Can Asylum Seekers Work in the UK?
The possibility for permission to work as an asylum seeker in the UK does not come about until you have been waiting for your application to be processed for over 12 months “through no fault of your own.” The 12-month period can be from when you initially claimed asylum or if you have submitted a further claim.
After this 12-month period has elapsed, you will be eligible to apply for permission to work. In most cases, you will only be able to get permission to work if you have the skills and experience to gain a job role on the shortage occupation list (SOL). These are roles that the UK labour market is currently struggling to fill.
In these limited circumstances, asylum seekers will have permission to work. Once you start work, please note that you will have to stay in line with UK laws surrounding employment, such as paying the proper taxes on all earnings.
There are multiple eligibility criteria that you need to fulfil in order to be considered for permission to work, including the following:
- You are over 18 years old.
- You will apply for roles on the SOL
- You have an ongoing asylum claim in progress, which has been being processed for 12 months.
- Delays in your asylum processing are through no fault of your own.
Please note that there is no provision for permission to work for the dependents of an asylum seeker. They will need to find an alternative right to work depending on their status.
What is the Shortage Occupation List?
Having the skills for a role on the SOL is essential if you want to gain permission to work. However, many asylum seekers won’t have the skills necessary as these roles are usually high in skill, seniority, and qualifications. There are multiple roles on the list for the following sectors:
- Art and culture.
The list is not fixed, and there are often additional roles added to respond to industry trends in the UK. In 2021 and 2022, care and nursing roles were added. Then, in 2023, construction roles were added in response to the UK’s housing shortage.
There is no automatic right to permission to work in the UK, and you will need to apply to UK Visas and Immigration to obtain it. It is advisable to get a lawyer to help you with your application, and you may be eligible for legal aid to help you with any costs.
To make your application, write a letter to UKVI, and include the following information:
- Personal information, including your name, date of birth, and nationality.
- Your home office reference number for your asylum application.
- A statement requesting permission to work.
- Contact information for yourself and your legal representative. Include email, phone number, and address.
It can help your application if you can get a prospective employer lined up during the application process. You can get this prospective employer to contact UKVI to enquire about your application or submit information about the role. However, you will need to grant permission for this to happen due to the UK’s data protection laws.
You may also be required to give biometric information when applying for permission to work. The caseworkers dealing with your application will arrange a location to gain the biometric information and arrange funding for your travel.
What Happens if My Application is Successful?
The entire asylum infrastructure in the UK is currently overloaded, and most asylum claims currently take one to three years to be processed. There are also delays for people who have applied for permission to work.
If your application for permission to work is successful after waiting, you will be issued with a new Asylum Registration Card. Please note that there are also currently delays in receiving this card. The new card will display the following to indicate that you have permission to work:
- WORK PERMITTED: this shows you are not eligible for work.
- SHORTAGE OCC: indicating your permission to work only applies to jobs on the SOL.
- NO PUBLIC FUNDS: you will no longer be able to claim social security benefits or housing assistance.
Your permission to work is indefinite until you have received a decision on your asylum application.
With your new Asylum Registration Card, you then need to apply for a National Insurance Number. This is a relatively simple process where you will need to submit proof of your identity, including a photo of yourself holding the photo identity and evidence that you have a right to be in the UK.
Some employers will also want you to complete an AccessNI check, which will confirm that you don’t have a criminal record and aren’t barred from working with vulnerable people. There are various levels of AccessNI checks that your employer may need you to complete, and they should direct you to the one that is relevant to the role you are applying for.
You will not gain permission to work if your original application for it is refused.
Your application will be refused if you do not meet eligibility criteria surrounding having the skills for a role on the SOL, a criminal record, or your asylum being less than 12 months old. Furthermore, if your application for asylum is over 12 months old, but it is your fault or there are elements of the delay that are your fault, your application for permission to work will be refused.
The other aspect that will result in a failed application for permission to work is if you have made further submissions to remain in the UK that are not based on asylum procedures. This includes requesting permission to remain on family or medical grounds.
Please note that the application of these rules is up to the discretion of the case worker. There are some cases where exceptional circumstances mean imperfect applicants gain permission to work, and applicants who meet the criteria are refused.
Why Might Permission to Work be Repealed?
Even once you have been given permission to work, this is temporary based on the progress of your application.
If your asylum claim is refused and all appeal rights have been exhausted, your permission to work will be revoked. You may also be detained or required to leave the country.
Right to Work After Receiving Refugee Status
Once your asylum claim has been processed, your rights in the UK will drastically change. 28 days after you receive the decision, you will stop getting a cash allowance to support your upkeep, and you will need to move house if you were given somewhere to live while your claim was being processed.
However, as someone with refugee status, you have total permission to work in the UK, and you will no longer be restricted to occupations on the shortage occupation list. If you struggle to find work immediately in the 28-day period after you gain refugee status, you will be able to apply to claim benefits.
Please note that getting a job or claiming benefits takes time. Make sure you start doing this as soon as your asylum application is accepted so that you don’t end up with a gap with no income.
Applying for permission to work as an asylum seeker can be a long and exhausting process. You will need to put up with even more delays and will have to wait with little to do with your time. However, getting permission to work can be the first major step into beginning a full life in the UK, a reward that is certainly worth the effort if you are eligible.
The process is yet another difficult and complex process for asylum seekers, but you can get help by working with immigration lawyers and advisers. At Manchester Immigration Lawyers, we have worked with dozens of asylum seekers to help them make successful applications for permission to work, and we continue to use our connections in the home office to keep our clients updated on the progress.
If you decide to get assistance from Manchester Immigration Lawyers, please contact us at 0161 826 9783 or visit us online.
Last modified on November 9th, 2023 at 10:25 am
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As an asylum seeker without permission to work, it can be difficult to find purpose in your life in the UK. However, a campaign led by Refugee Action in 2016 changed the Government’s approach to asylum seekers volunteering.
Now, you can volunteer while your application is being processed. Volunteering involves spending time working with a registered public sector organisation or charity without getting paid for your time. However, you can be reimbursed for expenses such as travel.
There are a number of conditions on your volunteering work to ensure that it does not contradict your asylum application:
- Time spent volunteering cannot interfere with your participation in the asylum application process, and interviews will not be rescheduled for volunteering commitments.
- It is your responsibility to make sure your volunteering doesn’t amount to employment.
- The volunteering organisation must conduct safeguarding checks.
- You must not be contractually obligated to work certain volunteering hours.
- You must not be substituting for the role of a salaried worker.
The rights of asylum seekers are changing in the UK for a range of reasons as the Conservative Government continues to reduce the number of immigrants and asylum seekers in the UK.
Most notably, this includes the Illegal Migration Act (2023). These new immigration rules give additional powers to immigration authorities to remove those who are wrongfully in the UK and reduce the efficacy of modern slavery safeguards.
As the Government continues to add further restrictions to asylum seekers’ lives in the UK, we may see getting permission to work becoming harder.
There is no guarantee that you will be able to get a job even if you have permission to work. The UK labour market is currently highly competitive, and even good candidates can struggle to get a job in their desired industry. Moreover, most highly skilled roles will require you to have a very high standard of written, spoken, and read English.
However, that is not to say that being an asylum seeker or having asylum status will reduce your chances of getting hired. The Equality Act 2010 and other equal opportunities legislation work to prevent discrimination in the hiring process.
If you are an asylum seeker without anywhere to live or any money to support yourself, you may get financial support from the Government to help with your living expenses. Getting permission to work will not impact your asylum support, but getting employed may. You must inform the Home Office once you get a job, and they may deem your employment means you are no longer “destitute” and in need of support.