The refugees you support are likely to require immigration advice. We provide a general introduction to this in order for you to help refugees access local services.
The most important thing we can tell you is this: if you or members of the refugee family you are supporting are in need of immigration advice, you should consult a registered Immigration Adviser or Lawyer. You can identify an Immigration Adviser here: gov.uk/find-an-immigration-adviser
These resources are designed to give you some idea of what to expect and a basic overview of issues related to immigration. They cannot be a substitute for regulated immigration advice based around the individual situation of the refugees you are supporting. Our Immigration information has been produced for use by Community Sponsorship Groups by RAMP and Fragomen LLP.
Our Refugees wishing to return to their host country or country of origin resource was written in collaboration with UNHCR UK.
Q: What is the Legal Status of a Refugee resettled through Community Sponsorship?
A: Refugees resettled through Community Sponsorship are resettled to the UK through the UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS) and the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS). On arrival, refugees under these schemes are issued with a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) and will have 5 years’ Refugee Leave. If they intend to stay in the UK beyond 5 years, they should apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain when they are eligible.
A child born in the UK to parents with 5 years’ Leave to Remain will not automatically have Leave to Remain and this might affect their access to services in the UK. Read the latest Birth Registration Guidance on our website.
Q: What is a Biometric Residence Permit?
A: A BRP is a permit which can be used as proof of identity, and to confirm the right to work or study in the UK and the right to access any public services or benefits you’re entitled to. It is sent to a named person in your Sponsorship Group who will pass this onto the family after arrival in the UK. It should be kept safe. However, it is not sufficient documentation for travel.
More information on BRPs can be found here: gov.uk/biometric-residence-permits.
If a family member loses their BRP, or has a change to their circumstances (such as getting married) they should report this as soon as possible to the Home Office.
If someone you support changes address, or has a change to their circumstances (such as separating from a partner), they do need to report this to the Home Office within 3 months of the change happening. This can be done through a change of circumstance form.
Q: What do I do if there is a problem with a Biometric Residence Permit?
A: BRPs sometimes arrive with names misspelled, incorrect dates of birth or other errors. You should check BRPs for any inaccuracies and report a problem with a BRP within 10 days. Otherwise, you risk having to pay for a replacement.
Speak to your Home Office Contact Officer to report any issues and find out more information on how to report problems with a BRP here.
Q: How can refugees secure Indefinite Leave to Remain?
A: Refugees can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after 5 years in the UK. According to the Home Office, ‘You should apply during the last month of your current permission to be in the UK.’ More about applying for ILtR can be found on the gov.uk website. The Home Office has provided advice for refugees and the process for them to follow when they have been in the UK for 5 years and when they will be required to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Please note that the UK Resettlement Scheme Policy Statement from the Home Office indicates refugees arriving from October 2021 having indefinite leave to remain from arrival. We have asked for more information on process change which we will share in due course.
Q: How can refugees become UK Citizens?
A: Once a person resettled through Community Sponsorship has been in the UK for 5 years and has had Indefinite Leave to Remain for 12 months, they are entitled to apply for British citizenship. Doing so has several requirements and a cost. More information about applying for citizenship can be found here.
Q: Can family members be brought to the UK?
A: The UK’s rules around family reunification currently allows those with refugee or humanitarian protection status to apply to reunite with a spouse, partner or child under 18. Resettled refugees will be expected to have named their dependents on their resettlement application or to provide a reasonable explanation for the omission. More information about family reunion can be found here.
Family Reunion is a very common question that those who have been resettled ask about. Family reunion is an entirely separate programme to resettlement, but understandably, the splitting of families will cause concern, distress and a halt on integration on the family who has arrived in the UK. You can access our resource on how to manage these conversations with the family you support here.
Q: Are refugees able to travel abroad?
A: Yes. However, it is important to emphasize that a BRP is not a travel document. Instead, refugees should apply to the Home Office for a Convention travel document and check with the Embassy of the country they wish to travel to regarding applying for a visa.
More information can be found here: gov.uk/apply-home-office-travel-document
On return to the UK, at the airport, refugees should queue in the ‘all other nationalities’ lane and show their Convention travel document and BRP to the Immigration Officer.
If a refugee leaves the UK for more than two years, then they would not necessarily have the right to re-enter.
Were the refugee to return to their country of origin or apply for a passport from that country, this would call into question whether refugee status is still required. In those cases, they risk being prevented from re-entering the UK.