We all know the feeling of having given something we own to a friend or family member and they take forever to give it back to us. It can be frustrating, and it can often leave us hesitant to loan anything to them again. Well, this same feeling is present when the Home Office are delayed in providing people with their personal information, or ‘profiles’, after a request is made for it.
So, how can we request to have this information returned to us and how can we complain if it takes an unreasonable time to arrive?
What is a Subject Access Request?
Requesting personal information about you that is stored on Home Office records is known as making a Subject Access Request. Requesting the information is free for the person making the request, but the process itself is paid by the tax-payer, which has led the Home Office suggesting that the requester shall take extra care when making the request and ask for what you really need, as what a buffet owner will tell their customers: only take what you can eat.
At the moment, due to COVID-19, the Home Office are not able to provide paper records, but promise to make an announcement when these are available again. We will be sure to notify our readers when this occurs.
What information might a Home Office immigration record contain?
A typical Subject Access Request may provide an individual with access to the following information:
- an electronic summary of your immigration history
- landing cards
- visa applications you submitted from outside of the UK (as part of entry clearance)
- Workers Registration Scheme (WRS) information if you are a national of Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia
- Entry and exit into and out of the UK. Your travel history can be provided for the past 5 years if a passport or travel document is submitted for this period.
Getting a bit more specific:
You can get a bit more detailed in your request, but be sure to make yourself crystal clear. The Home Office is capable of making mistakes, especially if the person requesting something from them is in any way vague.
You can request copies of up to 5 single documents, for example:
- a list of your applications
- a particular decision letter
- the outcome of an appeal (appeal determination)
- a particular detention progress report
- a deportation order
- a particular interview record
- work permits
Why is this information useful?
A Subject Access Request might be made so that a person can clearly see their immigration history, for example when their visa was granted, which can be helpful if they choose to go and submit a longer Indefinite Leave to Remain application, where certain dates are vital to get correct.
Another reason could be that the person is uncertain of their current immigration status and the options available to them going forward, so they want to use the information to see where they stand.
Further, the Home Office’s file may contain caseworker’s notes, minutes, their internal instructions and other records, which can provide valuable information beyond the decisions they make about a person’s applications or removal. Such information will assist the person in his/her challenge against the Home Office’s decisions, either by way of judicial review or appeal.
Of course, you do not need a specific reason to request this information, it can be for the sake of peace of mind.
How can you make a Subject Access Request?
In order for the Home Office to identify you, and fulfil your requests, you will need to provide the following:
- a copy of your photo identification, such as a passport
- a letter to give permission for your records to be sent to you, or your representative. This letter must also contain your signature and the sending date
- proof of your relationship, if you are applying for a child under 12 (such as a birth certificate)
The photo evidence is particularly important here, as the Home Office match your photograph against their systems to ensure they send personal information to the right person. It is a good way to keep the information safe. So, be sure to send good quality and clear photocopies of your photo I.D, and if that is not available you must send a recent picture of yourself. No original copies are required.
You should have this evidence ready before you start your application.
You can being your Subject Access Request online via this link.
You can also email email@example.com if you:
- have a query about making a subject access request
- have a query about a subject access request you have received
How long does it take?
You should hear back from the Home Office about your request within 30 days.
Making a complaint if the information is delayed
Nobody likes to wait around for something to arrive, especially when it is something important, such as personal data.
There are some email addresses you can message to complain about the processing of your data. You can try customer services on firstname.lastname@example.org for your initial complaint.
Complaining directly to The Office of the Data Protection Officer (ODPO) is also an option, as they handle breaches in subject rights involving data. You can reach them on email@example.com and be sure to provide the following:
- your reference number
- the date the original request was made
- information on how you made the request, for example online or by post
You should not be scared or intimidated out of making a complaint, these avenues are in place for a reason and you have every right to use them. It is your data after all, and you are entitled to it.
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