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New Arrivals

Refugees, asylum seekers and people with discretionary leave and humanitarian protection

This page is for new arrivals. If you are a housing adviser please click here for information more relevant to you.

Are you a refugee or asylum seeker?

If you have applied for asylum and have been successful you have leave to remain in the UK: this may be refugee status, humanitarian protection or discretionary leave to remain. You are a refugee and this page applies to you.

If you have been given resettlement in the UK via the Gateway Protection Programme, Syrian Resettlement Programme or other official refugee resettlement programme or as an interpreter or support worker for the UK forces in Afghanistan (via the special programme announced in 2013), you are a refugee and this page applies to you.

If you have made a claim for asylum but you have not yet had a decision, or are waiting for the results of a fresh claim, you are an asylum seeker and the special arrangements for your housing are explained below. If your asylum claim has been finally refused but you have not left the UK you are a refused asylum seeker. This section does not apply to you. You may find some information to help you on the pages on people with social care needs or people who are destitute.

Special arrangements for asylum seekers

If you have applied for asylum but have not yet received a final decision on your case, or are waiting for the result of an appeal against a refusal of asylum, you cannot get an allocation of housing from the council or get help if you are homeless.  You will also get no help with housing benefit to pay your rent.  You can apply direct to a housing association or for private rented accommodation, but in areas where there are immigration checks you will not have the ’right to rent’ and landlords cannot accept you as a tenant. You can however stay with friends or family.

As an asylum seeker you can apply to the Home Office for asylum support if you have no money or nowhere to live.  The government website explains how, gives details of helplines that can help you do it, and what you will get.  Asylum seekers are offered basic housing on a no-choice basis anywhere in the UK and some money to pay for food.  If you have somewhere to stay you can still ask for the money for food. 

If you have been refused asylum but cannot travel home immediately you can also apply for support and accommodation.  Support for refused asylum seekers is paid via a cashless payment card and accommodation is also on a no-choice basis. 

What documents might refugees be asked for?

If you apply for housing or housing benefits you will be asked for:

  • The Immigration Status Document you were given with your asylum decision or when you arrived in the UK. This proves your identity and your eligibility. If you do not have one you will need a letter from the Home Office confirming your eligibility, but will also need to prove your identity.
  • If you are leaving asylum support accommodation, the NASS 35 or other form that shows where you have lived and when your support and accommodation ends.
  • If you have applied to renew your leave, a copy of the documents you sent off and the receipt from the Home Office.

What are a refugee's rights to housing and benefits?

Even though you may have limited leave to remain in the UK, you have the right to apply for an allocation of housing from the council or from a housing association, to get help if you are homeless and to claim housing benefit to help pay your rent. You should be offered a tenancy on the same terms as any other applicant, even if you are waiting to renew your leave or it is due to run out soon. You can also apply for private rented housing: in areas where there are immigration checks, the landlord will need to see the documents proving your status, and if you have limited leave the landlord will need to see your renewed documents when renewing the tenancy.

What about your family members?

If you are an asylum seeker or a refused asylum seeker, you can apply for support and accommodation for your husband/wife/civil partner and children if they are living with you.

If you have refugee status, your husband/wife/civil partner and children are covered by your refugee status as well, even if they have just arrived or have not yet sorted out their status, as long as you started your family before your left your home country. So they are all eligible for housing and homelessness services and for housing benefit.  They can also apply for private rented housing but in areas with immigration checks the landlord will need to see documents proving the status of all adults in the household, and if they have limited leave the landlord will need to see their renewed documents when renewing the tenancy.

If you have another type of status your family members may have applied for asylum and arrived in the UK with you and would usually get leave on the same basis as you. If they arrive later, they must apply to stay through the asylum system, and will be asylum seekers until they get leave. This may cause problems with applications for homelessness help and benefits and with getting private rented housing in areas with immigration checks.

See also:

Chartered Institute of Housing

Background Topics

Chartered Institute of Housing