Can a Refugee Apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain?

As one of the leading firms in the UK for asylum and refugee law, we are often asked the question, can a refugee apply for indefinite leave to remain? The general answer to this question is “Yes” refugees can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR). In this article, we discuss how this can be achieved once someone has refugee status UK and also what to expect in terms of refugee ILR waiting time.

The road to indefinite leave to remain for a refugee – Who is a refugee?

First of all, before answering the question can refugee apply for indefinite leave to remain? It is important to state that there is a distinction that must be made between a refugee and an asylum seeker. An asylum seeker is someone who has fled their country of residence or nationality for fear of persecution for one or more of the reasons set out in the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees 1951 and its 1967 protocol. Such a person, therefore, claims asylum / humanitarian protection in a safe third country, for example, in the UK. That is why they are called’ asylum seekers,’ and they will remain so until they obtain refugee status. They can claim asylum and obtain refugee status for one or more of the following reasons:- race, nationality, religion, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. Once they are granted permission to stay for one or more of these reasons, they become refugees and can apply for a United Nations refugee travel document through the Home Office.

It would also be correct to assume that the nature of the claim for asylum / humanitarian protection is such that the individual and their family must be outside their country of residence or nationality when claiming asylum / humanitarian protection, and this also means that many who flee their countries land up in the UK illegally, having arrived here by diverse means such as:- on the back of a lorry, by plane either hidden for example in the undercarriage or by having boarded by way of false documentation, by sea having paid an agent many thousands of pounds to organise their perilous escape by boat from afar and so on and so forth!

More asylum seekers claim asylum for refugee status as illegal migrants than those who claim when here legally. The latter group may include those who have been in the UK or another third safe country as students or for some other reason, but during the time they have been here, the situation in their own country has deteriorated, and there has for example been a political coup, and the government has been toppled as a result of which the individual concerned fears return and thus claims asylum in the UK for refugee status.

When should an asylum seeker make their claim for refugee status UK?

So it can be noted that many risk life and limb to escape their own countries for a safe haven in a third safe country. Therefore the fact that many who claim asylum or humanitarian protection arrive on our shores illegally does not mean that they cannot obtain refugee status. Of course, once here, they should claim asylum / humanitarian protection at the earliest opportunity, as otherwise to claim months or sometimes years later after languishing in a safe third country all this time, may go against their credibility of claiming to be in genuine fear of their lives as opposed to wishing to remain in the safe third country for economic reasons. Therefore to be an asylum seeker on permissible grounds is acceptable, but to be an economic migrant is not so fine!

Refugee Status UK – How is it obtained?

Refugee status UK can be obtained through the Home Office as a result of a successful interview, or if the Home Office refuse, then through the appeal process to the immigration and asylum tribunal or through the higher courts.

Will Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) be granted straight away by the Home Office or by the Tribunal or Higher Courts through the appeal process?

Permission to stay in the UK will not be granted indefinitely, to begin with. The grant of refugee status will be for a five year period. During this period it may be possible for the individual concerned to bring to the UK their immediate family comprising of wife/ husband, and children under the UK family reunion policy, but after a five year period, the individual will be able to make an application for indefinite leave to remain by way of an online application for themselves and any family, which is free of charge.

There is a reason why indefinite leave to remain as a refugee is not granted straight away as a result of a successful application or appeal, and that is because if or example the political situation or the situation which originally gave rise to the claim in the country concerned no longer is relevant to the extent that there is no longer a fear of persecution, then the refugee will not be granted permanent stay (indefinite leave to remain), and may be asked to leave the UK. That is why in an application for indefinite leave as a refugee, there is a question asking if an individual and or their family still has a fear of persecution in their country of nationality or residence.

Refugee ILR waiting time

Many clients ask use about refugee ILR waiting time. Generally, ILR applications can take up to half a year, however, most individuals have an answer in 8 weeks from the date that their application has been submitted. This same time period applies to refugees as well.

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