Support for Asylum Seekers in the UK
Accommodation while your asylum claim is processed
1. Register asylum claim
2. Screening interview – assess if ‘destitute’
3. If destitute, placed in ‘initial accommodation’
4. Apply for support
5. Dispersal accommodation and financial support
6. Decision on asylum claim
Short-term housing while asylum claim registered
Generally 3-4 weeks
Hostel – usually shared rooms
Full board, half board or self catering
Longer-term accommodation until a final decision on your asylum claim is reached
Asylum seekers are entitled to accommodation and financial support if they meet certain criteria. The criteria are:
Have an ongoing asylum claim
Pass the ‘destitution test’ – show you do not have adequate accommodation or enough money to cover living expenses for yourself and your dependants
Make your asylum claim as soon as reasonably practicable (usually at the point of entry or within three days of entering the UK)
Conditions you must meet to keep accommodation and financial support:
Follow travel arrangements (for example, you may be asked to move accommodation)
Live at authorised address
Follow rules of accommodation
Meet reporting requirements set by Immigration Officer
Meet Home Office requests (for example, attending asylum interviews or providing information on your asylum claim)
Temporary and dispersal accommodation is provided on a no-choice basis. This means you cannot choose where you live.
Families are normally provided with self-contained accommodation with a kitchen and bathroom.
Single people, couples without children and single parents normally share accommodation. Each house will have a kitchen, bathroom, dining table and chairs, access to washing facilities and childcare equipment if applicable. On arrival you will be given towels and bedding.
Gas, water and electricity are included in the accommodation. There is no charge.
Financial support (Section 95 support)
Financial support payments for asylum seekers are £37.75 per week for each family member. The money is usually paid onto a chip and pin debit card (called an Aspen card) by the Home Office each week. The card can be used to pay in most shops or to withdraw cash.
There are some circumstances where you can claim additional support:
If you are pregnant you are entitled to an extra £3 per week
If you are pregnant you can also claim a one off sum of £300. You must make an application between eight weeks before the due date and up to six weeks after the birth. You can also claim the £300 if your baby was born outside the UK and is less than three months old
To claim extra payments during pregnancy you must send the Home Office a letter from a midwife or GP or a copy of the MAT B1 maternity certificate (available from a midwife or GP)
You can claim an extra £5 per week for each child in your household under one year old
You can claim an extra £3 per week for a child between one and three years old
To claim extra payments for children you must send the Home Office the original birth certificate for each child or other formal evidence confirming date of birth
Frequently asked questions
Q: Can I choose where I live?
A: No. You cannot choose the location. Specific requirements (such as disability) will be taken into account.
Q: Can I claim support for family members?
A: Yes. You can claim for the following:
Dependents (spouse and children under 18)
Other close family members aged under 18 who have been living as part of your household for at least 6 months
Adults over 18 who have a disability
Q: Can I claim other benefits as well as the support payment?
A: No. Asylum seekers are not generally eligible for other benefits.
Q: Can I get free healthcare?
A: Yes. Asylum seekers with an ongoing application or appeal are entitled to primary and secondary NHS services free of charge. You may have to register as a temporary patient. If your asylum claim (and appeal) is rejected you may only be entitled to free treatment if it is urgent.
Q: Can I get free maternity care?
A: Asylum seekers are always entitled to maternity care on the National Health Service (NHS). This will be free if:
You have claimed asylum and are awaiting a decision
You have been granted refugee status
You are receiving asylum financial support
Q: Can I get a job?
A: No. Asylum seekers are only allowed to work if they have been waiting for a decision on their case for more than a year through no fault of their own. Then they can apply to the UK Border Agency for permission to work.
Q: Can I still get financial support if I don’t need accommodation?
A: Yes. If you meet the destitution test but you have somewhere to stay, you can apply for financial support only.
Q: What happens when I get a decision on my asylum application?
A: If your claim is rejected, you should make arrangements to leave the UK. Your entitlement to support will end 21 days after the decision. However, if there are dependent children in the household asylum support will continue. It can be ended if the family fails to leave the country voluntarily.
You can appeal if your claim is rejected. You will continue to receive financial support and free accommodation until the appeal is determined.
If your claim is successful, your asylum support will end 28 days after you are granted leave. You can then get a job, claim other benefits and look for private housing.