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Asylum Seekers and Permission to Work in the UK

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 15 Jul 2019 | comments*Discuss
Asylum Seeker Uk Employment Supreme

Asylum seekers are generally not permitted to work in the UK whilst their claim for asylum is processed. UK asylum seekers may be entitled to receive financial support and be homed while their application is being considered. This entitlement usually applies to those asylum seekers who have no means of supporting themselves financially and would otherwise be rendered destitute if not given financial assistance by the state. Asylum seekers may also receive free medical treatment from the NHS whilst awaiting the outcome of their application.

Should Asylum Seekers be Allowed to Work?

Some people have argued that preventing asylum seekers from working is counter-productive and unreasonable. The rule places an additional financial burden on public resources which are already stretched. Asylum-seekers, who may be qualified to carry out useful employment, are prevented from providing for themselves and for any dependents who may be with them in the UK.

European Law and the “Reception Directive” on Asylum Seekers

Under a European law relating to asylum – known as the “Reception Directive” - asylum seekers can expect a certain level of treatment whilst their application is being considered. The law states that asylum seekers are entitled to have a “dignified standard of living” whilst their application is processed.

In accordance with the Reception Directive, the UK’s immigration rules state that an asylum seeker whose application has not been concluded within one year is entitled to receive permission to work in the UK whilst their application is being considered. This entitlement will not apply if the asylum seeker contributed to the delay in their application being processed and the permission only covers the period until their application is finally determined.

The UK Supreme Court Case on Asylum Seekers Working in the UK

A July 2010 ruling by the UK’s Supreme Court has, partly, qualified the rule which prevents asylum seekers from working whilst their application is being considered.

The case related to two asylum seekers who had previously had their application for asylum turned down by the UK’s Secretary of State for the Home Department. Both asylum seekers had appealed the refusal of their application for asylum and those appeals had also been unsuccessful. They had subsequently both made renewed applications for asylum. It was argued that these latest applications essentially represented a new and separate claim for asylum. When these applications had not been finally decided after one year the asylum seekers had applied for permission to work in the UK until these latest claims were concluded.

The Supreme Court case centred upon the question of whether an applicant making a second, or subsequent, application for asylum should be defined as an asylum seeker who was entitled to protection under the Reception Directive. The legal representatives for the UK government had argued that claimants making further applications did not necessarily come within this definition.

The UK’s immigration rules had said that an applicant making a subsequent claim for asylum was not entitled to be treated as an asylum seeker unless the Secretary of State had declared that their new application amounted to a “fresh claim” for asylum. The representatives for the applicants argued that they became asylum seekers – and entitled to protection under the European law – when they made their subsequent application and not when the Secretary of State decided whether it amounted to a fresh claim.

The Effect of the Supreme Court Decision on the UK’s Immigration Rules

The Supreme Court decided that there was nothing in the European law which prevented an applicant making a subsequent application for asylum from being treated as an asylum seeker. Consequently the claimants were entitled to receive permission to work until their new claims had been concluded.

This decision has forced a change in the UK’s immigration rules. However, the immigration authorities do not expect this change to have a long term impact on the entitlement of asylum seekers to work while their claim is being decided. They say that the change will only apply to asylum seekers who made their first claim for asylum in the UK prior to March 2007 and who have already made a second or subsequent claim for asylum which had not yet been finally determined.

Asylum seekers who do come within this exception will only be allowed to take up employment in a job which is included on the UK Border Agency’s list of “shortage occupations”. Further, asylum seekers are not allowed to undertake self-employed work or to start their own business.

