If you have refugee status or Exceptional Leave or Humanitarian Protection or Discretionary Leave in the UK you can claim all welfare benefits, subject to the ‘ordinary’ rules, and you cannot be refused any benefit on the basis of your immigration status. However, if you are studying full-time, as is the case for UK students, you will not be entitled to any of the main income-related benefits listed unless you are in a 'vulnerable group' (for example, if you are a lone parent). If you have Refugee status, you can claim income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit for up to nine months without being required to be available for work if:
- you are studying English at least 15 hours a week
- the course started or starts within one year of your arrival in the United Kingdom.
As staff in many benefit offices may be unfamiliar with this provision, you may need to seek advice from your institution or Students' Union or Citizens Advice Bureau or Law Centre.
The above provision is contained within the Income Support regulations. Your adviser may find it helpful to know that it is based on Income Support regulation 4ZA and paragraph 18 of Schedule 1B of the Income Support regulations.
If you are already in receipt of income-based jobseeker's allowance and are about to start an English course (that is at least 15 hours a week and starts within 12 months of your arrival in the UK), you will need to withdraw your claim for jobseeker's allowance at the same time as making a claim for income support.
When your course finishes or after nine months, whichever of these is the earliest, you will need to claim jobseeker's allowance (unless you come within one of the 'vulnerable groups').
When switching from jobseeker's allowance to income support or the other way around, as above, try to get precise advice on how you should go about doing this so that:
- there are no gaps between the periods of entitlement, and your housing benefit and council tax benefit, if you are receiving these, are not stopped.
If you have just been granted refugee status or Humanitarian Protection you may be entitled to an integration loan. In addition, as a refugee you may also be entitled to child benefit or child tax credit backdated to the date when you claimed asylum.
You can seek advice on all the above from your institution, Students' Union, Citizens Advice Bureau or Law Centre. The adviser can check with the local benefits office as procedures may vary in different parts of the UK.