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Can an asylum seeker work in the UK?

Posted by: Gherson Immigration

A question frequently asked by applicants seeking asylum in the UK is whether they can take up employment while their claim is being considered.

The general rule is that asylum applicants in the UK are prohibited from seeking employment and from working, although there are some exceptions.

The first exception is where the applicant’s asylum claim has been outstanding for over 12 months and the delay in determining the claim cannot be attributed to the applicant themselves. Given the current situation where the Home Office decision-making process has been increasingly delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and related circumstances such as lack of staff and resources, this exception could become relevant for many applicants. 

In the above circumstances applicants can apply to the Home Office for permission to work. However, if granted, any permission to work will be subject to restrictions, including: 

  • The asylum seeker can only take up employment in a post which is (at the time an offer of employment is accepted) included on the Home Office’s “list of shortage occupations”. The list is varied and includes scientists (including biochemists), engineers, architects, artists, social workers and a number of other professions;
  • The asylum seeker cannot be self-employed;
  • The asylum seeker cannot set up their own business. 

The second exception relates to individuals who seek asylum at a time when they already have the right to work in the UK on the basis of another visa and who make a claim for asylum prior to the end of their existing leave. In this scenario, under Home Office policy, asylum seekers can continue to work on the same terms as provided by their existing visa even after that leave ends (providing the asylum application was made before the expiry of that initial leave).

It is important to note that in respect of both exceptions, permission to work will only be granted up until a final decision on the asylum claim.

Someone who is already an asylum seeker and wishes to take up employment should check their Asylum Registration Card (“ARC”), which would indicate whether they are permitted to work. An ARC however does not confer a right to work, it merely evidences the existence of such a right. It also does not set out the basis on which such a right was conferred. 

Gherson has a wealth of experience advising and assisting clients in respect of international protection claims. If you have any questions regarding the asylum process, including obtaining the right to work as an asylum seeker, please do not hesitate to contact us.

The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.

©Gherson 2020

Elena Vaina 

  Elena Vaina

  Paralegal in our Complex Case Team


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