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[Add a Comment]
I read this article. I think all cases is different so we can not decide instead Home Office and immigration. although I have got lots of problems and I am in very hard situation,hope is just one think I can do. when I ran from a country I born , I lost every things but now at least I can speak English and this a good point for me. Also I am living in the good country with very smart people (in my opinion). I found some friends and I am alive. I can listening to birds song. permission to work,Visa,car,house,children,housband ,wife or wives?? are important but WE SHOUD NOT FORGET LIFE IS NOT EASY AND SAME FOR EVERY ONE BECAUSE WE ARE DIFFERENT FROM EACH OTHER.
rs - 15-Jul-19 @ 4:12 AM
Please how is it possible to get a work permit as an asylum seeker because I see some people get it it.
Teetee - 29-Mar-19 @ 5:23 PM
I am asylum seekers and I want to get work permits Thanks Best Regards Ahmed
Ahmed - 25-Mar-19 @ 1:13 AM
@Bak - Asylum seekers are not allowed to work in majority of cases.
TJ. - 23-Feb-19 @ 9:10 PM
I am asylum seeker and I am looking for the work permit. Please give me information how to make it??? Thanks
Bak - 23-Feb-19 @ 11:02 AM
Hi there just want share my updates with you guys asylum seekers can work in some cases which decide HO I got right to work from day1 and I also seen few people who got permission to work from start .
Junaid - 23-Dec-18 @ 3:23 AM
Hi my name Phillip I have been in UK since 2003 I applied for asylum at port of entry in Dover port my asylum was refused after a year, in 2012l apply for legacy case it was also turn down by HO,in 2014 i also apply for family life in UK itwas also refused, in 2016 I also applied as a stateless person because of where I was born and grow up in different countries it was also refused in 2017 , Now i make a further submission to the HO about my present family life, a wife and two children and my wife has a settlement statues in UK, since June I made the application and I have not heard anything from the HO. my question now is how can I apply for a working permit because I just read through this article and I think I fall in this category, please someone help me out.
Micah - 27-Nov-18 @ 5:56 PM
Hi my name is jabar faraj i have been in the uk for more than 9 years , i still waiting till get permission to work like every body else and help my self .is that no possible get work permit it this time .i think by law if any asylum seekers been uk more than 6 months or moreright to apply for work permit.please help me how to apply for it, again thanks for your time to read my email .i look forward to hearing from you
Kam - 11-Aug-18 @ 10:17 PM
@Gulsima - A EU travel document for an asylum seeker is not an EU passport.
TJ. - 18-Jun-18 @ 6:39 PM
Hi,my friend of mine applied to an asylum to a EuropeansUnion Country.He has been given a passport of the country he has asylum.Is he allow to live and work in England?Can he also apply his family to join him in England.What are the rules?How can his family can join him. What is procedure?
Gulsima - 18-Jun-18 @ 4:26 PM
I claim asylum September 2016,my first interview January 2017 Then further interview Feb uary 2017 Then in March 2017 had another further one Since then have been waiting for decision but nothing yet Am on Nass support but for now have been waiting for more than a year now without any decision Please what can i do Thanks Can't do anything Can't go to college Can't do even volunteer job Just useless
M - 10-Jun-18 @ 11:40 PM
@Rahman - Asylum seekers are not allowed to work in the UK.
TJ. - 6-Jun-18 @ 11:18 AM
I am asylum seeker and I looking for the work permits I waiting for your answer Thank you
Rahman - 5-Jun-18 @ 8:00 PM
I am asylum seeker and I want work allowed
Rahman - 5-Jun-18 @ 7:58 PM
hi, since jan2017 i've lived in Uk as asylum seeker, recently i was rejected at court and now i'm on next appeal stage, i just wanna know can i apply for a job and if yes how.... thank you
simi - 11-May-18 @ 12:47 AM
I’ve read some of the comments on here of people saying to leave voluntarily. Do not give up without a fight. You have to keep in trying if they have to kick you out kicking and fighting so be it. I’ve gone through similar things like this in the past. Don’t give up and pray
Sarah - 18-Apr-18 @ 2:05 AM
My passport in Home office... Do I have the right to obtain a copy of my passport for marriage registrationafter asylum refusal?Thank you.
Milla - 27-Mar-18 @ 9:29 AM
Do I have the right to obtain a copy of my passport for marriage after asylum refusal?
Milla - 27-Mar-18 @ 9:10 AM
hi dearis there any news in the uk about field asylum i come to the uk 2009 as child the give me 1 half year visa after the refuse me i went to sweden get married and the bring me back the uk again 1 years waithing refuse i m getting crzy aneone know any news
hamed - 9-Mar-18 @ 12:12 AM
@Pitshien - If you are in the UK illegally your best option is to leave the UK voluntarily as soon as possible.
TJ. - 8-Mar-18 @ 8:53 PM
I ,claim my asylum May 2006 I,m here in uk about 12years is possible to apply for private life to work and pay taxes back home I,lost my both parents I,left home at young age of 25years please let me know what I,have todo to my situation? Thankyou
Pitshien - 8-Mar-18 @ 5:17 PM
@Ali - If your claim for asylum was refused and you have no room for appeal then the best thing for you is to leave the UK voluntarily.
TJ. - 20-Feb-18 @ 6:27 AM
Hi, I claim asylum in 22,02,2016 , I live in London , my case is refused and i didn’t get any benefit, need help at least work permits looking for replying thanks
Ali - 19-Feb-18 @ 4:49 PM
Let the asylum seekers work so that they can pay tax rather than the government spending lot of money on them. Thanks
NK - 17-Jan-18 @ 11:44 PM
@Rezaazizi - The best option for you is to request the Home Office to assist you to leave the UK for your home country.
TJ. - 28-Dec-17 @ 1:18 PM
I came to uk in 2002.its 15 years now.my case is refused I'm living in the UK like faild asylum seeker.i was to report every week but I stop it . could someone can help me? Thanks
Z.l - 22-Nov-17 @ 1:23 AM
parul - Your Question:
I came in the uk 2009. I claim political asylum 2010. refused first 2010. then I claim again fresh asylum.refused again 2015 and /2016. further submissions 2nd time Liverpool -28th June 2017.I'm waiting for decision.2012 to until reporting now.i have lot of health issue.I'm disabled women.i just want to know what happening about my case. I have legal aid solicitor and social worker and british Redcross support me.please reply my situation.thank you

Our Response:
Unfortunately, we cannot answer this question as we have no knowledge of the UKVI/Home Office administrative processes.
AboutImmigration - 10-Oct-17 @ 4:02 PM
I came in the uk 2009. i claim political asylum 2010. refused first 2010. then i claim again fresh asylum.refused again 2015 and /2016. further submissions 2nd time Liverpool -28th June 2017.I'm waiting for decision.2012 to until reporting now.i have lot of health issue.I'm disabled women.i just want to know what happening about my case. i have legal aid solicitor and social worker and british Redcross support me.please reply my situation. thank you
parul - 10-Oct-17 @ 3:31 AM
Hi dear ? My name is Soran Ihave been living in uk since October 2007 , my asylum application had refused on 2009 , since then I do my reporting evry month , Also I have no any criminal offence , and I still don't have permission to work , so please could give me some advice what to do and how to get permission to work , I have been living in uk for 10 years now ,looking fowrad for your replay
Ari - 14-Aug-17 @ 11:29 PM
Hi, My Name is Mumtaz im living in uk for last 6 years i applied assylum in june 2012, its 5 years now last time Home Office asked about my DVLA and National Insurance Number i thought they would give me a permission of work but they send it back the both things when i asked to my Solicitor she said might be they updated their system thats wht they asked about your id and insurance number before they asked about it , i already applied to ask for giving me a at least permission of work i am fighting for my case for last 5 years i dont know what i need to do because i didnt get any benefits from council not at all could you please advice me ? thanks
Taz - 27-Jun-17 @ 1:07 AM
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