Last updated: 19 June 2024

For information about the Illegal Migration Act 2023, see our Legal Update blog here.

After receiving your refugee status, it can be confusing to know where you can access support. Although it is a relief to receive a grant of status, it is often a very overwhelming experience. Almost overnight, you need to learn what to do about how to get housing, social care, benefits, work, or bringing family to join you in the UK.

This page provides a simple guide to help you navigate through this change, and signposts to other helpful resources. 

If your initial asylum claim was refused by the Home Office and you are unsure of what steps to take next, read our Toolkit page on refusals here.

On this page, you will find the following information:

What is refugee status?

If the Home Office decides that you have a need for protection because you in particular are at risk of persecution in your country of origin, and your asylum claim falls under the grounds for protection in the Refugee Convention, you will be granted refugee status for a period of 5 years

Refugee status is a form of immigration status in the UK. Refugees are not (yet) citizens in the UK, but they do have access to a number of rights, as outlined in this guide. 

If the Home Office does not think that you in particular are at risk of persecution in your country of origin, but concedes (this means agrees) that your country would be generally unsafe for you to return to, you may be granted Humanitarian Protection status, which you read more about here.

After you receive a decision letter from the Home Office granting your refugee status, you are meant to receive a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) card. Your BRP card is a small card with your name, date and place of birth, your fingerprints and a picture of you. It has information about your immigration status on it. You can use your BRP card as proof of your identity.

Your BRP card can be used to show your:

  • identity
  • right to study
  • right to any public services/benefits you’re entitled to (see more in the sections below)
  • your National Insurance Number, if you have one

The BRP card is different to the ARC (application registration) card – this is the card you have if you are seeking asylum in the UK and have not yet received a decision from the Home Office. 

Many people are experiencing delays or other problems (such as incorrect information) with their BRP cards. You can learn more about BRP cards and how to respond to issues that may arise in our simple Legal Update blog.

What comes after refugee status?

A grant of refugee status in the UK lasts for 5 years. 

After the 5 years have passed, you will be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (often referred to as ‘ILR’ or ‘settlement’).

When you obtain ILR, after one year you will be eligible to apply for British Citizenship if you want to become a British citizen or apply for a British passport. 

Read the sections below to find out more about these processes.

How to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (settlement)

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is permanent settlement in the UK (as opposed to being a temporary visa). It gives you the right to live, work, and study in the UK without a time limit. It also enables you to apply for benefits if you are eligible. 

It is also the route to applying for British citizenship (see below).

There are different ways to apply for indefinite leave to remain based on your circumstances. Crucially, this section only outlines the route to ILR after a grant of refugee status.

To apply for ILR after a grant of refugee status, you must:

  • Have the grant of refugee status for at least 5 years.
  • Apply during the last month of your current permission to be in the UK (just before it reaches 5 years).

The application must be made online using the SET(P) Form which you can access here

Once you have started your application, you can save your form and complete it later. 

You may include supporting documents or evidence with your application, such as any travel documents that have been issued, any time you have spent outside the UK, evidence you have established a life in the UK, and more.

If you are applying for ILR as a refugee, there is no application fee for making an application. 

Your family may be able to join your ILR application as dependants if: 

  • your family is already in the UK; and
  • you became a family before you left your home country (so it cannot be someone you met and formed a family with or children you had after your arrival in the UK)

If your family is not in the UK, you may be able to apply for them to join you in the UK under the Family Reunion rules (see below). 

With ILR, you can travel outside the UK using a Home Office travel document. You can learn more about applying for a travel document here.

It is important to note that your indefinite leave to remain may be taken away if you:

  • Travel back to the country you claimed asylum from.
  • Stay outside the UK for more than 2 years – you may need to apply before you can return to the UK.

Children of refugee parents 

Children born to parent(s) who are in or who have been through the asylum system have different entitlements to status, depending on the stage of the process that their parent(s) are in. 

For example, if a child is born in the UK while their parent(s) asylum claim is still being processed, they will be treated as a dependant child on the asylum claim. The Home Office just needs to be notified of the child’s birth. You can read more on page 29 of the guidance here, under the title ‘Including UK born dependants in asylum claims’.  

A child born in the UK to parent(s) who are settled / have Indefinite Leave to Remain, the child will automatically be a British citizen. Those with refugee status who later become settled will also be able to register their child as a British citizen.

