Certified copy of passport now required for Subject Access Requests from UKVI

A Subject Access Request (SAR) is a request to a 'data controller' under the Data Protection Act 1998 for all information held by the organisation about a particular person. The application costs £10 and can be made by the person themselves or by a representative who the person has authorised to act on their behalf. SARs are used frequently by immigration advisers in order to get a copy of UKVI's file on a particular client. They often contain interesting insights into the inner workings of UKVI and help piece together a client's immigration history when they are unsure of precise details themselves.

UKVI have recently updated the guidance notes accompanying their SAR form which now states that all SAR requests must be accompanied by a copy of photo identification which has been certified by a solicitor. The following  photo identification is acceptable: current passport; current driving licence; Biometric Residence Card; National Identity Card; or Travel document. 

Many will be able to comply with this request without too much difficulty. However, there will also be several people with no passport or identity document. If this is the case, the guidance goes on to state that a photograph certified by a solicitor as a true likeness will be accepted. In the past, a letter from the Home Office was usually sufficient confirmation of a person's identity for the SAR to be processed. Presumably, this is no longer the case. 

This change in policy will make it more difficult for individuals without legal representation and those without identity documents (such as asylum seekers) to successfully request a copy of their file from UKVI. It is unclear whether this change in policy complies with the Data Protection Act 1998 which does not appear to have been changed. Section 7(3)(a) of the Act states that a data controller may request information which he “reasonably requires... in order to satisfy himself as to the identity of the person making a request under this section and to locate the information which that person seek”. A copy of a person's passport which has not been certified or a letter from UKVI containing the person's details is surely sufficient to satisfy UKVI of a person's identity. It is arguable that requesting anything more is unlawful. This argument would be particularly compelling in circumstances where a certified copy of a person's passport cannot be provided because the passport has been retained by UKVI themselves following refusal of a visa application.