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Preparing for life in the UK

Advice from a local refugee:

Difficulties do not end even after receiving permission to stay

First you need to find a house and a job. I found a house and moved in. Now I'm looking for a job.

After you get your BRP, leave your phone on and listen for a call from Reed to tell you what to do next. But do not wait for the call before taking action. If you miss the call, Reed may not call back. Follow the advice on this page whether you hear from Reed or not. 

What to do when you get your BRP - click the pdf to see

Advice from the UK government on applying for universal credit etc




Tell the housing officers in your hotel as soon as possible, as they can advise you what to do. You need a bank account (which you can open before you get your BRP). As soon as you get your BRP, apply for universal credit, and contact the local council. DO NOT DELAY your application for universal credit. DO NOT wait until you get an eviction letter, or have to move. Universal credit takes 5 weeks to arrive, and can be transferred to a different address after you move.

Scroll down for more details. 

When you apply for universal credit, you are allowed to apply for a loan - technically advance payment of the first month's payment. Our current advice is 

DO APPLY FOR THIS ADVANCE PAYMENT. The reason is that your future payments will be reduced while you repay the advance payment. Our experience is that refugees who receive the advance payments are more likely to become homeless, because they fail assessments of what housing they afford, meaning that the council will not pay towards their housing. 

General advice

Contact Red Cross for

  • Financial support if you have no other support because of a gap between when you stop receiving and start receiving universal credit

  • Help applying for family reunification

  • Help on applying for travel documents, for instance if you want to travel to a safe country to see your family


App for helping asylum seekers and refugees in UK - REFAID

Visit Upbeat Communities in Derby and ask to join their Move-On program to learn how to apply for benefits and find housing. Or visit DRS for advice. 

Applying for Universal Credit - you can get help from Upbeat or DRS, or try visiting the Citizens Advice Bureau at Petersham Hall Mondays 9-12, or visit St John's Church on a Wednesday morning and ask for Trish. 

Guides to education, housing, employment, healthcare, money, food, activities from Welcome Churches


Other charities like Nottingham Refugee Forum, DRAC or Care for Calais can help too.

Opening a bank account

1. Halifax Bank
ARC card + Proof of address
If you are living in a hotel, you need to get a letter from your hotel manager you are residing there, or you can get a letter from your GP doctor, but please note you may need to pay nearly £30 to your GP doctor for a letter. Charities like DRS and Nottingham Refugee Forum can provide a letter. 
Halifax Bank is your startup bank, it's the most accessible bank for asylum seekers.
2. Lloyds Bank
ARC card + Proof of address 
You need to obtain address proof, if you already opened a Halifax bank, you can download your bank statement as address proof for Lloyds Bank.
3. Natwest
ARC card with work permitted + Proof of address
Natwest is more strict for bank account applications. If you have an ARC card, you need work permission, otherwise, they will refuse to open a bank account. The application is paper-based, so you need to go to the Natwest branch.
Note: Halifax and Lloyds accept online applications, you will need to fill out your information on their website. You just need to bring your ARC card and proof of address to the branch for checking.

Try different branches or a different day if it does not work first time, or other banks like Nationwide.

Finding housing

  • If you have a local connection to an area, you may approach the council to ask for help finding a housing. For refugees, you normally have a local connection ONLY to the borough where you were living when you get your BRP.  But if you find temporary housing somewhere else for six months or longer and then  risk become homeless there, you have a local connection to that place.

  • Approach the council as soon as you have your BRP. Do NOT wait for your eviction letter. In Long Eaton, email the homelessness team. Do not go to the town hall, as it is only open 10-2pm on weekdays. 

  • The council will NOT give you a house or a room, because they have no houses to give.  There is social housing in Erewash for people who are homeless, but many other people are waiting for it too, including families with young children. You may apply for social housing, but you might have to wait years to get it.

  • If you have a local connection, the council can advise you where to look for a room, and help you to find one. 

  • You may move to other parts of the UK, but you will need to find private housing there. 

  • You are most likely to find a single room in a house rented from a landlord

  • When you contact the landlord, first check that they will accept refugees on universal credit. Many landlords will accept only tenants who are employed or students. The council may help you find the right landlords. 

  • You may need to look in lots of places. Try rightmove, gumtree,  spareroom, or search on Google or Facebook for "rooms to let" or "house share" in the area you want to look.

  • Check what you need to pay to move in. Usually this is one month's rent in advance, and a deposit for a similar amount. Landlords should give the deposit back to you when you move out, if you have caused no problems or damage, but not all will give it back. The council may be able to help with deposits. 

  • The demand is greater than supply, so you cannot easily negotiate with landlords or wait. If you find a room and do not take it quickly, someone else probably will. 

  • Ask someone to help you check the terms and conditions of renting the property before you move in. 


When you receive your Aspen card, you will get a small amount of money every week. This is not a lot - maybe enough to pay for two return bus journeys. But it is your opportunity to learn to budget for larger purchases, especially if you are living in a hotel and getting meals. 

Think carefully about what else you would like to spend money on. It is not wise to spend it on luxuries. You will need some of it for larger purchases, such as items you need only every few weeks or months. 

If all is good, charities may be able to provide you with some items like clothes, bikes, or gym memberships. But they are unlikely to provide these for ever. If you have been receiving money for some months, they may wonder whether you could learn to save money to buy what you need. How many weeks would it take for you to save to buy a coat, or trainers, or to pay for gym membership? If you had a SIM card with free credit that has run out, look for cheap SIM-only deals for your phone, which could cost as little as £1 a month.  

Learning to budget will become even more important when you move out of a hotel into a shared house, as you will need to buy your own food too. If you are granted refugee status, you will need to find work or apply for universal credit until you do. Then you will be responsible for managing all your own finances. The time to practise is when you first receive payments on your Aspen card. 

Prices can be very high in the UK. But there are many ways of reducing costs or finding items for free - even food, from apps like Olio, or by asking a charity to refer you to a food bank. Millions of British people do this too. You can find an excellent guide to budgeting and other ways of saving money and reducing spending at Money Saving Expert

Preparing for work


The UK government encourages asylum seekers to volunteer. Paid work is not permitted. 

If you are granted the right to remain and work in the UK, you may be paid for work. 
Legal paid work protects your rights and ensures you receive at least the Minimum Wage. 

When you apply for Universal Credit, it is important to follow the rules about paid work, or you may lose your Universal Credit. 

It can be difficult to find work. Job Centres provide excellent help, including advice on finding work, free courses, and bus fares to support job searches. 

Consider your skills and see tips below for preparing for work and writing a CV. Create an account and upload your CV to a jobsearch site like LinkedIn or CV Library

5 tips for writing a CV




Sorani Kurdish


Refugee Employment Checklist

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