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Asylum Seekers

There are special rules about benefits for asylum seekers waiting for a decision on an asylum application.

1. Who is an asylum seeker?

According to the United Nations (UN), an asylum seeker is "a person who has left their country of origin, has applied for recognition as a refugee in another country, and is awaiting a decision on their application".

In the UK, an asylum seeker is someone who has applied for asylum and is waiting to hear whether he or she will be granted leave to stay. It is the responsibility of the Home Office to decide if a person qualifies for asylum under the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees.

As this is a very complex area of the law, it is important to seek specialist advice. You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find a local adviser to help you further.

The Refugee Council, a charity that works with asylum seekers and refugees, may also be able to advise further.

 

2. Benefits and asylum seekers

An asylum seeker who is a Non-EEA national is a person subject to immigration control and will therefore not be able to claim most benefits.  Please see our guide on Non-EEA Nationals and Persons Subject to Immigration Control for further information.

Your status, however, will not prevent you from claiming contributory benefits but asylum seekers are unlikely to have paid sufficient  national insurance contributions to qualify for these benefits - and in the case of Contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance, they are usually not permitted to work.

An EEA National who is an asylum seeker is not a person subject to immigration control, but would have pass the relevant presence and residence tests in order to claim benefits, including the Right to Reside Test.

3. Asylum Support

If you are unable to support yourself and your family while your asylum application is being considered, you may be eligible for financial support provided by UK Visas and Immigration to buy essentials such as food, clothing and toiletries and/or suitable housing. If UK Visas and Immigration provide you with housing, you will have no choice about where you live and it  is unlikely that you will get to live in London or South East England.

Cash support

Cash support for asylum seekers from UK Visas and Immigration is less generous than mainstream benefit rates from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The current rates of support are £37.75 per week for each person in your family group.

If you are a woman who is pregnant or with children under three, you can receive extra money to help you buy healthy food:

  • Pregnant women receive an extra £3 a week
  • A baby under the age of 12 months receives an extra £5 a week
  • Children aged between one and three years receive an extra £3 a week

If you are pregnant, you may also be able to receive a one-off £300 maternity payment, if you meet certain requirements. This money is to help you with the costs of having the baby.

How to apply for support

Each asylum seeker will have a 'case owner'. If you are eligible to receive support, and sign an agreement to say you will obey the conditions upon which the support is provided, your case owner will arrange for you to collect money from a post office near where you live.

To collect your cash support, you must show your asylum application registration card.

Further Information

The following agencies may also be able to provide information and support:

The Asylum Support Appeals Project also has factsheets with further information.

 

4. After the asylum decision

If you are granted refugee status or humanitarian protection or discretionary leave you cease to be a person subject to immigration control and you can claim all benefits subject to all other conditions.  However if you are granted discretionary leave that is subject to a ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition, you will not be able to claim benefits which are public funds.  You should seek immigration advice to see if this condition can be removed.

The Refugee Council, a charity that works with asylum seekers and refugees, can advise you further if your application for asylum has been rejected and you are destitute. See the information about their work with asylum seekers on the Refugee Council website.