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After you get refugee status

This advice applies to England

If you’ve claimed asylum and been given refugee status, Asylum Support will stop 28 days after the decision. It’ll stop 21 days later if you’ve been getting ‘section 4’ support.

This means you’ll:

  • stop getting your cash allowance (usually £36.95 per week)
  • have to move house - if you’ve been given somewhere to live as an asylum seeker

Once you’ve got refugee status, you’ll get permission to work in the UK - in any profession and at any skill level. If you’re not ready or able to look for work and have very little or no income, you can apply for welfare benefits instead.

You’ll also have to think about opening a bank account and getting a National Insurance number.

You’re not on your own. Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau - they can help you with benefits and housing, and can also put you in touch with local charities, English language schools and community groups.

Find a new home

If you’ve been living somewhere as part of getting Asylum Support, you’ll have to move within 28 days of getting refugee status.

If you’re already living with friends or family, you don’t need to move - but you won’t be able to claim Housing Benefit, and it could affect other benefits you might get. If your friends or family are claiming Housing Benefit themselves, it might mean they receive less.

Talk to someone at your local Citizens Advice for more information.

If you can’t pay for housing yourself

Contact your local council or housing office as soon as you can. The Home Office don’t provide accommodation to refugees, but your local council will be able to talk you through your options.

Whether you can stay in the same area depends on things like:

  • how long you’ve lived there
  • whether you have family in the area
  • whether you’re at risk of becoming homeless

It’s worth knowing that there are long waiting lists for accommodation - you may be put in a bed and breakfast (B&B) or hostel temporarily.

If you’re worried about becoming homeless, call the homeless charity Shelter on 0808 800 444. In England, you can also search online through Homeless UK to find emergency accommodation yourself. In Scotland, find online help at Shelter Scotland's website 'In an emergency' page.

You can apply for Housing Benefit if you can’t afford to pay the rent yourself - it doesn’t matter whether the local council found your place, or you found it yourself. Housing Benefit can take up to 6 weeks to come through.

Housing Benefit might not cover all of your rent, but you won’t usually have to pay a deposit.

If the local council finds you private accommodation through Housing Benefit, you might have to pay. Contact the housing charity Crisis if you need help paying a deposit.

Working

If you’re ready to look for work, you can search online.

If you’re in London, the Refugee Council’s employment advice and support service have a course that will help you if you’re not quite sure where to start.

Contact UK NARIC if you have qualifications from your home country - you’ll need to find their UK equivalent to find a similar job here. It costs at least £55.20 to do this.

Claiming benefits

You may be entitled to welfare benefits in the UK even though you’ll stop getting Asylum Support.

So you have a better idea, you might be entitled to benefits like:

  • Income Support - if you’re learning English (for at least 15 weeks) in order to find employment, and you’ve been in the UK less than a year
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance - if you can prove you’re looking for work
  • Employment and Support Allowance - if you’re unable to look for work because of a mental or physical disability
  • Pension Credit - if you’re over working age
  • Universal Credit - if you’re in certain areas of the UK
  • a refugee integration loan - to help pay for a rent deposit, household items, education and training for work

Contact your local Citizens Advice for guidance on how to apply and a better idea of whether you’re eligible.

You’ll need a National Insurance number to claim benefits - you’ll have applied for one at your interview with the Home Office when you first claimed asylum. You’ll also need it to pay tax and register with a doctor - everyone who works or studies in the UK has one.

Get a National Insurance number

Normally, you’ll get your National Insurance (NI) number through the post just after you get refugee status.

If you haven’t received a NI number, call the National Insurance number application line. Ask whether they’ve issued you with a NI number - if they haven’t, ask what you need to do to get one.

Opening a bank account

Now that you have an immigration status, you’re allowed to open a UK bank account. It makes things like paying for food and bills much easier.

It should be an easy process if you have proof of your immigration status, but some banks may not have seen a biometric residence permit before. It’s a legal and valid form of identification (ID), no matter what they tell you. If they don’t accept it, print this page out and take it along to the bank.

It’s easier to open a Post Office Current Account, as they don’t ask for so many forms of ID. You can use a Post Office Current Account to collect benefits, tax credits and state pensions, but you can't pay any other money in - and you can’t receive Universal Credit into it.

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