Hearings in the Immigration and Asylum Chamber (First-tier)

The First-tier Immigration and Asylum Chamber hears appeals against decisions of the Home Office in relation to permission to stay in the UK, deportation from the UK, entry clearance to the UK, and applications for immigration bail from people being held by the Home Office on immigration matters.

Who is involved in a hearing at the Immigration and Asylum Chamber?

The parties involved in a hearing at the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber)includes:

  • the Immigration Judge assigned to the case (or a panel of two or three Immigration Judges)
  • the appellant who will be expected to be present (unless they are out of country, in which case a sponsor will appear to give evidence on their behalf)
  • any counsel or a solicitor representing the appellant
  • a Home Office Presenting Officer representing the Respondent. This may be a Visa Officer (for visa cases), Entry Clearance Officer (for out of country appeals) and Secretary of State (for in country and asylum appeals)
  • A court appointed interpreter if required, where the appellant does not speak English (or not well). The appellant (or their lawyer or sponsor) should request an interpreter to be booked in advance and specify the language and dialect required. It is sometimes possible to arrange an interpreter at the last minute if the hearing centre staff are notified at the beginning of the day
  • members of the relevant security force who have brought the appellant from a prison will remain in the hearing room with the appellant where the appellant is under detention
  • A court clerk who will assist with bringing in witnesses, administrative tasks, and assisting the Immigration Judge as required

If the appellant is facing criminal charges, the hearing must be moved to a Crown Court where the level of security is higher. If the appellant is being detained for immigration purposes (ie. they have served their criminal sentence but the Home Office believes they should be deported), the hearing can take place at a normal Immigration and Asylum Chamber hearing centre.

What happens if a party does not turn up?

The Tribunal is allowed to continue with a hearing in a party’s absence if it is satisfied the party has been notified, or that reasonable steps have been taken to notify the party of the hearing – and it is in the interests of justice to continue.

Note that there are strict procedural requirements that must be complied with, both before and during the hearing.

How is the hearing conducted at the Immigration and Asylum Chamber?

The court clerk will gather all parties in the hearing room, ready for proceedings to begin. The Immigration Judge will enter the hearing room, and it is customary for all parties to rise until the Immigration Judge is seated, or indicates for them to sit down.

The Immigration Judge should be addressed as ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’, by all parties as a mark of respect. The advocates will likely refer to the Immigration Judge as ‘the learned judge’, and each other as ‘my friend’ or ‘my learned friend’.

The Judge will introduce all the parties to the appellant. If there is a court interpreter present, the Immigration Judge will begin by outlining the role of the interpreter to the appellant, and explain how and in what order the hearing will proceed.

The appeal hearing is generally adversarial in nature, as with most legal proceedings. The appellant’s representative is given the opportunity to ask questions for clarification at the outset, to add to the witness statement to present the Evidence in Chief. The Home Office Presenting Officer is the invited to test the appellant’s evidence through cross examination, after which the appellant’s representative may then re-examine.

The Immigration Judge may adopt an inquisitorial style, asking questions of the appellant/sponsor and advocates for clarification, or if they are not satisfied with the level of cross-examination. Finally, the Home Office Presenting Officer, and then the representative, are invited to give submissions as to how they think the case should be decided.

If there is no legal representative, the Home Office Presenting Officer will give their submissions, and the appellant will then be given the opportunity to respond to the individual points – or make their own argument in relation to their immigration appeal. Throughout the appeal hearing, the interpreter will assist the court if necessary and, particularly if there is no legal representative, will provide a quiet summary of the submissions to the appellant whilst the advocates are addressing the Immigration Judge.

Is the Immigration and Asylum Chamber a public court?

Yes, anyone can observe a hearing at an Immigration and Asylum Chamber hearing centre. The exceptions are that some cases require an all-female Court due to sensitive information being discussed.

In some cases, an application is made by the Home Office to speak to the Immigration Judge ‘in camera’. This means that the appellant, representative and interpreter, and members of the public, must leave the hearing room while the Home Office representatives discuss their techniques to discover and test forged documents. It is in the public interest to keep these techniques private.