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How To Work In The UK As an Asylum Seeker

If you are a person seeking asylum in the UK and wish to work during your stay, you may need to follow certain guidelines and regulations. To find employment as an asylum seeker, it is important to know the correct procedures and eligibility requirements.

Our experts are happy to advise you if you want to work in the UK as an asylum seeker. You will receive comprehensive information about the requirements, the application process and tailored advice for your specific situation. Call us on 0333 4149244, or contact us online.

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    How to Work in the UK as An Asylum Seeker: An Overview

    In the UK, asylum seekers are not usually allowed to work while their claim is being considered. Instead, they are provided with accommodation and vital support to prevent impoverishment.

    The Immigration Rules set out the conditions under which work permits may be granted, particularly if an asylum claim remains unresolved for more than a year through no fault of the applicant.

    Such permits, if granted, are limited to roles on the Home Office’s shortage occupation list and expire if the application is refused and all appeal options have been exhausted. Successful applicants are granted permission to access the full labour market.

    Asylum seekers are encouraged to volunteer while their application is being considered in order to contribute to the community and potentially facilitate their integration into British society if they are granted leave to remain.

    It is important to note that allowing asylum seekers to volunteer and contribute is independent of formal employment.

    The measures to restrict work permits are aimed to:

    • Distinguish between economic migrants and genuine asylum seekers to prevent false asylum claims made for economic gain.
    • Maintain the integrity of the asylum system so that genuine applicants can be granted protection more quickly.
    • Promote voluntary work by asylum seekers as a valuable contribution to society and a step towards integration for those who have been granted a residence permit.

    When processing applications for work permits, the welfare of the child is an important consideration under section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009. Delays caused by the applicant’s lack of cooperation may result in the refusal of permission under sections 360 and 360C of the Immigration Rules.

    The best interests of the child, while important, may be overridden by the public interest, particularly where the adult’s work permit may adversely affect the child.

    Children under the age of 18 are not usually granted work permits, but they can access educational resources and participate in internships or training as part of their education.

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    What Are the Requirements to Work in The UK as An Asylum Seeker?

    In the UK, asylum seekers are initially prohibited from paid employment while their claim is being considered. As an asylum seeker, the ban on working applies to you from the start. However, if your application has been pending for more than a year for reasons beyond your control, you may be allowed to take up employment.

    To obtain the required work permit, you must submit an application to  the Secretary of State and prove that the delay in processing is not your fault. Although the process seems simple, you will need to assemble numerous documents to effectively substantiate your claim.

    After you have received approval, your employment options are somewhat limited. You may only engage in activities that are on a list of certain professions, which include professions such as doctors, engineers and architects. Starting your own business or becoming self-employed is not allowed under this provision.

    Nevertheless, asylum seekers are encouraged to volunteer in the community and make a positive contribution to society while they wait for a decision on their application. This provides a platform for meaningful engagement and integration into the local milieu.

    If you hold a visa entitling you to work at the time of your asylum application, you are allowed to continue your employment until a decision is made on your application. This arrangement ensures that you retain a source of income in the meantime.

    After the ruling, your eligibility for employment may change. If you’re granted refugee status, you’re free to work. If, on the other hand, your application is rejected, you must appeal within a certain period of time in order to keep your right to work.

    While you are waiting for a decision, the UK provides asylum support in the form of accommodation and essential goods to ensure that your basic needs are met.

    Permission to work in the UK as an asylum seeker is subject to strict rules. While there are initial restrictions, pathways to employment open up under certain conditions.

    A thorough understanding of these restrictions can greatly improve your prospects of employment while you wait for a decision on your asylum claim.

    What is the Application Process for Permission to Work?

    People seeking asylum or whose asylum claim has been refused can apply to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) for a work permit by providing the essential information listed below:

    • Full name, date of birth and nationality of the applicant.
    • Home Office reference number.
    • A formal written application for a work permit.
    • Contact information of both the applicant and his/her legal representative, if applicable.

    Submit the application to one of the following units, depending on the status of the asylum application:

    For initial asylum seekers:

    • Email:
    • Post:   Permission to Work Team

    Asylum Operations

    Department 139, The Capital

    Old Hall Street


    L3 9PP

    For failed asylum seekers with pending further submissions:

    • Email:
    • Post:   Permission to Work Administrative Unit

    Level 7

    Capital Building

    Old Hall Street


    L3 9PP

    Each application is carefully considered in coordination with the asylum claim or additional submissions to understand the delay in the decision-making process, ensuring prompt handling without unjustified delays.

    If you require additional contact for enquiries regarding pending further submissions, you should email

    In the meantime, there are also two special circumstances to consider when applying for permission to work:

    • If you are submitting your application to a reporting centre, you will be instructed to contact the Asylum Casework Team using the provided contact information. Please note that staff at these centres are not authorised to grant work permissions.
    • If you are making your application under any other court procedure, a formal written application to the UKVI is required for the application to be recognised under the above procedure.

    If you need clarification or support on your asylum case, speak to our immigration team. Contact Us

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      Understanding Exceptions


      In situations where the standard immigration requirements aren’t met, a work permit application may be denied unless the applicant can show a special circumstance that justifies doing otherwise.

      If you’re in an exceptional situation that could justify obtaining a work permit even though you don’t meet the regular criteria, it’s important that you state this clearly in your application.

      In rare cases, the authorities may grant a work permit outside the standard rules based on the special aspects of a particular case under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1971.

      If your application includes dependent children, the authorities will be guided by Section 55 of the Borders Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009, which gives priority to the welfare of children in the UK. Although the welfare of children is an important consideration, it’s not always the deciding factor. It’s important that you also consider the guidance in Section 55 entitled “Every Child Matters” when preparing your application.

