Court of Appeal reverts to Home Office-friendly approach to service of decision letters

The Court of Appeal has decided in Alam v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2020] EWCA Civ 1527 that sending a decision letter to a person’s last known address will generally be sufficient proof that the letter has been received. To prove otherwise, it must be shown the letter was intercepted and did not arrive, not merely that the person was unaware of the letter.

Despite the change in approach brought about by the Court of Appeal’s decision in Alam, the central lesson remains the same: advising the Home Office when you move address is important.

If the Home Office sends an important letter to an old address, despite you updating them with your new address, they will not be able to get past the first hurdle of showing that the letter was posted to the last known address. But if you have not told them your new address, they cannot really be blamed. The burden will fall on you to prove that the letter was not received i.e. not delivered to your last known address. This is likely to be difficult.

There is no obligation to notify the Home Office of a change of address. However, ensuring that they have your current address will hopefully mean you do not miss any important decisions issued.

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