Refugee Permission to Work

Refugees in the UK do not require a UK visa.

Refugees have specific 'Refugee Status' documentation and a UK National Insurance number. Their specific immigration status is 'Refugee', awarded via the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, which no country has ever withdrawn from. This status has saved millions of lives around the world since 1951.

Refugees are permitted to work in the UK  in any profession and at any skill level.  (page 5 of guide below)

Refugees are not economic migrants and are not subject to the points-based system: where migrants are required to meet particular skill and experience levels and employers given sponsorship duties. Many employers are not aware of this specific immigration status and mix it up with 'migrant' or 'student' or 'asylum seeker'. Asylum Seekers are currently not allowed to work in the UK. Refugees are.

Very few people are awarded Refugee Status in the UK - it requires a very high level of proof and around 75% of applicants for Refugee status fail.

Refugees are issued by the Home Office with:

  • A Biometric Residence Permit (issued since June 2012) or (pre June 2012)
  • An A4 document called an ISD (see below) which clarifies their full permission to work in any job
  • All refugees are issued with a National Insurance number.

Refugee permission to work has a 5 year lifespan.  They are then entitled to apply for ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain) and then British citizenship. During this time, a refugee continues to have the same rights to employment and training as before. (page 6 of guide below)

Photographs of these documents can be found in this Home Office guidance document (page 20 of second link document : ‘Comprehensive guidance…’)

Who is a refugee?

Refugee status is granted to a person who has had a positive decision on their claim for asylum under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (the Refugee Convention) and has been granted leave to remain in the UK.

A refugee is not an ‘asylum seeker’. Refugees have been granted leave to remain as a refugee in the UK. Asylum seekers have not. Asylum seekers may not be employed in the UK. Refugees may work in any job.

Guide for employers on employing refugees

Guide produced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Refugee Council

Refugee Status & Humanitarian Protection

Here is the text from the 2012 Home Office guidance on employing refugees.  The document includes photographs of the documents that refugees are given, providing them with unrestricted permission to work for 5 years in the UK.

An asylum seeker whose claim is successful is granted refugee status. Refugees are foreign nationals or stateless people who we have allowed to remain in the UK because they have demonstrated a well founded fear of persecution for one of the reasons listed in the 1951 Geneva Convention.

Humanitarian protection can be granted to those who do not qualify for protection under the 1951 Geneva Convention. This would be if there is a real risk that if they were removed to their country of origin they would face serious harm.

Refugees and those with humanitarian protection have no restrictions on the type of work they can do, as long as they continue to hold this qualifying status. These individuals do not have to meet the tests of the points based system, and you do not need to be a sponsor under this scheme to employ someone of one of these statuses. We are committed to the integration of refugees and those with humanitarian protection.

(page 49 of second link document: ‘Comprehensive guidance…’)

Transitions is happy to take responsibility for the ID confirmation of our interns and hired candidates.

Transitions has collated this information in good faith and is providing it as collated  secondary resource information. Please refer to the Home Office for formal advice and confirmation of ID documents for interns or staff who are not Transitions staff.

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