What It Means To Have Refugee Status In The UK

What It Means To Have Refugee Status In The UK

There are many ongoing conflicts in the world at the moment. Sadly, this has led to a surge in people fleeing their homes. In many cases, they’re forced to move to other countries where they can claim refugee status.

The UK doesn’t accept a lot of refugees compared to many other European countries. Refugee Action reports that just 0.54% of the UK population are refugees. But the UK has seen an increase in people claiming asylum in recent years due to conflicts and human rights problems around the world.

So what does it mean to have refugee status in the UK, and who is eligible to claim asylum? Let’s find out everything you need to know about getting refugee status in the UK.

What is refugee status determination?

According to the UN Refugee Agency, refugee status determination is:

“The legal or administrative process by which governments or UNHCR determine whether a person seeking international protection is considered a refugee under international, regional or national law.”

Essentially, that means countries must have a process to decide whether a person is a refugee. For countries with strict immigration policies (like China, Japan, Switzerland, and Denmark), this is an important procedure that helps people fleeing war zones and persecution gain refugee status.

If a country doesn’t have fair or efficient refugee status determination processes in place, the UN can step in to help.

Who can become a refugee in the UK?

You can claim asylum or refugee status in the UK only if it’s not possible for you to live safely in your home country. This includes hostility and prejudice as a result of your nationality, race, religion, political opinions, gender, or sexual orientation.

The UK doesn’t usually accept refugees from EU countries. You might also find it difficult to claim asylum if you’ve arrived in the UK via a safe “third country”. That means you’ve left your home country and travelled to the UK via another country where you’re unlikely to be persecuted or harmed.

If you’re granted refugee status in the UK, your children and dependents may also be able to stay with you in the UK until they’re 18. But they won’t be given refugee status until they claim asylum themselves.

How long does refugee status last in the UK?

When you’ve been granted refugee status in the UK, you can legally stay in the UK for up to five years.

What happens after five years of having refugee status?

After five years, you can apply to settle in the UK. Settling in the UK involves applying for indefinite leave to remain in the country.

If you don’t wish to apply for indefinite leave to remain, but you want to extend your claim to refugee status, you can do so — as long as you still meet the requirements for claiming UK asylum.

If you decide not to apply for continuing refugee status or indefinite leave to remain, you’ll be asked to leave the UK within a certain amount of time. This might also apply to your family if they don’t have their own refugee or settled status.

Learn about the differences between indefinite leave to remain vs UK citizenship.

Can you work in the UK with refugee status?

Yes, you can legally work in the UK if you have refugee status. There are no limitations on where, when or who you can work for. Until you have refugee status, you won’t be able to legally work in the UK.

If it’s not possible for you to work (but you have refugee status), you can also apply for UK benefits like Universal Credit.

How to apply for refugee status in the UK

If you meet the criteria for claiming asylum in the UK, here’s how to apply for refugee status:

1. Register your claim for refugee status

This is an in-person meeting with a UK immigration officer that usually takes place as soon as you enter the country (if you don’t yet have a visa or a legal right to enter the UK).

You’ll need to provide certain documents (including your passport and any written information that supports your claim for asylum).

You’ll also have your photo and fingerprints taken, and be asked to give information about who you are and why you’re eligible for refugee protection. You may be asked to complete an asylum questionnaire, which you should do as quickly and accurately as possible.

If you’re already in the UK and you want to claim refugee status, you need to make an appointment with the asylum intake unit. You can call them on 0300 123 4193. You’ll be asked a few questions over the phone, before making an appointment to visit the centre.

2. Consideration decision

The Home Office is responsible for reviewing your application and deciding if you can claim refugee status in the UK. If they agree to consider your application, they’ll send an asylum registration card (ARC) to your UK address. With this, you can:

  • Use your card as identification.
  • Use your card to show you have permission to work in the UK.
  • Access NHS services.
  • Access education services.

You might be detained while the Home Office considers your application. This usually involves staying in an immigration removal centre. Some people — such as children, elderly people, families, and pregnant women — are unlikely to be detained in this way.

If the Home Office decides not to consider your application, they may arrange to send you to a safe country where you may be able to seek refugee status. This is more likely to happen if you’ve travelled through a safe third country to get to the UK.

3. Meet your caseworker

You’ll be assigned a caseworker who will help make an overall decision about your asylum application. They’ll be your point of contact for any questions about your claim, and you’ll need to go to regular meetings with them (also known as ‘reporting events’) to support your asylum application.

If you don’t meet your caseworker at the agreed times, your asylum claim may be withdrawn and you might be detained.

4. Asylum interview

Some people seeking refugee status may be asked to attend an asylum interview. Here, you’ll be asked to give more details about the situation in your home country and why you’re seeking asylum in the UK.

This can be a very difficult conversation. But try to give accurate, clear details that help immigration officers understand why you and your family are at risk. This will support your application. You’re welcome to bring a legal representative to your asylum interview if you wish to.

Not everyone needs to attend an asylum interview (especially if you give an accurate, detailed report in your first meeting and questionnaire).

5. Get your refugee status decision

You’ll be notified about your refugee status decision as quickly as possible. Most people receive one of three outcomes:

  • Permission to stay with refugee status or humanitarian protection.
  • Permission to stay for other reasons.
  • No reason to stay.

Depending on your outcome, your caseworker will advise you on what happens next.

Can a refugee become a citizen in the UK?

Yes, a refugee can become a UK citizen, but it’s a long process. After claiming asylum for five years, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain. Most people then need to wait a further year before they’re eligible to apply for UK citizenship.

Learn more about how long a UK citizenship application takes.

What help is available for people with UK refugee status?

It can be tricky to adjust to life in the UK as a refugee. It’s not unusual for newcomers to the UK to experience culture shock and other difficulties, especially in the first few months. Browsing the Bloom Learning Hub may help you navigate some of the questions you have about UK life.

Fortunately, as a refugee living in the UK, you can get help with money, employment, legal issues, healthcare, and housing. Many refugee-focused charities provide help and support for those who need it:

If you’re struggling to adjust to British life and culture, make use of the services above. They offer free support and advice for refugees, and can help you find a job, housing, schools, legal assistance, and medical care.

Cookie Settings
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage and assist in our marketing efforts. More info
Cookie Settings
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage and assist in our marketing efforts. More info
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.