You are now leaving the Turn2us site. Turn2us is not responsible for content on third party sites.


Refugee leave and humanitarian protection

This guide gives information on the definition of a refugee, when they can claim benefits and which ones.

1. Can I get benefits if I have refugee status or humanitarian protection?

What is a Refugee?

The United Nations 1951 convention on Refugees defines a refugee as: "A person who is outside his/her country of nationality or habitual residence; has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion and is unable or unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution."

In the UK, a refugee is someone who meets these criteria and has been given leave to enter or remain in the UK as a result.

Can I claim Benefits?

You are not a person subject to immigration control and can claim welfare benefits and tax credits if:

  • You have refugee status
  • You have been granted humanitarian protection
  • You have been granted discretionary leave, unless you have a condition on your stay that you have no ‘recourse to public funds’.

You still have to satisfy the usual rules of entitlement – for example for contributory benefits you will need to have paid sufficient national insurance contributions.

If you have been granted refugee status, or humanitarian protection or discretionary leave, you are exempt from the habitual residence test for means tested benefits.

If you have been granted refugee status or humanitarian protection or leave outside the immigration rules without any restriction on having recourse to public funds, you are exempt from the requirement to be living in the UK for the past three months for Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit. 

If you have been granted refugee status or humanitarian protection you are also exempt from the past presence test for disability and carers benefits.

Being Joined by a Family Member

If you have been granted refugee leave or humanitarian protection, you can be joined in the UK by certain family members under what is known as ‘family re-union’ rules.  A family member who joins you under these rules is not a ‘person subject to immigration control’ and can claim benefits that they are entitled to. The family member is also exempt from the past presence test for disability and carer benefits.

2. What benefits can I claim?

If you have been granted refugee status, humanitarian protection or discretionary leave, (unless it is subject to the condition that you do not have 'recourse to public funds') you have broadly the same rights and entitlements to services as UK citizens and can apply for all welfare benefits and tax credits.  However, you might also qualify for the following benefits help:

Income Support for Refugees studying English

Refugees studying English can receive Income Support. To qualify you must:

  • have been granted refugee leave (not humanitarian protection or discretionary leave); and
  • attend, for more than 15 hours a week, a course for the purpose of learning English in order to gain employment; and
  • have been in Great Britain for not more than 12 months on the date the course began

You can claim Income Support for up to nine months while you are studying, if you meet the above conditions.

It is no longer possible to make new claims for Income Support. 

Backdating tax credits, child benefit and guardian’s allowance

You can claim backdated Tax Credits, Child Benefit and Guardian’s Allowance if you have been granted refugee leave (not humanitarian protection or discretionary leave).  This can be backdated to the date of your asylum application.

You must claim:

  • backdated tax credits within one month of receiving the Home Office letter granting you leave as a refugee
  • backdated Child Benefit and Guardian’s Allowance within  three months, of receiving the Home Office letter granting you leave as a refugee

If the Home Office letter is sent to your solicitor, the three or one-month period starts from the date your solicitor receives the letter.

You can claim Tax Credits for a past period you were entitled, even if you are not entitled now. 

The amount of Tax Credits you receive is reduced by the amount of asylum support you’ve received.  This means that your backdated Tax Credits can be cancelled out, if the amount of asylum support is greater than your past entitlement to Tax Credits.  However if you did not receive asylum support or the amount of asylum support was less than your back entitlement to Tax Credits, you can be entitled to an amount of backdated tax credits.

The amount of backdated Child Benefit and Guardian’s Allowance is not reduced by any asylum support you may have received.

You cannot have Universal Credit backdated, but if you had entitlement to tax credits before your area became a Universal Credit full service area, you may be able to claim backdated tax credits. This can be complicated, and you should get advice.

Further information

The Refugee Council can provide further information and advice to refugees.

 

3. Refugee Integration Loan

Refugees or people with humanitarian protection may also be eligible for an integration loan.

This has to be paid back but it is an interest-free loan. The smallest amount you can borrow is £100.

 An integration loan can help cover the cost of the essential items needed to start a new life, for example a rent deposit or rent, work clothes or household items.

Claims are decided by the Home Office.

For more information see the information on refugee integration loans on the government website.