Leave in line – children born in the UK 

This section concerns what happens if a child is born in the UK to parent(s) who have protection (refugee or humanitarian) status.

Before July 2023, parents could simply ask that the newborn child be granted refugee status in line with them – this is where the term ‘leave in line’ comes from. This could be done without an application or fee to pay. 

Since July 2023, changes have been made to the guidance. There is still no formal application form or fee, but parents must directly request protection status for their child from the Home Office, and the Home Office will then write to the parents to request the relevant evidence. Then, an asylum claim for the baby will need to be registered in person. See page 30 of the guidance under the title ‘Children not included in the initial claim or born to parents granted protection status’. 

The relevant evidence the Home Office may request could include: 

  • Passport photographs of the child 
  • Original birth certificate of the child
  • Copy of the parent(s) Biometric Residence Card (BRP) 
  • Copy of the parent(s) decision letter granting refugee status

Issues

This gives rise to a number of possible issues. 

Firstly, claiming asylum for a newborn child falls under legal advice, and so families will require the help of a legal adviser or lawyer. This means they will likely face delays in obtaining status for their child, as there is a backlog in receiving legal advice because the demand is so high. 

Secondly, the Home Office often refuses to grant a convention travel document to children born in the UK who have been granted leave in line without refugee status. According to Free Movement

If the baby is unable to get a convention travel document, then the alternative is a certificate of travel which is obviously inappropriate as it would require the refugee parent(s) to make contact with their embassy, which can create further problems. It is also considerably more costly.

British citizenship

Following a grant of refugee status for 5 years, and a grant of Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) for 1 year or more, you can apply for British citizenship if you meet the ‘good character’ requirements. 

Applying for British citizenship is sometimes called ‘naturalisation’. 

The other requirements are that you must also:

You can learn more about applying for British citizenship on the government website below.

Family reunion

Those who receive refugee status can apply to have their family members join them in the UK under a process called ‘family reunion’. 

Free Movement and Refugee Legal Support have drafted a user-friendly, detailed guide to family reunion which you can use to understand this process.

The Refugee Legal Assistance Project at the University of Bedfordshire assists people with their family reunion applications. Their campus is in Luton. You can email rlap@beds.ac.uk to book an appointment – but please note that this may take some time because they receive many requests.

Shortcomings of Family Reunion

In June 2024, Refugee and Migrant Forum Of Essex & London (RAMFEL) published a report called Safe Routes to Nowhere: The UK’s Broken Promises on Family Reunion. The report highlights the realities of the family reunion process, and how difficult it is for people with status in the UK to bring their families to join them.

The report draws on RAMFEL’s casework experience and government data. The report reveals that:

  • Many people in conflict zones are prevented from even applying for family reunion as they cannot attend a Visa Application Centre (VAC) to enrol their biometrics. As of February 2024, the government had only allowed one person to be exempted from this requirement.
  • The government’s default position is to refuse family reunion applications. In one of the few family reunion routes open, Appendix CNP, the government refused 83% of applications between April and September 2023, whilst in another route, Appendix Adult Dependant Relative, the refusal rate was 96% between 2017 and 2020.
  • Despite this, the vast majority of people succeed in overturning family reunion refusals at the Immigration Courts. Between 2019 and 2022, around two-thirds of refusals were overturned on appeal, whilst RAMFEL have never failed to overturn a family reunion refusal.
  • Government delays in processing family reunion applications are compounded by an average waiting time of 43 weeks for a court date if they refuse the application.

Employment and work for refugees

Those with refugee status are able to work in the UK. We know that entering (or re-entering) the work force can be a challenging experience, especially after being in the asylum process for a long time. 

A number of organisations provide support to those with refugee status who seek employment or training for employment. We have listed their details here.

  • Refugee Council can support you into employment and understand the barriers refugees face in trying to access work in the UK. You can learn more here.
  • The Refugee Employability Programme supports refugees to find work and settle into their local communities. Different providers carry out the programme across the UK, helping people with many skills, from language lessons and interview practice, to writing a strong CV. You can find the contact details of the providers in different regions of the UK here.
  • HIMILO is a training provider, delivering vocational training courses, careers advice and employment opportunities. You can learn more here.
  • Micro Rainbow provides support for recently granted refugees to access benefits and prepare for employment. They also run a fellowship programme for LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum and refugees to gain skills and experience in immigration law, communication, and leadership.
  • Breaking Barriers help refugees in Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Greater Manchester, acquire the knowledge, confidence and experience to get stable, fulfilling employment.

