Subject Access Requests: Requesting personal information from the Home Office
The Home Office holds information about individuals who have come to its’ attention one way or another. Such information may contain copies of documents an individual provided with an application, criminal records checks or interview records.
An individual might not know what information is held about them by the Home Office.
Under the Data Protection Act 1998, individuals are entitled to obtain information that is held about them by the Home Office.
The process of an individual requesting information from the Home Office about themselves is known as a Subject Access Request. The aim of making a Subject Access Request to the Home Office is for an individual to see what information is held by the Home Office about them on the Home Office’s systems and files.
Reasons for making a Subject Access Request
Reasons for making a Subject Access Request include, for example:
- An individual might not know if their leave to remain has been curtailed because the curtailment letter never reached them. Making a Subject Access Request might reveal the fact that a document was sent to an individual by the Home Office even if the document was never received;
- An individual might use a Subject Access Request to find out their full immigration history (i.e. when they were granted each visa) and to obtain copies of landing cards which might allow them to calculate their absences from the UK for the purpose of making a long residence ILR application;
- An Appellant who has been accused of dishonesty might benefit from making a Subject Access Request in order to obtain interview transcripts or document verification reports held by the Home Office as a precursor to challenging the allegation.
How to make a Subject Access Request
In order to make a subject access request to the Home Office, an individual needs to fill in a Subject Access Request form.
It is possible to make a fast track application which is normally processed within 20 days, as opposed to the standard Subject Access Request which is normally processed within 40 days. However, information provided by the Home Office in response to a fast track application is limited to:
- IT records;
- Entry clearance records;
- Landing cards information;
It is to be noted that there is a ten pound fee payable to the Home Office for making the standard request, while a fast track request is free of charge.
The standard Subject Access Request can provide an individual with access to the following information:
- Printouts from the Home Office’s computerised database (including caseworker notes, summary of immigration history, decisions and appeals);
- Home Office files;
- Work Permits;
- Visa application forms (out of country applications);
- Detention records (including removal escort data);
- Landing cards;
It is possible to specify in the subject access request form what information is being sought.
While it is not strictly mandatory to submit the request using the form, it is recommend to use the form identified above when making a Subject Access Request to the Home Office, because the form is designed to capture all the information required by the Home Office in order to identify the relevant individual and access their records.
The standard Subject Access Request needs to include the following:
- A certified copy of photo identification;
- A valid cheque for ten pounds or Postal Order payable to ‘Home Office Accounting Officer’;
- Enough personal information to allow the Home Office to identify the relevant individual;
- An original, signed authority from the person you are applying for if you are applying for someone else;
Anyone can make a Subject Access Request for information that is held about them. The relevant form can be completed by an individual or their legal representative.
What to do if you do not get a response from the Home Office within 40 days
The Home Office has to respond within 40 days, starting from the day they receive both the fee and the information they need to identify an individual and the information requested.
If the Home Office needs more information to help them find an individual’s information or identify an individual, they have to ask for the information they need. They can then wait until they have all the necessary information as well as the fee before dealing with the request.
The Information Commission Officer advises that:
“If more than 40 calendar days have passed since you made your request, we advise you write to the organisation to remind them of your request and their obligations under the Data Protection Act. We recommend you send any correspondence by recorded delivery…
If you do not receive a response to this letter, please report your concern to us.”
Contact Our Immigration Barristers
If you would like our assistance with making a request to the Home Office for information held about you, please contact our team of Immigration barristers – specialists in the UK immigration law at Richmond Chambers on 0203 617 9173 or via our online enquiry form.