Applying for asylum support

Most asylum seekers are not allowed to work. Under exceptional circumstances you may be entitled to work but you need to seek advice about this. As the asylum process can be long, you may need to think about how you will support yourself. You may be eligible to apply for support from the UK Border Agency (UKBA).

UKBA is the government department responsible for supporting destitute asylum seekers. UKBA can provide both accommodation and cash support for food and clothing. If you have accommodation, for example with friends and relatives, you can apply for cash support only. Cash support is also called ‘subsistence support’.

If you are unable to support yourself, you can apply for asylum support, at any time during the asylum process. If you are accepted by UKBA and/or social service as under 18, and are applying for asylum on your own, you will get support from your local authority. You can ask for support at the same time you apply for asylum if you need to and UKBA should arrange for temporary accommodation for you while you complete an application.

Who is eligible for support from UKBA?

You may need both accommodation and cash support, or you may need cash support. In either case, you will have to prove to UKBA several things:

  • That you have applied for asylum and your application has not been refused
  • That you are destitute (meaning you have very little or no money and accommodation)
  • That you have applied for asylum ‘as soon as reasonable practicable’ after arriving in the UK
  • That you are over the age of 18 years old

What does ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’ mean?

This test applies to people who apply for both accommodation and cash support and those who apply for cash only support. When considering your application for cash only support (even if you previously were receiving accommodation and cash support and wish to cash support only) UKBA will consider the following

  • Whether you have applied for asylum within three days of arrival;
  • Whether the account given by you about your arrival is credible

Normally UKBA will use information which you give them when you applied for asylum to determine whether you did apply ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’. If UKBA is unable to make a decision whether to grant you support, or if they think that you did not apply for asylum early enough then they will invite you to an interview. It is essential that you attend this interview if you want to prove that you need support and that you applied for asylum ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’.

UKBA will not refuse you support if the following circumstances apply:

  • If you are part of a family with children under 18;
  • If you have special needs, for example, a mental or physical disability; if you have special needs, you are entitled to an assessment of need from your local authority under community care legislation. Some asylum seekers with special needs can be provided with accommodation and extra support by UKBA;
  • If you can show that you will suffer inhuman and degrading treatment, as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, if the Government does not grant you support. You may need legal advice to see if this applies to you.
  • If you were already legally in the UK, and then applied for asylum due to changed conditions in your home country, UKBA will examine whether you applied for asylum at the earliest possible opportunity.

I need accommodation and cash support

You can apply for accommodation and cash support at the same time. If you have nowhere to live whilst you are waiting for a decision on whether you are eligible for UKBA support, UKBA will place you in an induction centre or in an initial accommodation when you claim asylum. If you have already claimed asylum and subsequently find yourself destitute, a refugee organisation can refer you to UKBA for initial accommodation. Initial accommodation is where asylum seekers are accommodated and provided with food or cash support on short term basis.

UKBA agrees to accommodate me

If UKBA decides that you are eligible for support, they will arrange to move you to your dispersal accommodation. You cannot choose where UKBA will send you; but they should take into account your physical needs and personal circumstances. Before you move to your UKBA accommodation, you will receive information about where you will be living, how you will travel there, how you can obtain cash support, and who to contact in your new location if you have problems.

What type of accommodation will I get?

UKBA will usually move you to a shared house or a flat. People who run these places are called landlords. They will provide you with bedding, basic kitchen equipment, and are responsible for helping you to contact and use services in your area. Your landlord is responsible for ensuring that your accommodation is in a good state of repair. If you have any concerns about your accommodation raise this with your landlord or your local Asylum Support Service. Please remember that you may be asked to share with someone you do not know.

How long can I stay in UKBA accommodation?

UKBA expects you to remain in the accommodation they provide you with unless they give you permission to move. If you leave your accommodation without permission, UKBA can stop providing support and accommodation for you altogether. If you wish to move out of UKBA accommodation and stay with someone else, you must tell UKBA about such changes. You can stay with the accommodation until UKBA decides your asylum application. If UKBA grants you refugee status, humanitarian protection, discretionary leave, your support will end after 28 days. This means that you will have to move out within 28 days.

Will UKBA support me if I pursue an appeal?

If UKBA refuses your asylum application but you have appealed within their time limits, you can continue staying in your accommodation and you will continue to receive support. If you are at the end of the asylum process and have no further rights of appeal, UKBA will stop your support 21 days after your asylum claim was finally refused. However, you may be able to apply for Section 4 support – known as ‘hard case’ support. Please see Asylum Supporting Partnership leaflet ‘Are you destitute and at the end of the asylum process?’ at  Your legal adviser or your nearest refugee organisation may be able to help you with the application. If you have dependent children under the age of 18, your support should continue even if your asylum claim has been refused.

I need cash support only

If you have somewhere else to stay, for example with friends and relatives, you can apply to UKBA for cash support only. It can take several weeks before UKBA considers an application. No support will be provided during this period, and support will only be provided from the date that UKBA actually make a decision on the application, not from the date application was sent and no back payments are available. If UKBA agrees to give you cash support, the following should happen:

  • UKBA will send you a letter confirming that you are entitled to cash support.
  • They will give you temporary vouchers called interim tokens. They are only valid for a short time. You can exchange them for cash at the post office.
  • If you have your Application Registration Card (ARC) you should be able to collect your regular payments by presenting the card at the designated post office. Sodexho, the company which provides the payments, will send you a letter confirming which post office you should go to.

