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Asylum seekers

asylum seekers

PLEASE NOTE: the contents of this page might not be up to date, as immigration law changes regularly. Contact THT Direct for a referral to an immigration solicitor who will be able to advise you.

From April 2000, most asylum seekers don’t have access to public funds and must claim asylum support instead. You would apply using an ASF1 Form.

If you’re an asylum seeker may still be entitled to certain benefits because of:

  • transitional protection.
  • because you qualify for a particular benefit because you fall within the exempted groups for it.
  • because you’re a family member of a person who is entitled to a particular benefit.

Asylum applications made before 5 March 2007 are now being dealt with by the Case Assurance and Audit Unit (CAAU).

From 5 March 2007, once you make your asylum application, you’ll be allocated a Case Owner from the UKBA. The Case Owner will deal with all aspects of your application until it is fully processed.

You’ll also be directed to a one-stop service which will give you access to available support from a member of the asylum Support Partnership. Members of this partnership include the Migrants Helpline, Refugee Council, Refugee Action, the Scottish Refugee Council, the Welsh Refugee Council, North of England Refugee Service and the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM).

When providing asylum support, the UKBA must take into account your special needs or your family member who is a vulnerable person. A vulnerable person is defined in the regulations as:

  • a child aged under 18 
  • a disabled person 
  • an elderly person 
  • a pregnant woman 
  • a lone parent with a child aged under 18 
  • a person who has been subject to torture, rape or any other serious psychological, physical or sexual violence

If you or your dependants have any special needs, you should be referred for a community care assessment undertaken by social services. Social services and the UKBA should work together to meet your needs as an asylum seeker or those of your dependants.

Will I have access to accommodation?

If you applied for asylum prior to 3 April 2000, then you would need to seek specialist advice regarding arrangements for accommodation.

If you’re an asylum seeker aged 18 or over who makes an application for asylum and are destitute, you may be provided with accommodation in the area in which you arrived in the UK. This may be in the form of initial accommodation while you complete your application for support. The Initial Accommodation Network may then arrange for you to be accommodated wherever there is adequate accommodation. This is often called being dispersed as it is the policy of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) policy is to disperse people away from London and south east England. The One Stop Service or Case Owner will help an asylum seeker to apply for accommodation.

When making a decision about accommodation, individual circumstances will be taken into account, but not personal preferences. The UKBA will consider whether it is reasonable to disperse, whether the accommodation will meet your needs and whether it’s compatible with the Human Rights Act 1998. Factors taken into account are things such as the need for medical treatment, unaccompanied asylum seeking children who are leaving care, special needs, family ties, education, ethnic group, religion, employment, legal advice and language when making a decision on dispersal.

If, as an asylum seeker, you have been accepted for treatment at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture (Medical Foundation), the UKBA should try to place you in or near London. If you’ve been referred for an assessment by the Medical Foundation, the UKBA should consider deferring its decision about dispersal until the assessment has been carried out and the Medical Foundation has decided whether to accept you for treatment.

If you’ve asked for an appointment or can’t prove that you’ve been accepted for treatment with the Medical Foundation, the UKBA will not defer dispersal.

If you’re an asylum seeker who is pregnant you’ll generally be expected to travel to accommodation before your child is born. If the accommodation offered does not seem to suitable for a baby, you can challenge the offer only if you’ve been pregnant for six months or more.

If you have a child at school or college who has started the final year leading to GCSE, AS level, A level or, in Scotland, Highers examinations your dispersal will usually be deferred.

If you’re working you’ll be expected to leave that job if necessary, in order to be dispersed out of London or south east England.

Do I have the right to work?

As an asylum seeker you would not normally be able to work while your claim for asylum is being considered by the Home Office.

If you have waited for more than 12 months for an initial decision on your claim and the delay in the decision was not your fault, then you can apply to your case owner for permission to work but not to become self-employed or to engage in a business or professional activity. If you’re refused permission to work, you will not have a right of appeal.

Do I have the right to NHS medical treatment?

As an asylum seeker, you and your dependants are entitled to free NHS medical treatment and help with travel costs. If you’re receiving Asylum Support, the UKBA will issue you with an HC2 certificate which will give you access to free prescriptions, fares to and from hospital, dental treatment, sight tests, wigs and fabric supports and full-value vouchers for the cost of glasses or contact lenses. The certificate will need to be renewed every six months.

If you’re not receiving Asylum Support you can apply on form HC1 for an exemption from charges based on a low income.

Legally, failed asylum seekers aren’t entitled to free NHS care as they aren’t lawfully resident in the country, but NHS Trusts have been given discretion to provide refused asylum seekers with free treatment, depending on a number of factors.

An asylum seeker who is refused support is still entitled to the following NHS treatment:

  • accident and emergency treatment 
  • family planning services 
  • treatment for certain listed diseases

In Wales, from 15 July 2009 the rules for refused asylum seekers have been changed and they are entitled to free NHS treatment until they leave the country.

