As you may know, the Government’s new sponsorship scheme will grant working rights to people fleeing Ukraine to seek safety, the same as those who are eligible to stay in the UK under the Ukraine Family Scheme. Those who arrived here under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) and the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) also have the same right.  

However, those who are not able to apply for these schemes but seeking asylum in the UK are effectively banned from working. They can only apply to the Home Office for permission to work if they have been waiting for a decision for over 12 months and only for jobs that are on the Government’s restricted Shortage Occupation List (this is an incredibly restrictive list that includes jobs such as ballet dancer and nuclear medicine practitioner).

This month Hope and Aid Direct joined the Lift the Ban campaign which includes over 260 organisations – businesses, trade unions, think tanks, faith groups and charities – and aims to win the right to work for people seeking asylum after six months of having lodged an asylum claim.

The House of Lords has voted for an amendment in the Nationality and Borders Bill to give people seeking asylum the right to work. Now we need to encourage MPs to vote for this amendment.  We need them to hear this campaign loudly and clearly.

You may get updates from us on this issue in the coming weeks.

Some information is below and you can visit the campaign website for more details.

Why change is needed

  • The current system is not fair: Everyone wants the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. It is simply unfair that those who have risked everything to find safety in the UK and have had to wait longer than the Government’s target of 6 months for a decision on their claim (almost half of all claims take longer than 6 months) are not allowed to do this most basic of things.

  • It provides a route out of poverty: People seeking asylum are given just £5.66 per day to meet all their essential living costs, including food, clothing, toiletries and transport and the cost of their asylum application. Forcing people to live in poverty for months, or even years at a time, while they seek safety from persecution is inhumane and has a detrimental impact on their physical and mental health.

  • The current system is wasteful: People seeking asylum who are able to work would not need to be supported for extended periods and could contribute to the economy through increased tax revenues and consumer spending. Our research shows that the economy stands to gain £180 million per year in tax revenues and asylum support savings if the ban was lifted.


  • It would help integration: For those who are eventually given refugee status, avoiding an extended period outside the jobs market is key to ensuring their long-term integration into UK society and encouraging them to be self-sufficient. Early access to employment increases the chances of smooth economic and social integration by allowing refugees to improve their English, acquire new skills and make new friends and social contacts in the wider community.


  • The public supports this: More than two thirds of the public (71%) agree that “When people come to Britain seeking protection, it is important that they integrate, learning English and getting to know people. It would be helpful if asylum-seekers were allowed to work if their claim takes more than six months to process.”


  • It would bring the UK into line with the approaches taken across Europe: The restrictive approach that the UK takes on access to the jobs market makes it an outlier within Europe. In almost all other European states people are given an opportunity to support themselves at an earlier stage and with fewer restrictions.

Why now

  • The impact of Brexit means that people are worried about a labour shortage in wide-ranging fields;
  • Lifting restrictions would provide much needed savings and a diverse workforce to help the country build back better following the outbreak of Covid-19.