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Asylum seekers

asylum seekers

PLEASE NOTE: we're in the process of reviewing this page. Contact THT Direct on 0808 802 1221 for a referral to an immigration solicitor who will be able to advise you.

From April 2000, most asylum seekers don’t have access to public funds and must claim asylum support instead. You can apply for asylum support using an ASF1 form.

If you’re an asylum seeker you might still qualify for certain benefits.

Once you make your asylum application, you’ll be allocated a Case Owner. The Case Owner will deal with all aspects of your application until it is fully processed.

You’ll also be directed to a one-stop service which will give you access to available support from a member of the asylum Support Partnership. Members of this partnership include the Migrants Helpline, Refugee Council, Refugee Action, the Scottish Refugee Council, the Welsh Refugee Council, North of England Refugee Service and the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM).

If you or your dependants have any special needs, you should be referred for a community care assessment undertaken by social services.

Will I have access to accommodation?

If you’re an asylum seeker aged 18 or over who makes an application for asylum and are destitute, you may be provided with accommodation while you complete your application for support.

The Initial Accommodation Network may then arrange for you to be accommodated wherever there is adequate accommodation. This is often called being dispersed as it is the policy of the Home Office is to disperse people away from London and south east England. Your Case Owner will help you apply for accommodation.

If you’re an asylum seeker who is pregnant you’ll generally be expected to travel to accommodation before your child is born. If the accommodation offered does not seem to suitable for a baby, you can challenge the offer only after you’ve been pregnant for 6 months or more.

If you have a child at school or college who has started the final year leading to GCSE, AS level, A level or, in Scotland, Highers examinations your dispersal will usually be deferred.

Do I have the right to work?

As an asylum seeker you would not normally be able to work while your claim for asylum is being considered by the Home Office.

If you have waited for more than 12 months for an initial decision on your claim and the delay in the decision was not your fault, then you can apply to your case owner for permission to work, but not to become self-employed or to engage in a business or professional activity.

If you’re refused permission to work, you will not have a right of appeal.

Do I have the right to medical treatment?

As an asylum seeker, you and your dependants are entitled to free NHS (National Health Service) medical treatment and help with travel costs.

If you’re receiving Asylum Support, you will have access to free prescriptions, fares to and from hospital, dental treatment, sight tests, wigs and fabric supports and full-value vouchers for the cost of glasses or contact lenses.

If you’re not receiving Asylum Support you can apply with form HC1 for an exemption from charges based on a low income.

Legally, failed asylum seekers aren’t entitled to free NHS care as they aren’t lawfully resident in the country, but NHS Trusts have been given discretion to provide refused asylum seekers with free treatment, depending on a number of factors.

An asylum seeker who is refused support is still entitled to the following NHS treatment:

  • accident and emergency treatment 
  • family planning services 
  • treatment for certain listed diseases

In Wales, from 15 July 2009 the rules for refused asylum seekers have been changed and they are entitled to free NHS treatment until they leave the country.

In Scotland, refused asylum seekers who remain in Scotland are likely to stay in the care of the NHS until they leave the country.

Can I register with a GP?

As an asylum seeker, you can register with a GP.

If you’re having difficulty in registering with a GP, you should contact your local health authority. You can also get help with accessing health care from one of those asylum helplines.

Refused asylum seekers can also register with a GP.

Do I have the right to education?

Children of asylum seekers can attend school for free from the age of 5 to 16, even if asylum is later refused.

If the parent receives asylum support and the child is attending a state school, they’re entitled to free school meals and milk (if this is usually provided by the school). Local authorities have a discretionary power to award grants for school uniforms and travel passes.

If the child is already attending school in the UK when they reach the age of 16 and wants to continue in school, it is decided on a case by case basis whether they may continue until the age of 18.

A child in a detention centre may be educated at the detention centre. Asylum seekers who are 16 to 19 years old may also study at sixth form colleges or colleges of further education.

Asylum seekers can also study on higher and further education courses if they meet the entry requirements and can afford the fees and living costs. In many cases this will mean paying the home student fees. 

Do I have the right to community care services?

You and your family are entitled to access community care services if you have special needs, such as a disability. You should request a full community care assessment from your local authority.

Will I have the right to financial support and welfare benefits after a positive asylum decision?

If your application is successful and you’re granted refugee status, humanitarian protection or discretionary leave, you’ll stop receiving asylum support 28 days after receiving the decision.

You’ll be entitled to claim welfare benefits and should take your decision letter and any other forms to your local Jobcentre plus office.

More help:

‹‹ Back to Immigration and healthcare



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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 18/9/2014 by C. Berry

Date due for the next review: 18/9/2017

Content Author: G. Arrindell

Current Owner: Advice & Advocacy

More information:

Refugee Council - How can we help you


Refugee Council - Information pack for refugees