A Beginner’s Guide to the First-tier Tribunal: An Immigration Appeal Hearing

An appeal hearing for the lay person can seem like a challenging experience, one that is difficult to navigate and even more so to understand. At LEXVISA, it is routine for us to lodge and attend immigration appeals at the First-Tier Tribunal (“FtT”) however we understand how daunting it can be for an individual not accustomed to the legal processes of an appeal hearing.

Whether you have an upcoming immigration appeal and want to be better informed on the procedures, or would like a general overview of what happens at an appeal hearing in the FtT, this is the correct guide for you.

What is the FTT?

It is the first level of court which deals with hearing appeals against decisions of the Home Office concerning: entry clearance for the UK, permission to stay in the UK and deportation from the UK. The First-tier Immigration Tribunal is separate to the Home Office in the sense that it has the authority to overturn Home Office refusal decisions.

Arriving at the Tribunal

If the hearing is in-person, you will need to sign in once you arrive at one of the FtT’s. If the hearing is online, you will need to log in using the link provided to you since the hearing will be taking place remotely.

Typically, the court rooms are small, mundane and appear to look more like an office than what one may expect when going to a courtroom. In addition, all the attendees will usually wear standard business attire as opposed to gowns and wigs.

The Hearing

As a minimum, the people present at the hearing will be:

  • The Judge
  • The Appellant (you)
  • 2 Legal representatives: Yours and the Home Office’s (also known as a Home Office presenting officer).

Extra persons attending may be:

  • An interpreter (if you have asked for one): the court will appoint one for you in advance of the hearing.
  • The court’s clerk: an assistant to the judge whose role is to manage the hearing room and all attendees.
  • Witnesses (if required for your appeal): they will be asked to wait outside of the room where the appeal hearing is taking place and only be allowed to enter once you have finished giving your own evidence.
  • Friends or family: they will be permitted to sit and observe the hearing from the public gallery (you may find strangers who attend to observe, although this is unlikely).

As you enter the courtroom, you will be shown to your seat. There will be desks reserved (indicated by small, named badges) to your left and right for your legal representative and the Home Office’s presenting officer.

On commencement of the hearing, the Judge may have a brief ‘housekeeping’ discussion with the 2 legal representatives (yours and the Home Office’s) to ensure: all attendees have the correct paperwork, to confirm how many witnesses there will be and to attempt to agree with both sides what the legal issues to be decided are.

The Judge will introduce him/herself to you and if you have requested an interpreter, you should have an opportunity to check that you understand the court’s elected interpreter. After this, the witnesses (if any) will give their evidence in court, beginning with the ones brought on behalf of you, as the Appellant.

The witnesses will be asked to confirm their name, address and whether any witness statement they have submitted to the Tribunal is their true account after which, the Home Office’s presenting officer will ask you or your witness (if any) questions. The length of the questioning will depend on the Home Office presenting officer. An opportunity will be provided to the officer to ask a few follow up questions as part of the “cross-examination”.

It is advised to provide short and concise answers. This is because elusive answers can result in repeated questioning which may be more harmful to your case. The judge and the presenting officer are experienced in hearing evidence and cross examining; therefore, it is best to provide clear and direct answers. If you did not hear a question, feel free to ask the judge or presenting officer to repeat.

Once all witnesses have provided evidence, the Judge will expect both parties’ legal representatives to make “submissions”. This means they want the legal representatives of both parties to summarise their arguments and try to persuade the Judge why the appeal should be refused, which is the role of the Home Office’s presenting office, or why the appeal should be successful (your legal representative).

What Happens After The Hearing?

The maximum an immigration appeal hearing usually last is 2 hours. Once the hearing has ended, the Judge will specify that s/he will “reserve” their decision which simply means a decision will not be made on the day. Instead, the judge will review all of the evidence and their notes and revert to the parties with a written decision, which is known as a “judgment” or “determination”, a few weeks after the date of the hearing.  The judgement or determination should be sent to you, and your legal representatives (if instructed), and should provide detailed reasons for the decision made.

Although it is possible to attend the hearing without legal representation, there are several strong reasons why it is a good idea to have an experienced professional with you in order to prepare your case and to present it on the day which in turn, not least to help you feel less anxious about your case and your future.

Why Instruct Our Immigration Team?

Our team of solicitors and barristers are specialist immigration lawyers who act in your best interest. We offer a client-tailored approach from the outset. From the very first meeting, we will be able to advise you in respect of your prospects of submitting a spouse visa application before your application even reaches the Home Office UK Visa & Immigration department. We can assist you with the preparation and submission of a spouse visa application and are able to advise you in respect of your prospects and to ensure that you meet all the requirements of the relevant rules.

Our offices are based in the legal epicentre of London, just across the road from the Royal Courts of Justice in order to ensure we get the best results for our clients.  We are minutes away from the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal, the Royal Courts of Justice and other central London courts.

Preparation is the key to successful immigration applications. Our UK immigration and visa solicitors are here to guide you through the complex immigration rules and requirements. If you wish to meet one of our lawyers, please call our Immigration Team so we can assess your case and arrange your legal consultation to discuss your visa application.

Contact our London immigration solicitors on 02030110276 or complete our contact form.

Authored by Tehreem Fatima, Paralegal

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