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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

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 (BRP). It confirms you have 'recourse to public funds'. It is proof that you can claim benefits and apply for help with housing.

Asylum support usually ends 4 weeks after you get your biometric residence permit (BRP) from the Home Office.

You will have to find somewhere to live.

Ask for help with housing and apply for benefits as soon as you can.

A refugee charity could help you.

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.

The Home Office letter should be enough for the council to start looking into your situation and how they must help

It's best not to wait until you get a notice to leave. The notice might only give you 7 days.

Contact the council again as soon as you get:

  • your biometric residence permit

  • a notice to leave asylum housing

  • your national insurance number

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?

You can choose where to apply if you have links to more than one area.

Discuss your options with Migrant Help or another refugee charity or advice service.

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.

Emergency housing

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 pregnant

  • 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.

Make a homeless application as soon as you get the Home Office decision letter. This gives the council more time to stop you becoming homeless.

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.

Migrant Help should contact you as soon as you get your refugee status to offer help with claiming benefits and applying for housing.

You can also get support from other refugee charities or advice services.

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: 3 January 2024

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