Section 4 support This page looks at s4 support for refused asylum-seekers – those who have been refused asylum and exhausted their appeal rights.

Last updated 13/12/2021

What is s4 support?

Section 4(2) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (the ‘IAA 1999’) allows for support to be provided to refused asylum-seekers. Following the abolition of s4(1) in January 2018, references to s4 support always mean s4(2). The relevant Home Office policy is Asylum Support, section 4(2): policy and process. To qualify for s4 support, refused asylum-seekers must be destitute and meet a narrow set of criteria.

The support consists of accommodation and £47.39 a week via a pre-paid Visa card. Extra money is available to pregnant women and mothers of children under 3. Unlike s95 support, s4 applicants cannot request ‘subsistence only’ support (i.e. no accommodation) and s4 recipients cannot withdraw money using ATM machines.

Dependants of refused asylum-seekers may also qualify for s4 support (see Asylum Support for Dependants). For dependants aged under 18, it is important to check if they were born before the refused asylum-seeker exhausted their appeal rights. If so, and they have remained part of the same household, the refused asylum-seeker should still qualify for s95 support until their youngest child turns 18 (see s94(5), IAA 1999).

The eligibility criteria

To qualify for s4 support a refused asylum-seeker must satisfy reg 3 of the Immigration and Asylum (Provision of Accommodation to Failed Asylum-Seekers) Regulations 2005 (the ‘Regulations’). They must:

be destitute, or be likely to become destitute within the next 14 days (or 56 days if they are already receiving support.  A person is destitute if they do not have adequate accommodation, and/or have insufficient money to meet their and any dependants’ essential living needs (see Factsheet 5 - Proving Destitution).


meet one of the conditions set out in reg 3(2)(a)-(e) of the Regulations.

a)That they are taking all reasonable steps to leave the UK;

b) That they are unable to leave the UK on account of a physical impediment to travel or some other medical reason;

c) That in the opinion of the Secretary of State there is no viable route of return to the person’s country of origin (currently this doesn’t apply to any country);

d) That the person has made an application for Judicial Review in relation to their asylum claim and, in England and Wales only, has been granted permission to proceed; or

e) That the provision of support is necessary to avoid a breach of the person’s human rights (this is usually, but not always, because they have made a fresh claim for asylum).

The factsheet below explores these categories in more detail. The vast majority of people are on s4 support under the final human rights category. 

How long will a decision on s4 application take?

How long will a decision on s4 application take?

Following the High Court decision of R(MK and AH) v SSHD [2012] EWHC 1896 (Admin), the Home Office amended its policy on dealing with applications for s4 support on the basis of outstanding further submissions. All such applications must be decided within 5 working days, and priority decisions must be decided within 2 working days (see pp.13-14 of the s4(2) policy). The policy provides a nonexhaustive list of priority cases which includes: street homeless people; families with minors; disabled people; elderly people; pregnant women; people who have been subjected to torture, rape or other forms of serious sexual violence; potential victims of trafficking.

What if there is a delay?

What if there is a delay?

If your client suffers a delay of longer than 5 working days (or 2 days in priority cases) you should consider making a complaint to the Home Office and/or bringing judicial review proceedings. Note that these time limits relate to when the Home Office must decide the application, as opposed to actually providing the support. If the Home Office grants support but your client suffers a delay receiving it, contact a public law solicitor to see if that delay can be challenged by judicial review.

What happens if the application is refused?

What happens if the application is refused?

A decision to refuse an application for s4 support or a decision to terminate s4 support attracts a right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Asylum Support) (the ‘Tribunal’) - see Factsheet 3 in the asylum support appeals category.

Section 4 flow chart

This flow chart takes you through the steps you can take to help establish section 4 eligibility.

Factsheet 2 - Section 4 support

This Factsheet looks at s4 support for refused asylum-seekers – those who have been refused asylum and exhausted their appeal rights. Updated July 2021

Factsheet 6 - Evidence for Section 4 appeals

This Factsheet gives guidance on the evidence an applicant may be expected to provide to the Home Office or the First-tier Tribunal (Asylum Support) in order to prove they are eligible for s4 support. Updated July 2021