Immigration appeals are much more likely to succeed if there’s an oral hearing

A person whose immigration application to the Home Office has been refused sometimes has a right of appeal. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, people essentially had a choice. Their appeal could be heard in person, at court, in front of a judge who would listen to their evidence live (referred to as an “oral hearing”). Or they could opt for a judge to decide the outcome without a hearing, by only reading the documents in the case to reach a conclusion (a “paper disposal”). 


The immigration tribunals want to decide a substantial number of appeals on the papers during the pandemic, as set out in a recent . Many practitioners fear this may be indicative of a change of approach even after the lockdown has ended.


Whilst some may be suitable for paper disposal, in immigration cases the truthfulness of witnesses is often the central factor in dispute. It has been of concern that even in such cases, judges are canvassing whether representatives will give consent for matters to go ahead by paper consideration alone. Other areas of law are with issues of fairness in cases affected by the pandemic (in the family context, for example, see Re A (Children) (Remote Hearing: Care and Placement Orders) ).


Case law the value and weight of oral argument in court. Statistical data obtained through a Freedom of Information request lend support to these observations. The figures cover 264,000 orals hearings and 17,000 paper disposals decided between 2014 and 2019. They show a marked disparity in outcome between the two forms of appeal.

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