Refugees: Moving on from asylum support housing
If you are granted refugee status or humanitarian protection, you can:
get homeless help from the council
apply for benefits
work legally in the UK
rent from a private landlord
Asylum support usually ends 4 weeks after you get a Home Office letter with a positive decision on your asylum claim.
You will have to find somewhere to live.
Ask for help with housing and apply for benefits as soon as you can.
Your residence permit
You will get an immigration card with your photo on it about a week after the Home Office writes to you.
The card is called a biometric residence permit. It confirms you have 'recourse to public funds'. It is proof that you can claim benefits and apply for help with housing.
Get homeless help from the council
You can ask a local council for help as soon as you get the Home Office decision letter.
This is called making a homeless application.
You do not need to wait for your residence permit, a national insurance number or an eviction notice. The council might ask to see these things later.
The Home Office letter should be enough for the council to start looking into your situation and how they must help.
If you get a notice that says your asylum support is ending, contact the council again.
You usually have to leave asylum housing 7 days after this notice.
Which council should you apply to?
You can apply to any council.
You might be referred to a different council if you do not have links to the area. This is called a 'local connection'.
You have links to a council area if:
you live there in asylum housing
you start work in the area
close relatives live there
you get specialist medical treatment in the area
you've lived there by choice for 6 months in the last year
you've lived there by choice for 3 years in the last 5 years
How to contact your council's homeless team
What is your location?
Most councils have long housing waiting lists. You will probably need to rent privately at first.
London and the south of England have higher rents than other areas.
You can get emergency housing from the council if you are homeless when you have to leave your asylum housing if:
children live with you
you're at risk of domestic abuse
you're under 21 and were looked after by social services when you were 16 or 17
These things all give you a 'priority need' which means the council must provide emergency housing if you become homeless.
You could also get emergency housing if something else makes you 'vulnerable'. This has a special meaning in housing law.
You need to show that you would be much more vulnerable than most people if you were homeless, and likely to suffer more harm in the same situation.
Find out how to show you could be vulnerable because you're:
Help to find somewhere to live
Even if the council does not have to give you emergency housing, they must still try to stop you becoming homeless. For example, by helping you find a private tenancy.
How to apply for benefits
You can apply for universal credit if you have no money or a low income.
Apply as soon as you get your refugee status.
It takes at least 5 weeks to get your first universal credit payment.
You need a national insurance number to work or claim benefits. Check your residence permit to see if your national insurance number is printed on the back.
Apply for a national insurance number on GOV.UK if your residence permit does not have this information.
Help to claim from Citizens Advice
Citizens Advice are a charity who can help you to apply for universal credit.
Call a Help to Claim adviser on 0800 144 8 444
Ask for a translator if you need advice in another language.
How much you get
Universal credit has a standard allowance plus extra amounts if you have:
to pay rent where you live
children or childcare costs
a disability that stops you from working
You get more money than from asylum support. But you usually have to pay for rent and bills from this money. Find out more about how much you get.
If you move into a hostel, refuge, supported or temporary housing you might have to claim housing benefit as well.
How to open a bank account
You can usually open a bank account if you have refugee status.
The Refugee Council has a Banking Guide for Refugees which you can download in English, Arabic, Farsi, Kurdish, Pashto and Tigrinya.
Our guide on how to open a bank account if you're homeless has more information about options if you do not have ID or proof of address.
Last updated: 17 September 2023