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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 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 through the Gateway Protection Programme, Syrian Resettlement Programme, the special programme for support staff to UK forces in Afghanistan or other official refugee resettlement programme, you are a refugee and this page applies to you.

If you have been given leave to remain as an unaccompanied child who was ‘stranded’ in Europe (sometimes called ‘Dubs children’), or ‘Calais leave’ because you were transferred from Calais camps to live with a relative in the UK, you are a refugee and this page also applies to you.

If you 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.

Are you a stateless person?

You are a stateless person if you have been granted five years limited leave by the Home Office for that reason. You can only be recognised as stateless if you do not meet the strict criteria for asylum and do not qualify for leave under any other category. You can find out more about statelessness here.

Special arrangements for asylum seekers

If you applied for asylum but have not yet received a final decision or you 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 can't get universal credit or housing benefit to pay your rent.  You can apply direct to a housing association or for private rented accommodation, but in England where immigration checks apply 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 ask for 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 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 or stateless person's rights to housing and benefits?

You have the right to get free advice and information from your local council (or an organisation they have commissioned to provide it) to help you if you are homeless, or if you are threatened with homelessness within 56 days.  This advice must meet any special needs you may have that arise because you: are a care leaver, a former member of the regular armed forces, a victim of domestic abuse, leaving hospital, leaving detention (prison or similar institution), suffering from a mental illness or impairment, or if you are a member of any other group that the authority has identified as being at particular risk of homelessness.

If you applied for asylum. 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 universal credit or 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 England where there are 'right to rent' 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.

The Home Office provides a welcome guide for new refugees, in various languages, that explains housing rights and other issues.

If you have been granted limited leave as a stateless person you can apply for private rented housing in England or Wales (but in England your landlord will need to see your documents) and from the 24 August 2020 you can also:

  • claim universal credit or housing benefit to help pay your rent; and
  • in England only, apply for housing from the council or a housing association and get help if you are homeless.

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 universal credit or housing benefit.  They can also apply for private rented housing but in England where immigration checks apply 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 are a ‘Dubs child’ and arrived with another child for whom you have parental responsibility (e.g. a brother or sister) then they will get the same leave as you and have the same rights.

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 England, where immigration checks will be made if you apply for a tenancy.

See also:

Chartered Institute of Housing
BMENational

Background Topics

Chartered Institute of Housing