Skip to main content

CIH logo

New Arrivals

Refugees, asylum seekers, trafficking survivors 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 are a refugee from Ukraine see our Ukraine page, or if you left Sudan after 15 April 2023 and have been given limited leave see our limited leave page. In any other case, this page applies to you if:

However, 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 victim or survivor of human trafficking or slavery?

If you are a victim or survivor of human trafficking or slavery and you have been granted temporary permission to stay by the Home Office you are entitled to housing and help if you are homeless. You are also entitled universal credit or housing benefit to help pay your rent provided you are habitually resident.

Are you a stateless person?

You are a stateless person if you are not recognised as a citizen by the law of any country. A stateless person can be granted leave in the same way as any other non-UK national (e.g. as a student, work permit holder etc.) but can also apply for five years' leave from the Home Office for that reason. The Home Office usually only do this if you do not meet the criteria for asylum or qualify for leave under any other category – although the law does not strictly require this. You can find out more about statelessness and stateless leave 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. This accommodation can be in hotels or army barracks as well as in normal housing, but your rights are still the same. If you already have somewhere to stay and do not need Home Office accommodation, you can still 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 made a successful claim 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 indefinite or 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 you can also:

  • claim universal credit or housing benefit to help pay your rent; and
  • 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

More Information

Chartered Institute of Housing