If you have any questions about your cash support or are experiencing any problems you should call the UKBA helpline on 0845 602 1739 or visit your nearest Asylum Support Service. Please note that this applies to people receiving both cash and accommodation as well.

What happens if I lose my tokens or the ARC?

If you have lost your tokens or your ARC, or someone has stolen it, you need to report the loss or theft to the police to get new token or new ARC. You need to get a written proof of the police report with crime reference number, name of the police officer and the name of the police station. You need to contact your local Asylum Support Service.

My circumstances have changed

If you have been receiving cash support and your circumstances change and you need accommodation as well, you can apply for accommodation at a later stage. You should contact the nearest refugee organisation that can help you with this.

What other help can UKBA give me?

Maternity payment

Maternity payments for parents seeking asylum

If you are receiving asylum support from the Home Office (HO), and are pregnant or if you already have children under the age of three you may be entitled to extra money. This leaflet explains what payments are available depending on the type of support you receive and what you need to do to receive them. To get all the additional support you must follow all the steps explained below within the timescales given.

 Additional weekly cash payments

While you are pregnant and when your baby is born, you can receive additional payments from HO. When you are pregnant you can request an extra £3 per week. When your baby is born, and until he or she is one year old, you will be entitled to an extra £5 per week. When your baby is one year old you will still be entitled to an extra £3 a week until the baby is three years old. When the baby turns three the additional support payment will stop and your weekly support amount will be the current weekly UKBA allowance for parents and children.

If you are receiving Section 4 support, you can apply for similar payments. In addition, once your child is born you can apply for an extra £5 per week to pay for clothing for your child until they are 16 years old. All additional payments will be added to your Azure card payments. If you already have children who are under 18, there should be no limit on the amount of support you can carry over on your Azure card from one week to the next. If this is your first child, Home Office should stop the £5 carry over limit once you are issued the maternity grant.

Single additional maternity grant

When the baby is born and you are receiving ordinary asylum support, you are also entitled to a single additional payment of £300 to cover the cost of buying clothes and equipment for the baby. If you are having twins you are entitled to £600, £300 per child. You must apply for this no earlier than eight weeks before your baby is due or no later than six weeks after your baby is born.

What do I need to do and when?

To access these payments you must send a signed, written request to Home Office (HO). If you receive Section 4 support from HO you must make all these requests using the Section 4 Additional Payments Form and tick all the relevant boxes. Requests should be sent to your named case owner. If you don’t have a case owner you should write to the HO regional office.

For any request you must send the original documents which should return to you. You should take a photocopy of your request and your documents for your records. You should send all requests and original documents by ‘recorded delivery’ (ask at the Post Office about this).

If you need help making these applications contact your local refugee organisation.

When you become pregnant:

Write to your Home Office (HO) case owner requesting the £3 maternity payment and the single maternity grant of £300/£250 and include a letter or a MATB1 form from your doctor or midwife confirming that you are pregnant and the expected date of birth (date of delivery).

Remember to request the maternity grant within the timescales HO specifies:

·         If you are receiving ordinary asylum support, request £300 no earlier than eight weeks before the baby is due, or six weeks after the baby is born.

·         If you are receiving Section 4 support, request £250 no earlier than eight weeks before the baby is due, or six weeks after the baby is born.


If you apply early, HO may not process the application. Please check whether you need to send it again within the timescales. In some circumstances HO will not grant the maternity payment before the baby is born, and will require confirmation of the child’s birth (e.g. a birth certificate).

Travel to asylum and appeal interviews

If you receive support, UKBA will pay your travel expenses to your asylum and appeal interviews. You can apply for assistance to pay for your travel. Your local One Stop Service can help you with this request.

What if UKBA refuses to support me?

If UKBA refuses to support you, you may have the right to appeal to a support adjudicator, but you will not be able to get any support from UKBA while you are waiting for your appeal to be decided.

Can I travel?

You are free to travel within the United Kingdom (UK) but, if you are staying in UKBA accommodation, you are only allowed to be away for no more than seven days and nights in a row, or 14 days and nights during six-month period. If you intend to be away from your accommodation you should inform your landlord. If you travel outside the UK, UKBA will withdraw your asylum claim.

Can I work while I am waiting for a decision on my asylum claim?

As an asylum seeker you are not usually allowed to work. However, if you have been waiting for over a year for an initial decision on your asylum application you can apply for permission to work. Your solicitor may be able to help you with this. Everyone can undertake voluntary work which is a good way to learn new skills. This work has to be genuinely voluntary and unpaid. Travel and lunch expenses are usually paid if you do voluntary work.

Important note:

If your circumstances change, for example, you are joined by a family member, or change address or wish to apply for a maternity payment, you should tell UKBA if possible before it takes place. You must make sure that they are either added to your asylum claim or have one of their own, otherwise they may not be eligible for support. You should write to UKBA informing them how your circumstances have changed. Please keep a copy of your letter.

Support when you have exhausted asylum appeal rights

If your asylum application has been fully determined including appeal and UKBA has informed you that you have exhausted your appeal rights, you may be eligible for UKBA support, called Section 4. For more information on how to claim this support please see Asylum Support Partnership leaflet ‘Are you destitute and at the end of the asylum process?’ at or at your local Asylum Support Service.

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