If you have received refugee status, you automatically obtain leave to remain in the United Kingdom for up to five years. You have the right to work in the United Kingdom in any occupation and at any professional level.

If you do not feel ready to work yet, or your salary is little, you can apply for benefits. To do this, you will need to open a bank account and obtain a National Insurance Number. Your National Insurance Number will be automatically posted to your address after you get refugee status. After five years, you will be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, which allows you to reside permanently in the country without breaching any immigration law.  

Do refugees have the same rights as legal residents?

Every refugee in the UK has the same rights as legal residents, such as freedom of opinion, thought, religion, expression and freedom from discrimination and torture. Once refugees obtain their Indefinite Leave to Remain after five years of legal residence in the UK, they can apply for British Citizenship. 

If you are a refugee and wish to become a British citizen, you will need to continue to live in the UK for a further 12 months after being granted Indefinite Leave to Remain. 

Being unable to work

People who arrived in the UK and are seeking asylum are not allowed to work while waiting for their claim. However, they are encouraged to volunteer. During this period, asylum seekers have the right to claim temporary accommodation and essential financial support, which is known as asylum support. 

If you are granted refugee status, you will no longer be entitled to asylum support. If you are unable to work, once you have received your National Insurance Number and opened a bank account, you can apply for welfare benefits. 

What benefits can I qualify for?

 Here is a list of some of the most common benefits that you can claim. The government has established detailed criteria for who should be entitled to apply: 

  • Income support – for people who are on a low income. It includes support to cover general costs. 
  • Jobseeker’s allowance – for unemployed people who are actively looking for work. 
  • Employment and support allowance – for those people who are out of work because of illness or a disability. 
  • Pension credit – for people who are over 65. The benefit amount is income-related.  
  • Universal Credit – for those who are temporarily out of work or on a low income. 
  • Refugee Integration Loan – for refugees or people who are under humanitarian protection. It is an interest-free loan.  

If you want to find out more about benefits and establish which one mostly matches your circumstances, you can visit the Citizens Advice website. 

Protecting your rights as a refugee

If you feel that your rights as a refugee are being violated, there are plenty of refugee rights organisations worth consulting. Such institutions will be able to support you and provide you with advice.  

You can find some of the most popular ones below: 

Your rights
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