Asylum Seekers and Refugees

You may be eligible to live and work in the UK if you are leaving your home country because you no longer feel safe living there. Perhaps you are eager to avoid a war or minority persecution. You will be recognised as an asylum seeker if you have left your country to escape persecution, torture or bad treatment and are seeking refuge in the UK. If you are granted permission to stay in the UK, whether temporarily or for a longer period of time, you will be given refugee status.


As an asylum seeker you must wait until the authorities have decided whether you are entitled to remain in the UK or must return to your home country. Whilst you are waiting for your application to be processed you can receive advice and support from the National Asylum Support Service, or NASS. You may also be entitled to some benefits, including a living allowance to help you cover basic expenses and a maternity grant if you or your partner have recently given birth. You will also be entitled to accommodation but will not be able to choose where you live. Generally however the authorities will attempt to house you in or near a community where there are other people who speak your native language. Children of asylum seekers are entitled to free education and free school meals. Asylum seekers are also entitled to free healthcare from the National Health Service, and may be able to claim Legal Aid to help with processing an asylum claim. Whilst you have asylum seeker status you will not be entitled to work.


If your claim for asylum is approved and you are granted refugee status, you will be entitled to begin working and earning in the UK. You will also be entitled to claim state benefits, on the same basis as any other UK citizen. For more details on the benefits on offer see State Benefits. If you have worked and earned enough to pay National Insurance contributions you may be able to claim a State Pension when you reach retirement age. The amount of State Pension you receive will depend on your individual circumstances and on your National Insurance record. For more information on the State Pension system see State Pensions. If you are due to retire within a few years and will not have time to build up entitlement to a full State Pension, you should ensure that you have claimed any pension you are entitled to claim from your home country.


Should you require help and advice, you should contact the Migrant Helpline on 01304 203 977 or the Border and Immigration Agency on 0870 606 7766. These organisations will be able to advise you on your best course of action, and inform you about support you are entitled to receive. You can also contact the Refugee Council Advice Line on 020 7346 6700 for assistance when you have been granted refugee status, or the Benefits Enquiry Line on 0800 88 22 00 if you wish to enquire about to your entitlement to a specific state benefit.