Education for refugees 

People with refugee status are able to study in the UK, but they face many obstacles (from accessing funding, to long waiting lists). 

The following organisations provide information and support to young people with refugee status who wish to pursue an education in the UK. 

  • Refugee Education UK (REUK) provides a range of services which help people aged 14–25 to access and do well in education. You can learn more about what they do (including mentoring, training, and resources) here.
  • Asylum Welcome assists people seeking asylum and refugees over the age of 16 who wish to continue their education and gain qualifications so they can work in the UK.
  • Student Action for Refugees (STAR) is a network of students in universities across the UK who stand in solidarity with refugees. They campaign for access to university for people in the asylum system and those with refugee status, and also compile lists of institutions that provide scholarships, bursaries and fee waivers. You can learn more here.

Opening a bank account

There has been a significant increase in the number of evictions (and halting of asylum support payments) from Home Office asylum accommodation for those who have refugee status since August 2023. 

This is difficult in itself, but what has made it harder is the very short notice people receive. In reality people were getting as little as a week or even 4 days’ notice from the Home Office to find somewhere new to live, and money to survive. This has since increased to 28 days. You can read our simple Legal Update about evictions from asylum support accommodation here.

So, if you have been living in asylum accommodation and/or receiving asylum support payments, these will stop 28 days after receiving refugee status

Because of this, it is very important that you open a bank account if you do not already have one, so that if you claim benefits or start working, the money you receive has somewhere to land. 

ACTION SECTION: Opening a bank account

To open a bank account, you will need a form of identification (ID) and, sometimes, proof of address.

Many high street banks will require proof of address which many newly granted refugees do not have. Banks like Monzo and Monese do not require this and are easy to open an account with but you will need a smartphone. 

Different bank branches of other high street banks (such as Lloyds, Nationwide and Halifax) have different requirements, and it is always worth going into the bank in person to explain your situation to them, and show them the documents you do have. This can include your BRP card, your decision letter showing your grant of refugee status. 

The Refugee Council published a guide explaining how to open and use bank accounts in the UK which you can access here.

In their Refugee Transition Guide, the Migration Justice Project have shared that: 

“To receive payments from an employer, or social security benefits, you must have a UK bank account. Some banks allow you to open an account online, then visit them to verify your identity. You should do this as soon as possible, otherwise, you cannot receive Universal Credit. To open an account, you must prove your identity (Biometric Residence Permit) and your address (letter from Housing Executive, Home Office, Mears or Universal Credit).

Social care and benefits for refugees 

Universal Credit

When you receive a grant of refugee status, you are eligible to claim certain benefits, such as Universal Credit (UC). 

Universal credit (UC) is a cash social security benefit for people aged under 66, administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). It helps you with living expenses (including rent) if you have a low income.

To qualify for universal credit you must:

  • make a valid claim;
  • sign a ‘claimant commitment’ and comply with any work-related requirements set out in it; and
  • be an eligible person. 

To apply for UC as a refugee, you must send a form of identification (ID) to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). This ID can be in the form of your BRP card, or if you have not yet received your BRP card, you can use your ARC card and your decision letter from the Home Office as ID. The ARC card and decision letter must be presented together to qualify as a form of ID.

You can learn more about claiming Universal Credit and eligibility in our guide on Destitution and Housing. 

Child benefit for refugees

If you have been granted refugee status and have or look after a child, you can claim Child Benefit backdated to the date of your asylum claim (the date you claimed asylum for the first time). 

You (the main person who claimed asylum) must claim Child Benefit within three months of: 

  • Receiving refugee status, or
  • From when the child was born, or 
  • Within three months of children arriving via family reunion.

You should claim within this three month period, even if your BRP card or other evidence has not yet arrived or is not yet available. It takes a very long time for His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to process your claim, so the earlier you submit it, the better.

The amount of Child Benefit is not reduced by any asylum support you received.

For further information, take a look at this useful page on the Maternity Action website.

Housing for refugees

There has been a significant increase in the number of evictions from Home Office asylum accommodation for those who have refugee status since August 2023. 

This is difficult in itself, but what has made it harder is the very short notice people receive. In reality people were getting as little as a week or even 4 days’ notice from the Home Office to find somewhere new to live, and money to survive. This has since increased to 28 days. You can read our simple Legal Update about evictions from asylum support accommodation here.

