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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/claiming-universal-credit-and-other-benefits-if-you-are-a-refugee/refugee-guide-urgent-things-you-need-to-do
If you’re receiving asylum support from the Home Office (money and/or accommodation), this will end 28 days after getting your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).
This information explains what you need to do now to secure new income and accommodation.
You should do 3 things immediately after getting your BRP:
- apply for benefits
- get a bank account
- arrange your housing
Your BRP entitles you to apply for benefits, in addition to the other activities listed in this leaflet.
What is the DWP?
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is a government department that helps with finding work and claiming benefits for people of working age, and benefits for people of pension age.
What is a jobcentre?
A jobcentre is a government office providing information and advice about jobs and is also involved in the administration of benefits. A jobcentre is part of DWP.
What is the local authority or local council?
Your local authority or local council, is responsible for public services and facilities in your local area. They can help you with finding accommodation.
Who are Migrant Help?
Migrant Help provide advice and guidance to asylum seekers and to refugees once a decision has been made on their claim.
Apply for benefits
Now that you have leave to remain in the UK you can get the same type of support as British citizens. This includes money from the government called benefits. A benefit is money for people who need help because they have a low income.
It is important you apply for benefits as soon as possible to make sure you get the money you need and there is no gap in your income.
If you’re getting payment or living in accommodation arranged by the Home Office, you should be contacted by someone from Migrant Help to see if you need help applying for benefits.
If not, you should apply for benefits online.
National Insurance Number (NINO)
Your NINO will be on the back of your BRP and looks like this: QQ123456A.
If there is no NINO on your BRP, you must contact the Home Office immediately.
You do not need a NINO for your benefits claim to be made but if you do not have a NINO you need to tell DWP at the start of your claim.
DWP will apply for a NINO on your behalf as part of your claim for benefits. You do not need to apply for a NINO yourself.
Information you’ll need to claim benefits
You’ll need the following information:
- date of birth
- bank details (you can still claim if you do not have a bank account)
- mobile phone number
- email address
- details of where you’re living
How to claim
You can apply for benefits online. Which benefits you apply for will depend on your circumstances. Most people of working age will apply for Universal Credit.
To apply for Universal Credit you should submit your claim online.
If you’re unable to use the online service to apply, you can contact the Universal Credit helpline:
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Welsh language: 0800 328 1744
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
To apply for Pension Credit, a weekly payment from the government that you receive when you reach a certain age, you can contact the Pension Service:
Telephone: 0800 731 7898
Textphone: 0800 731 7339
Monday to Friday 8am to 7.30pm
(except public holidays)
Calls to these numbers are free from a land line and usually free from a mobile phone.
If English is not your first language you can ask for an interpreter when you call any of the phone numbers.
At the jobcentre
Once you have applied for benefits you may need to attend an interview at your local jobcentre.
At the jobcentre you’ll meet a work coach, who can support and help you into work by providing personalised advice using their knowledge of local work opportunities.
You may need to agree a Claimant Commitment, which is an agreement between you and your work coach setting out what you have agreed to do to prepare for and look for work, or to increase your earnings if you’re already working. It is based on your personal circumstances and your benefits may be cut if you do not do what you have agreed to do.
Your asylum support payments will end after 4 weeks. If you need help to pay your bills or cover other costs while you wait for your first benefit payment, you can apply to get an advance.
The most you can get as an advance is the amount of your first estimated payment and you’ll need to pay the advance back from future benefit payments.
Get a bank account
Now that you have received leave to remain, you’re eligible to open a bank account.
You’ll need a bank account to get benefit payments and any money from work.
Bank accounts are free to open.
You’ll need to show documents proving your identity, immigration status and address.
Different banks ask for different documents, but you’re likely to need to show the bank:
- photographic identity document, for example BRP or driving licence
- proof of address, for example official letters from the Home Office, your doctor, or bills with your name on
If you’re not able to open a bank account, you may want to consider opening an alternative account, such as a credit union account or alternative online banking services. These accounts may charge a small fee.
Always keep your bank information (including passwords and Personal Identification Number (PIN)) safe and secure.
Arrange your housing
If you’re living in asylum support accommodation, this will only last for 28 days after getting your BRP.
You’ll get a letter from the Home Office or your accommodation provider confirming the exact date you’ll need to leave your accommodation by.
Local authority (council) housing
You should contact your local authority (also known as ‘council’) housing department for advice as soon as possible if you need help finding somewhere to live.
They’ll have a housing office where you can get advice. You can find their address on the local authority website or ask in your local library.
Local authorities have a legal duty to help you find accommodation.
They may provide you with accommodation to stop you becoming homeless or help you to find private rented housing.
It is important to tell them if you have any health problems or any special reasons why you need to live in a particular area, so they can make an assessment of what kind of accommodation you need.
For more information contact your local authority.
Social housing is for people on a low income and is offered at affordable rent.
In the UK there’s a very high demand (especially in London) for social housing and it can be difficult to get. It is usually provided by local authorities or by local housing associations.
Private renting housing
Renting from a private landlord is often the only option available, especially if you’re single or a couple without children.
You can look on the internet or in local newspapers, shop windows and notice boards, or you can find private accommodation through a letting agency.
Paying your rent
Private landlords will ask for a rent deposit in advance (up to a maximum of 5 weeks rent) in case you fail to pay the rent. They may also ask for the first month’s rent in advance.
Your landlord must put your deposit into a tenancy deposit protection scheme and you’ll get this back at the end of the tenancy as long as you have looked after the property.
You’ll need to pay your rent directly to your landlord (for both social or private rented housing).
When you apply for benefits you may get an amount towards your rent. This is usually paid directly to you, so you’ll need to pay it to your landlord.
If you’re over 18 you can apply for a refugee integration loan.
Integration loans may be used to pay for things like:
- a rent deposit or rent for housing
- household items
- education and training for work
You must provide your NINO.
You’ll also need to provide photocopies of documents including:
- your BRP, immigration status document or passport
- a bank statement or letter confirming your bank details