Permission to work

VOLUNTARY WORK:  Asylum seekers are permitted to do voluntary work even if their appeal rights have been exhausted. This was confirmed by the UKBA head of asylum policy Rob Jones in a meeting with Refugee Action in December.  Some UKBA officials have been actively discouraging asylum seekers from volunteering following the publication of guidance on the prevention of illegal working.  Mr Jones said that the guidance would be renewed and confirmed that the UKBA has no legal authority to stop asylum seekers from volunteering, nor would it take any action against organisations which did so.


The Supreme Court has dismissed the Home Office appeal and has confirmed the Right to Work for refused asylum seekers whose fresh claim is still unresolved after 12 months.  This is under European Law. However, Home Office ministers are hoping to restrict the ruling so that it would only apply to vacancies in skilled jobs in shortage areas.  Any clients in this position should consult their solicitors about applying for a work permit.The letter dated 10 August 2010 from Amelia Wright, Head of Asylum Policy, UKBA, concerning the rules for working for asylum seekers states that they will only be able to take up employment if the job is included in the UKBA’s list of shortage occupations”.  (see UKBA’s website for list).

Unfortunately, asylum seekers are not allowed to work, unless they have submitted a fresh claim and have been waiting for more than 12 months for a decision.  If so they may apply to the Home Office for permission to work but, as you will see from the following notes by Alexa Kellow, there are reasons to think carefully before taking this step.

Permission to Work

The Legal Justice Project recently had a query about permission to work in light of a new case decision about an asylum seeker from Somalia. Jo Renshaw helpfully responded with the following summary, which is of particular relevance to our Zimbabwean clients. Please note the need for caution in some cases.

Jo’s summary on Permission to Work:

“The decision of the Court of Appeal in ZO (Somalia) was that those who had been waiting for their fresh claims to be considered for more than 12 months should be granted permission to work.  The Home Office’s standard response is that (i) they have been granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court and (ii) until that case is heard, they will not implement the Court of Appeal judgement.  Similarly, in the related case of Tekle where the HO were directed to put in place a new policy on permission to work for those in the ‘Legacy’, the Home Office have simply disregarded the Court and have not made any new policy.

So, this means that to force a decision on permission to work, individuals end up having to Judicially Review the refusal of permission to work.  So far in our experience, this has resulted in either the case being decided positively in favour of the applicant (this is particularly true for Zimbabweans) or the Court making an ‘interim’ Order that permission to work be granted pending final resolution of the test case in the Supreme Court.

However, there is nothing to say that a Judicial Review on permission to work may not end up with the Home Office making a negative decision on the underlying fresh claim case and this is something you must be prepared for if your case is a bit weak.”