So, if you have been living in asylum accommodation, you will need to leave 28 days after receiving refugee status.

Some people are able to move in with friends, or to have help with renting privately. Others need more help, and can take a look at the resources we have listed below. 

Finding a room 

Refugees at Home is a UK charity which connects those with a spare room in their home to refugees and people seeking asylum who are in need of somewhere to stay. They provide support to both hosts and guests. If you would like to explore the option of finding a room through Refugees at Home, click here and read through their information for guests before getting in touch.  

The No Accommodation Network (NACCOM) is a network made up of member organisations providing accommodation and support to those facing destitution across the UK – including refugees. The accommodation provided by NACCOM members ranges from hosting to renting. You can find a map of NACCOM’s members across the UK by clicking here

Applying as homeless to a local council 

The Chartered Institute of Housing Rights has a very helpful resource outlining what it means to apply as homeless to a local council, and when/how to do this. You can access the full guide here

If you are in Scotland, housing law is slightly different, for example, there is no ‘priority need’. You can learn more about housing in Scotland here.  

It says –

Local councils have a responsibility to make sure free housing advice and information is available to anyone in their area. This is to prevent homelessness or help homeless people find accommodation. But if, even after following the advice and using the information, you are still homeless or threatened with homelessness, you may be able to ask the council for more help, including temporary accommodation and help finding long-term accommodation.

But councils only have to offer all this help if:

  • you are in one of the categories of people who are eligible; and
  • you are legally homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days (i.e. you don’t have a home in the UK or abroad where you can reasonably live); and
  • you are in priority need (because in your household there is an eligible child, pregnant woman or vulnerable person); and
  • you are not intentionally homeless (for example, you didn’t pay your rent or you gave up a home where you could reasonably have lived); in Wales some councils may not apply this rule; and
    Either:
  • you have a ‘local connection’ with the area where you are making the application (such as work, you lived there before or you have family members living there), OR
  • you have no connection with any area.

So, to apply to a local council for support with homelessness, you must:

  • Be eligible (check here for different eligibility criteria, which depend on whether you are a British/EEA citizen or a non-EEA citizen)
  • Be legally homeless or know you will be homeless within 56 days
  • Be in ‘priority need’ (due to vulnerability)
  • Not be ‘intentionally’ homeless (this means on purpose, if you have alternative options)
  • Have a ‘local connection’ (this means a tie to the place, for example if it was your asylum dispersal location) OR no connection to any local council area in the UK. This is because local councils have a duty to house someone who has a connection to their constituency, or who is in their constituency and does not have a connection to anywhere else in the UK.

The concept of a ‘local connection’ is very important to bear in mind for people who have just obtained refugee status and may wish to relocate to a location away from their asylum dispersal accommodation. Refugees in the UK have a unique, permanent local connection to the place they are living in at the time they receive their grant of status from the Home Office.

For example, this means that if you receive refugee status while you are living in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, you will have a local connection to Tower Hamlets council for the purpose of a homelessness application. If you were living in Leicester at the time when you received Refugee Status, you will have a local connection to Leicester City Council but if you move to London, you will not have a connection to any local councils in London. People outside of London coming into London are within the general homelessness cohort and will not be prioritised.

You can never lose an existing local connection, but you can always add to it. For example, if you used to live in London but then start a family and start working in Sheffield, you will have a new local connection in Sheffield.

You can learn more in our guide about Destitution and Housing. 

Useful resources

The Migration Justice Project (part of Law Centre NI) published an excellent Refugee Transition Guide, which is a support guide for people who have recently received refugee status, humanitarian protection, or discretionary leave.

The guide covers topics such as what your rights are when you transition from being an asylum seeker to a refugee, your Biometric Residence Permit, what the end of asylum support means, social security, working and National Insurance, and many other useful topics. It is available for download in English, Arabic, Farsi, Somali and Tigrinya

Please do note that some sections of the Migration Justice Project guide are specific to people who live in Northern Ireland.

Rainbow Migration has a guide to help you move forward with education, support, housing, help with mental health and looking for work after you have been granted refugee status. You can access the guide by clicking here

You can contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau for advice after you receive refugee status. They also have an information sheet which you can access here.  

There may be other local groups who may be able to help you with this. If you type in the name of the area you live in, followed by ‘asylum support groups’ on Google or any search engine, you should be able to find them. Or, you can also access our Directory of groups by clicking here.