As a general rule, asylum seekers are not allowed to work in the UK. But they can apply for permission to fill a shortage vacancy if they have been waiting for over 12 months for an initial decision on their asylum claim. Attempts were made during the passage of the Immigration Bill 2015-16 to relax these restrictions, but they did not have Government support and were unsuccessful.Jump to full report >>
As a general rule, asylum seekers are not allowed to work in the UK. They can only apply for permission to work if:
Permission to work only allows asylum seekers to take up jobs on the UK’s official shortage occupation list. It expires once the asylum claim has been finally determined (i.e. when all appeal rights are exhausted).
During the passage of the Immigration Bill 2015-16, peers voted in favour of a new clause which would have shortened the qualifying period for applying for permission to work and enabled asylum seekers to take up any job, or voluntary work or self-employment. The clause did not have Government support and was rejected during ping-pong stage.
For more than a decade, the UK’s policies to restrict asylum seekers’ rights to work in the UK have attracted criticism from NGOs, trade unions, churches and some Parliamentarians, amongst others. Calls for change have tended to focus on:
Suggested advantages of extending asylum seekers’ rights to work include that it would:
Successive governments have rejected calls to extend asylum seekers’ rights to work. They have consistently emphasised concerns that to do so might encourage unfounded asylum claims. Campaigners have argued that there is little evidence to support this assertion.
Comparable provisions in other EU Member States vary. For example, Germany and Belgium grant permission to work after three and six months respectively. The recast Reception Conditions Directive reduced the maximum waiting time for permission to work from twelve to nine months across EU Member States. The UK, Ireland and Denmark are not participating in the recast Directive.
Commons Briefing papers SN01908
Author: Melanie Gower