Are asylum seekers allowed to work in the UK?

asylum seekers to be allowed to work in the UK

The current staff shortages in many sectors brought back the discussion whether asylum seekers should be permitted to work in the UK whilst their asylum claims are under consideration by the Home Office. As a general rule, asylum claimants are not normally allowed to work whilst their claim is being considered. They are instead provided with accommodation and support to meet their essential living needs if they would otherwise be destitute. Those asylum seekers whose asylum claims are successful will have unrestricted access to the labour market.

When permission to work for asylum seeker can be granted

The Home Office may grant permission to work to asylum seeker whose claim has been outstanding for more than 12 months through no fault of their own (i.e. if claim is pending for over 12 months when the applicant provided all the documents/information and attended any interview(s) promptly). Under this policy, those who are allowed to work are restricted to jobs on the shortage occupation list published by the Home Office. Any permission to work granted will come to an end if their claim is refused and any appeals rights are exhausted because at that point they are expected to leave the UK.

Permission to work application process

All applications for permission to work from asylum seekers or failed asylum seekers should be made by writing to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to the email addresses specified in the Home Office guidance, and should include the below listed information:

  • full name of the applicant, date of birth and nationality
  • Home Office reference number
  • a statement setting out the request for permission to work
  • contact details for the applicant and legal representative (if they have one)

Right to work checks for asylum seekers

Application Registration Cards (ARC) are issued to new asylum claimants to demonstrate they have made an asylum claim. Since 2017 the ARC cards resemble the Biometric Residence Card.

Anyone allowed to work whilst their asylum claim is in process is restricted to working in jobs on the shortage occupation list published by the Home Office Immigration Rules Appendix Shortage Occupation List – Immigration Rules – Guidance – GOV.UK ( Their ARC will state “work permitted shortage OCC”. Any permission to work granted will come to an end if their claim is refused and any appeal rights are exhausted because at that point, they are expected to leave the UK.

Employers may accept a new biometric style or an old-style ARC as evidence of a right to work, but the ARC card on its own is not sufficient to prove the right to work. To verify the right to work and any work restrictions employers must obtain a Positive Verification Notice issued by our Employer Checking Service (ECS) Use the Employer Checking Service – GOV.UK (

This excuse will expire six months from the date of the Positive Verification Notice, when a further check must be undertaken if the statutory excuse is to be retained. If employer receives a Negative Verification Notice from the ECS, which informs that the individual does not have the right to work, and they employ this person, such employers will not have a statutory excuse and may be liable for a civil penalty or be committing a criminal offence.

How to apply for permission to work

An eligible asylum seeker can apply for permission to work or volunteer in writing, to an email address or by letter to:

Permission to Work Team
Asylum Operations
Department 139, The Capital
Old Hall Street
Liverpool, L3 9PP

Further enquiries regarding the refused application for perimission to work should be directed to

If the permission to work was granted the applicant will be send a letter confirming that fact. They do not have to do anything. Their case worker will handle the issuance of the new ARC card with information about permission to work added. Their old ARC card (if they had one) will be cancelled.

In case of problems with ARC card, it is advised to contact the Home Office through their dedicated contact form.


Permission to work and volunteering for asylum seekers (accessible version) – GOV.UK (

Right to work checks: an employer’s guide – GOV.UK (

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