This article provides an overview of recent developments in restrictions regarding asylum seekers’ right to work in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Great Britain and the Netherlands. It is acknowledged that a distinction should be made between policies which regulate the right to work for i) asylum seekers with a pending application and ii) asylum seekers with a final refusal on their application. In the article, contemporary policies as well as recent changes in regulations in the five countries are described in detail and compared. Furthermore, the article discusses potential consequences of these policies. A review of relevant public documents, research and basic statistics are used in an attempt to answer the question whether the relative strictness of policies regarding right to work can be linked to the influx and return of asylum seekers in the surveyed countries. It is argued that access to work has little, if any, effect on variations in this respect. At the same time, it is maintained that reduced access to work has unintended consequences, inter alia, contributing to a further marginalisation of asylum seekers in both the application and return phase.