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When During the Asylum Process Can I Apply for Residence Permit in the UK?

For many immigrants who have fled persecution, violence, or other adverse factors in their home country, arriving in the UK and applying for asylum represents the start of a new life. Arriving in a strange country with little understanding of the immigration rules and the process can leave many feeling confused and unsure of their situation from a personal and legal perspective. In this article, we will explain when during the asylum application process, it is possible to apply for a residence card to live in the UK.

What is the asylum process in the UK?

Applying for asylum in the UK is the start of a process that can last for several months and involves several states. Under the terms of the UN Refugee Convention, vulnerable immigrants who have left their home country in search of safety and to be with their loved ones in the UK have a right to lodge an application for asylum and for this to be fairly assessed by the Home Office. The stages involved in applying for asylum are broadly as follows:

  1. Apply for asylum after arriving in the UK
  2. Screening interview with a Home Office official – personal information will be gathered – this happens immediately or at least within five days.
  3. Interview under caution – this is a second interview which is only carried out if the Home Office official believes the person is an illegal entrant
  4. Substantive interview – this is a more in-depth interview to find out the circumstances of the claim. These can last anywhere from one to six hours, depending on the case. It is important to ask for an interpreter if one is needed. After the interview, a copy of the written record will be given to the asylum seeker.
  5. A decision will be made on the application within six months of the screening date
  6. If successful, asylum in the UK is typically granted for five years – at this stage, those given asylum can live, work, study, and access public funds (i.e., benefits) in the UK.
  7. Those given asylums can apply to be reunited with their family members at this stage
  8. A Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) will be issued to the person given asylum.

What is a Biometric Residence Permit?

A BRP is a special card given to those who have acquired residency in the UK. It is important to note that having a residency permit does not mean you have permanent residency. Your card will have an expiry date (lasting five years in the case of a successful asylum application), in addition to:

  • your name, date and place of birth
  • your fingerprints and a photo of your face
  • your immigration status and any conditions of your stay
  • whether you can access public funds, for example, benefits and health services

For more details on BRP’s, see the Home Office website.

When can I apply for permanent settlement in the UK as an asylum seeker?

The Home Office’s immigration rules state that you can apply to settle in the UK as a refugee or person with humanitarian protection after five years in the UK. With ILR status, you will no longer be subject to immigration control. As the Home Office explains, “If you have ILR or ILE, there is no longer any time limit on your ability to stay in the UK. If you have ILR or ILE and your home is in the UK, you are regarded as settled in the UK”. If granted ILR, you will be given a new BRP with the words ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’. BRPs for ILR last for up to ten years, but these can be renewed easily.

You will also be able to include your immediate family members (i.e. your partner and children) on your settlement application if they are already living with you in the UK. There are some exceptions, however; the Home Office rules state, “If your family was formed before you left your country, your partner and children can apply to be reunited with you in the UK. Your family members must apply for a visa to join you in the UK if one of the following is true: they’re not eligible to apply as a partner or a child, or your family was formed after you left your country. If your application is successful, your family members will have permission to stay in the UK for the same length of time as you”.

Applying for British citizenship as a person with asylum protection in the UK

Most people given asylum who secure ILR in the UK will typically apply for British citizenship after a further one year. This then removes the need to hold a BRP entirely and allows the individual to apply for a British passport. To be eligible for citizenship, those given asylums must:

  • have lived in the UK for five years and have had ILR for one year
  • be over 18
  • prove they were in the UK exactly five years before the day the Home Office receives the application
  • prove their knowledge of English, Welsh, or Scottish Gaelic
  • have passed the life in the UK test
  • intend to continue living in the UK
  • be of good character

Final words

For asylum seekers, gaining residence in the UK is not just a matter of finding a new home, it is about safety and security for themselves and their family members. If you need advice or support throughout the process of securing your initial asylum status and then later applications for ILR and then citizenship, there is a wealth of support available from charities and immigration solicitors in the UK. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, as doing so will give you the best chance of gaining the protected status you need.

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