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8 Claiming Asylum

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1. Introduction

2. Who qualifies for asylum?

3. How do I apply for asylum?

4. What happens when I apply?

5. What can I live on while I am waiting?

6. What happens while I´m waiting?

7. Where can I get help with my claim?

8. What will be the outcome of my claim?

If your claim is successful, you will normally be given one of three different types of status, as described below.

Asylum (permanent residence)
If your claim for refugee status is accepted, you will be granted asylum and given 'leave to remain' for five years. If you are accepted in this way, your husband or wife and any children under 18 with you in this country will also automatically be accepted. If they are not here with you, they will be allowed to come to the UK. You are also entitled to get a Convention (blue) travel document, which allows you to travel freely to all countries except your country of origin.

You can work or study, and have the same rights to receive benefits as citizens do. You will be able to get a loan to help you with the cost of starting to settle in this country. You will have to repay this loan gradually from your benefits, or when you are working.

After five years as a refugee you can apply to stay here permanently ('indefinite leave to remain'). The Home Office will examine your case again, to see whether you still need to be protected by staying in this country; whether it would be safe for you to go back to your own country; and whether you have other ties here. You will also need to pass tests to show that you can speak some English and have learned about life in the United Kingdom. If you cannot pass these tests but the Home Office agree you should stay here, it will probably give you another five years to pass the tests. You can apply to take the tests again whenever you think you will pass.

Humanitarian protection
If you can't show that you meet all the conditions for refugee status, you may be given 'humanitarian protection'. You should be given this status if you would face serious harm if you returned. This includes sending you back where:

  • your life would be in danger for any reason;
  • you would be at risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment; or
  • you would personally be at risk of serious violence (see 'Human rights claims').

Humanitarian protection lasts for five years, and at the end you can apply to stay here permanently if you would still be at risk in your country. You will have to pass the same tests of knowledge of the English language and of life in the UK as people who have asylum. People with humanitarian protection generally have fewer rights to travel and study than refugees.

Discretionary leave
If the Home Office accepts there are other reasons why it would be unfair to make you leave the country, for example because of your ill health or for family reasons, you may be given 'discretionary leave'. This will usually be for only six or 12 months at a time, and you will not normally be allowed to stay permanently unless your discretionary leave is renewed for a total of six years.

You may also be given discretionary leave if you might face torture if you returned, but the Home Office thinks you do not deserve asylum because you have been involved in war crimes or terrorism. In this case you will have to wait at least 10 years before you can apply to stay permanently.

9. What if my claim is refused?

10. What happens if my appeals fail?

11. Further help

12. About this leaflet


The leaflets in this series give you an outline of your legal rights. They are not a complete guide to the law and are not intended to be a guide to how the law will apply to you or any specific situation. The leaflets are regularly updated but the law and the way the government deals with asylum seekers often change, so information may be incorrect or out of date. If you have a problem, you will need to get more information or personal advice to work out the best way to solve it. See 'Further help' for sources of information and advice.

This leaflet was written in association with the Immigration Law Practitioners Association and Mick Chatwin, a barrister and solicitor specialising in immigration law.

Leaflet version: February 2008

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