      In cases involving persons subjected to trafficking or at risk of such exploitation, the principles of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings are of great importance, especially in the context of comprehensive rehabilitation. It’s imperative to accurately describe all relevant details and evidence to ensure a thorough assessment of your case, especially if your case is being examined under exceptional circumstances.

      Revocation of Work Permission 

      If you are applying for asylum or if your asylum application has been rejected but you have been granted a work permit while waiting for a decision on your application, it is important to know how changes in your application status may affect your work permit.

      Your work permit is no longer valid if your application has been rejected and all legal remedies have been exhausted.

      It is the responsibility of the authorities to update the status of your work permit according to the outcome of your application or any further appeals you may have lodged. This is usually done by updating the records at the Home Office, which marks the end of the validity of your work permit if your application has been rejected.

      Your Application Registration Card (ARC) will also be updated to reflect any changes to your work permit status. If your application is rejected, the ARC will state that you are no longer allowed to work.

      However, there is also a positive side: if you are granted refugee status, humanitarian protection, family leave or discretionary leave, your work permit will remain intact. In such cases, you have unrestricted access to the labour market, which is an important step in building your life in the UK.

      Can I Volunteer As An Asylum Seeker?


      According to legal definitions, volunteering means giving one’s time to charitable or public institutions free of charge and without contractual obligation or entitlement, which distinguishes volunteers from employees or workers. Asylum seekers can volunteer during their asylum procedure.

      Care must be taken to ensure that such engagements do not clash with mandatory appointments such as asylum interviews or regular reporting events, as these cannot be rescheduled to accommodate volunteering.

      Institutions that offer volunteering should provide flexibility for participants to attend their mandatory appointments in parallel.

      Until their asylum application is resolved, asylum seekers can volunteer without needing a work permit. The Home Office encourages asylum seekers to volunteer for non-profit or public organisations, while ensuring that this does not equate to employment.

      Both the individual and the host organisation must ensure that the volunteer activities don’t breach any conditions. The organisation should also carry out the necessary security checks.

      Personal data disclosed during the immigration process will not be verified by the Home Office for other purposes.

      The determination of a volunteer’s status depends on whether there is a mutual commitment between the person and the organisation and whether financial or other rewards are offered.

      While reimbursements for meals and travel are acceptable, additional payments could change the status of a volunteer to that of an employee or worker.

      Employment restrictions apply to charities or voluntary organisations in the same way as to other sectors, with the exception of genuine volunteering.

      In principle, volunteering should not imitate unpaid employment or replace paid work. It should include:

      • No payments, apart from actual costs for travel and meals.
      • No contractual obligations or entitlements.
      • Support for registered non-profit, fundraising, or public bodies.
      • No performance of a task normally undertaken by a paid employee.

      Organisations should clearly define the legal framework for volunteering roles before hiring, especially to understand the distinctions.

      If there is any uncertainty about a particular volunteering activity, especially for asylum seekers without a work permit, it is recommended to seek independent legal advice.

      Employment in Non-Profit Organisations

      Asylum seekers or persons who have not been granted asylum and whose application has not yet been decided are not permitted to engage in employment, even voluntarily, unless they obtain a work permit under section 360 or 360C of the Immigration Rules.

      Get clarification on what you can and cannot do as an asylum seeker in the UK by contating our immigration team. Contact Us

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        How Can Our Immigration Lawyers Help?

        Getting a work permit in the UK as an asylum seeker can be challenging, especially given the strict rules and specific requirements. If you’re an asylum seeker who wishes to work or volunteer during the asylum process, or even if your application has been refused, it’s important to follow the set guidelines carefully and ensure that all applications and communications to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) are complete and accurate.

        Whether you have become bogged down in the complicated application procedures or need assistance in understanding your rights and restrictions, our experienced team at Newcastle Immigration Lawyers are here to help. We specialise in providing comprehensive, empathetic advice and support to asylum seekers. We’ll ensure that you understand and comply with the specific parameters for work and volunteering set out by the Home Office. With our extensive experience in processing asylum claims and navigating the UK immigration landscape, we’re well equipped to provide tailored advice, support and representation throughout your journey.

        Contact us today to ensure your journey through the asylum and work permit process is as smooth and stress-free as possible. Call us on 0333 4149244 or contact us online to find out how we can help you.

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                  Frequently Asked Questions

                  Allowing asylum seekers to work can fill employment gaps, foster economic growth, and promote self-sufficiency among asylum seekers. It reduces the financial burden on taxpayers who otherwise fund accommodation and welfare payments for asylum seekers. Employment authorization also facilitates the integration of asylum seekers into society, enabling them to leave taxpayer-funded shelters, live independently, and contribute as active members of the community.

                  Asylum seekers are granted the right to work immediately in countries like Canada and Australia. In the USA, asylum seekers can work after a six-month waiting period. Various European countries have differing policies: in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Poland, and Spain, asylum seekers can work without restrictions after six months. In Austria, Greece, Malta, and Sweden, asylum seekers may be granted the immediate right to work, although in Austria, the right to work is rarely granted due to employment restrictions.

                  The differentiation hinges on the absence of contractual obligations, entitlements, and monetary rewards besides expense reimbursements. Genuine volunteering should not replace a paid position and should be within registered non-profit, fundraising, or public sector entities. Both the individual and hosting organisation must ensure compliance with these conditions.

                  If a work permission application is denied, the asylum seeker continues to remain ineligible for employment and is expected to rely on the support provided by the UK government. They may still engage in volunteer activities. Further legal advice or appeal might be pursued depending on individual circumstances.