In Scotland, refused asylum seekers who remain in Scotland are likely to stay in the care of the NHS until they leave the country.

Do I have the right to register with a GP?

An asylum seeker can register with a GP. If you’re having difficulty in registering with a GP, you should contact your local health authority. An asylum seeker can also receive assistance with accessing health care from the One Stop Services. Refused asylum seekers can also register with a GP.

Do I have the right to education?

Children of asylum seekers can attend school free from the age of five to 16, even if asylum is later refused. If the parent receives asylum support and the child is attending a state school, they’re entitled to free school meals and milk (if this is usually provided by the school). Local authorities have a discretionary power to award grants for school uniforms and travel passes.

If the child is already attending school in the UK when they reach the age of 16 and wants to continue in school, it is decided on a case by case basis whether they may continue until the age of 18. A child in a detention centre may be educated at the detention centre. Asylum seekers who are 16-19 years-old may also study at sixth form colleges or colleges of further education. An asylum seeker can also study on higher and further education courses, but they will need to meet the entry requirements and check that they can afford the fees and living costs.

In England, an asylum seeker who is aged 16, 17 or 18 years-old on a further education course will not be charged a fee or will be charged a home fee. If they’re over 18, they’ll have to either:-

  • have been in the UK for six months and are still awaiting a decision on her/his claim for asylum
  • been refused asylum in the UK, but been granted Section 4 support.

In England, an asylum seeker not in either of the groups will have to pay overseas student fees, although they should check with their local college who may operate a more flexible policy.

In Scotland, children of asylum seekers and unaccompanied young asylum seekers, if they have lived in Scotland for three years or more, are treated as home students for the purpose of university fees.

In Wales, local education authorities provide educational support to young asylum seekers of compulsory school age which may include provision of school uniforms, school meals, transport to school and bilingual support for those whose first language is not English or Welsh and who have difficulty communicating in these languages. They’ll also fund an adult asylum seeker who has registered on a course provided by the LEA to teach English as an additional language.

In Wales, the right to help at school is not means tested, but it will be ended if the asylum seeker is granted leave to remain in the UK.

Further education colleges in Wales make their own rules on whether or not to charge fees for courses.

Do I have the right to community care services?

You and your family are entitled to access community care services if you have special needs, such as disabilities. You should request a full community care assessment from their local authority.
Community care services can also be used to provide subsistence and accommodation to destitute individuals and their families if you’re eligible.

Community care services can also be used to provide subsistence and accommodation to destitute individuals and their families if you’re eligible.

Do I have the right to financial support after a positive asylum decision and Welfare benefits?

If your application is successful and you’re granted refugee status, humanitarian protection or discretionary leave, you’ll stop receiving asylum support 28 days after receiving the decision. You’ll be entitled to claim welfare benefits and should take their decision letter, along with the UKBA-issued NASS 35 form to their local Jobcentre plus office.

Can I apply for an integration loan?

If you’re aged 18 and over and you or your dependent have been granted refugee status or humanitarian protection on or after 12 June 2007, you can apply to the UKBA for an integration loan. Its purpose is to help you integrate into society and should be used for housing, employment and education needs. It can include vocational training, a deposit for accommodation, buying essential items for the home, or the tools of a trade, where financial assistance for these items is not available through Jobcentre Plus.

Do I have the right to accommodation support after a positive asylum decision?

If your asylum application is successful, the UKBA will stop the provision of accommodation after 28 days. The One Stop Service may be able to help by putting you in touch with local housing advice services. You may be eligible for assistance under homelessness legislation.

Do I have the right to support after a negative asylum decision?

If you’re an asylum seeker with no dependent children and your claim for asylum is rejected, your entitlement to asylum support will end unless you lodge an appeal. You’ll stop receiving support 21 days after receiving the final decision.

If you decide to lodge an appeal, a copy of the appeal letter can be faxed to the Restart Investigations Cessations Enquiry Team. If the appeal is allowed, the support is continued for a period of 28 days. However, if the appeal is not allowed, the period is 21 days.

A refused asylum seeker with no children may have a right to further support known as Section 4 support or may be eligible for community care services.

What if I have dependent children?

If you’re an asylum seeker with dependent children and your claim for asylum is rejected, you’ll continue to receive asylum support with essential living needs and accommodation from the UK Border Agency (UKBA). Support will be removed when the child reaches 18, leaves the household, stops being dependent on the asylum seeker who is supported by the Home Office, or leaves the UK.

If you’ve had your claim refused but give birth shortly afterwards, you’ll be entitled to Section 4 support on the grounds that you’re unable to travel. If you’re a refused asylum seeker with a child which is past the new-born stage, you’ll only be entitled to Section 4 support if you qualified on one of the other grounds. If you don’t qualify, you should seek assistance from social services.



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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 18/9/2014 by C. Berry

Date due for the next review: 31/3/2015

Content Author: G. Arrindell

Current Owner: Advice & Advocacy

More information:

Refugee Council - How can we help you


Refugee Council - Information pack for refugees