Standardising asylum appeals processes

Guidelines and clearer policy on visa fees and asylum appeals processes give applicants a fairer hearing, no matter their country of origin.

Our evidence informed government policy on the retention of a fee for family visitors from overseas wishing to access the appeals process for visas.

We also influenced policy and thinking on how to assess the suitability of asylum applications.

Our studies of the Family Visitor Appeals process produced an evidence base for a 2010 consultation paper issued by the Ministry of Justice.

The Ministry used the finding to back up a decision to reintroduce appeal fees through secondary legislation (prior to the removal of the appeal right altogether in 2013).

Parallel research, which investigated the process for asylum appeals, led to changes by the Upper Tribunal in the use of the country guidance system – one of the mechanisms by which it decides the suitability of an asylum applicant.

Dr Hugo Storey, the Upper Tribunal Judge with responsibility for the Tribunal's country guidance work, noted that the Tribunal now has "an internal Country Guidance Committee that keeps under review country guidance issues”.

The Nuffield Foundation has noted the wider implications of the research as a conduit for informing broader developments and debate over the Upper Tribunal’s guidance-setting role.


Through the secondment of Professor Thomas to the Home Office in 2001, we had unprecedented access to the immigration appeals system.

Family visitor appeals

This empirical research into immigration appeals was commissioned in response to concerns that the appeal fee prevented people who had been refused a visa to visit family in the UK from accessing the appeals process. Key findings:

  • No clear evidence that the fee in itself was a deterrent to making an appeal.
  • The applicant’s sponsor often plays an important role in the decision to appeal, paying for the appeal in 65% of the cases.

Asylum appeals

This project examined the procedures of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal and the processes to make informed determinations.

Most significantly, the research involved an in-depth assessment of the Tribunal’s country guidance system, by which it assesses the degree of risk posed by conditions in countries from which asylum claimants originate.

Our findings were that the Tribunal could usefully refine the country guidance system to case manage appeals more effectively, thus enhancing its overall effectiveness. The researchers made key recommendations regarding:

  • need for ‘good quality decisions through fair procedures’;
  • need for swift processes;
  • consideration of best practice around the effective preparation of appeals;
  • need for criteria governing the reporting of decisions.