the Immigration Service Commissioner (OISC); any other commissioner for oaths; or a registered charity.

This will be of great difficulty for many immigrants who do not possess any photo ID because they are not legally in the UK.

It was previously permissible to submit a certified passport sized photograph of yourself in the absence of photo ID but not anymore.

If the Home Office reject your application because you do not have photo ID, it may be possible to bring legal action against them.

You should send your application to

Subject Access Request Unit
UK Visas and Immigration
Lunar House
40 Wellesley Road
Croydon CR9 2BY

By law the Home Office must provide you with your file within 40 days of receiving your request.

Unfortunately, the Home Office often do not comply with this requirement and can take much longer to send you your file.

In such circumstances, you can write back to them or request an internal review by writing to

The Customer Services Team
Subject Access Request Unit
UK Visas and Immigration
17th Floor, Lunar House
40 Wellesley Road

Finding out all the information the Home Office possess about you is often the first step in regularising your stay.

Visadreams.com,  Diary of an Immigration Lawyer, is a blog run by Fahad Ansari, the director and principal solicitor of Riverway Law, a niche UK immigration and nationality law practice based in London.  If you would like any advice or assistance in relation to your immigration matter, please do not hesitate to email me at fahad@riverwaylaw.com or submit your details here.


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