Understand the Home Office application process and what to expect
Access the application form and guidance notes
You can access the application form and guidance notes from gov.uk. The application form is a word document which you should download and save to work on together.
Before you submit your application
Once you have formed your Community Sponsorship group, decided on how you will apply (whether this is through an existing organisation or by setting one up yourself) you’ll need to start your application writing. If you’re working with an experienced Lead Sponsor organisation, find out if there’s anything that they would like you to ensure you include or a way in which you approach this.
You are asked to attend the Reset training Part 1: Planning your application training at this stage. This is online training that lasts no more than an hour, and outlines the whole Community Sponsorship process for you. Book here.
You’ll need to decide whether you will apply for Approval in Principle (AiP), or for full approval. For Groups who don’t have a property available, we recommend you apply for AiP:
- Approval-in-principle allows Community Sponsorship groups to move through the application process without entering a financially binding agreement on a property until closer to the family’s arrival. You should indicate that you are applying for AiP and leave the housing section blank on the form. You will come back to complete this once you find property.
- Full approval means that you will submit the full application, have a minimum of £9,000 to hand and have secured a property for the family to move into after arrival
For both types of application, you will need to submit a number of documents along with your application. The Home Office will not process an application without the following:
- A completed Local Authority consent form. Obtaining this may take some time, so we recommend you start building relationship with your Local Authority as soon as you have a confirmed Lead Sponsor. Remember if you are in a dual tier area, you will require the consent of the County and District.
- Your safeguarding policy – you will also need to show that you gave an opportunity to your Local Authority’s Safeguarding Team to review it
Our Writing your Application section of this toolkit provides tips on completing your form.
How will the Home Office process your application?
The Home Office will assess the evidence you provide in your application form, policies and any other supporting documents listed above that you submit to support your application. The Home Office might also carry out checks on personnel and may ask to meet with you to assess your application in more detail. In this section, we’ll explain what these checks and calls can be like. We’ll also explain what to expect when the Home Office reaches a decision on your application. You can find out more about the application process during our Part 1: Planning Your Application training. It is part of the required training you need to take part in before you can welcome a refugee family, and we will confirm your groups’ attendance with the Home Office.
Checks on personnel
The Home Office carry out checks against their records and against the police national computer, or its equivalent in Northern Ireland in order to ensure that your named Lead Sponsor are fit to resettle a vulnerable family. This is an important part of protecting the resettled families. If the information obtained via these checks suggests that your group or your lead sponsor are not fit to assume the responsibility of resettling a vulnerable family then the Home Office may refuse your application.
Reasons that the Home Office might consider someone unfit include, but are not limited to, the provision of false information, criminal convictions, or immigration offences. If you want to know about how the Home Office will use your data then you can find that out here.
The Home Office will carry out a pre-approval meeting (PAM) with your Group and your Local Authority representatives before a decision on your application is made. Once they have done an initial review on your application, the Home Office will contact you in advance to agree a date. PAMs allow the Home Office to make a more detailed assessment of your application. This meeting is carried out on line.
During your PAM, the Home Office might:
- Ask you to elaborate on the plans you’ve detailed in your application, demonstrating your preparation to welcome a family
- Identify gaps and ask you to make changes to the application and to do more research about different services in your area.
- Give you an opportunity to ask questions to the Home Office and the Local Authority about supporting refugees.
- Review your safeguarding policies and procedures with you and the local authority, and ask you to make changes where appropriate.
The purpose of the PAM is to facilitate a conversation between your Community Sponsorship Group, the Local Authority and the Home Office. The Home Office may ask you to make additions or changes to your application before giving you full approval or approval in principle. If this happens, it’s important to make these changes as quickly as possible.
Many group members may wish to be involved in the PAM, but not all need to be, and in fact you can keep the number of people who attend relatively small. It’s important that those who attend include your lead sponsor, project lead and safeguarding lead. You can include anyone else who you think can provide additional relevant information to the Home Office, but otherwise most of the information can be provided to the Home Office by the lead sponsor and a select number of the core group members.
You can read more about Pre-Approval Meetings on Reset’s blog.
Once you’ve completed the PAM, made any changes to your application and the Home Office are happy with the support you’ve planned for a resettled family, your application will be approved either fully, or in principle.
If you have an AiP decision made, your next task is to complete your fundraising or find a property. There is no time scale on this, however, your Local Authority consent will only last for 6 months; if it takes longer than this to meet the conditions, you will need to ask your local authorities to reconfirm their consent.
On very rare occasions, the Home Office will reject an application. This could be because security checks carried have failed, or the correct documentation such as your safeguarding policy or Local Authority consent have not been obtained. If your application is rejected, you will be able to submit again so long as the reason for rejection has been addressed.
What happens after your application is approved?
1. Completing the Property Offer Form (POF)
The Home Office will ask you for details of the property and school places available in the area. They will use this form to make sure they identify a suitable family for resettlement.
2. Signing the agreement with the Home Office
Your named Lead Sponsor will need to sign a formal agreement with the Home Office. This agreement will set out your responsibilities and those of the Home Office. You can find a sample agreement on the Home Office website
It’s a good idea to read this agreement prior to submitting your application.
3. Allocating a family for resettlement
It is the Home Office’s role to identify a suitable family for your group to welcome. They will propose the family to your Group and to your Local Authority. Your group and the Local Authority will be encouraged to confirm to the Home Office within five working days as to whether or not you can accommodate the proposed family. You should consider the case carefully and whether you can accommodate their needs. It is absolutely ok to say “no”; the family will still be resettled and this decision will not count against you.
The family to be resettled will be notified after you confirm whether you can accommodate them. The Home Office will then organise flights and will agree an arrival date with your Group – this is usually 6-8 weeks after the family has been accepted. You will receive information about the family so that you can tailor your preparations to their specific circumstances.
The Home Office ensures that security checks are carried out on everyone who will be resettled to the UK. They will also arrange for the resettled family’s visa and their Biometric residence permit (BRP).
4. Attending Part 2: Getting Ready to Welcome, Community Sponsorship training
You must attend the second part of your required training before you welcome a resettled family. This is an important opportunity to learn about the practical side of resettlement, empowering refugees and preparing for the family’s arrival. Reset will be in contact with you to book this in with you. We will arrange a mutually convenient time with you to deliver this training for your group.
You’ll be at the airport to meet the family when they arrive in the UK. Then you’ll begin to deliver support to the family as you’ve detailed in your application form.
6. Monitoring and Evaluation
Reset will arrange post-arrival support catch ups with your group and the refugee family. They will take place in person or online up to 3 times during your year of support. You can read more about the visits here.
You will also be asked by the Home Office to participate in their resettlement evaluation; something which all CS groups and local authorities are asked to do. This is a data collection model, where you will be asked for dates relating to ESOL beginning, any progress the family have made toward volunteering or employment, details about schooling and the amount of support that has been offered to the family. The adults in the family will also be invited to complete a self-assessment which you will be asked to facilitate. You’ll be asked to repeat the evaluation process throughout the first year of support.