Public funds in the UK for Foreign Nationals

‘No recourse to public funds” is a familiar term for any visa and permit holder in the UK. This restriction is clearly highlighted for foreign nationals in the UK, subject to immigration control, on the terms of their visas or permits.

What does ‘no recourse to public funds’ mean?

No recourse to public funds basically means that you are not able to claim most benefits, tax credits, or housing benefits provided by the UK Government. The UK Government provides public funds that include a range of benefits to people in the lower income bracket, including housing support.

Public funds include:

  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowances,
  • Income support,
  • Child tax credits,
  • Universal credits,
  • Working tax credits,
  • Social fund payments,
  • Child benefits,
  • Housing benefits,
  • Council tax benefits,
  • Council tax reductions,
  • State pension credits,
  • Attendance allowance,
  • Severe disablement allowance,
  • Personal independence payment,
  • Carer’s allowance,
  • Disability living allowance,
  • Allocation of local authority housing, and
  • Local authority homelessness assistance.

Benefits Foreign Nationals do have access to

Fortunately, for foreign nationals in the UK, they do have access to benefits based on National Insurance contributions. National Insurance (NI) is paid the same way as income tax and is based on a person’s earnings in the UK. Foreign nationals in the UK can, as a result of their NI contributions, claim some benefits.

Benefits that NI contributors have access to include:

  • Contribution-based jobseekers’ allowance,
  • Incapacity benefit,
  • Retirement pension,
  • Widow’s benefit and bereavement benefit,
  • Guardian’s allowance, and
  • Statutory maternity pay.

Exceptions on claiming public funds

There are, however, some exceptions, and in some circumstances, migrants subject to immigration control can claim some forms of public funds. We highly recommend that you speak to your immigration consultant if you have any doubts about your circumstances. Below, we have listed some of the most important exceptions.

State-funded Schooling

In the United Kingdom, all children of school-going age have to have access to education.

For the purposes of UK Immigration rules, the Local Education Authority is not UK Public Funds. Foreign national children of compulsory school age, thus, have access to state school education.

Please also see our article that deals more extensively with State-funded schooling.

Nationality of Family Members

A person subject to immigration control is not considered as accessing public funds if it is their partner who is receiving the funds they are entitled to.

For example, a person will not be considered as accessing UK Public Funds if it is their UK or EEA partner or family member receiving the funds they are entitled to.

Another example is the child and working tax credits. Couples claim these jointly. Where only one person in the couple is subject to UK immigration control, neither will be treated as such for tax credit purposes.

Reciprocal Agreements with other countries

Some countries have reciprocal agreements with the UK and the European Union. This allows nationals of these countries to claim certain UK Public Funds.

Housing provided to public sector workers

In some instances, key public sector workers, subject to immigration control, may receive housing assistance without this counting as a public fund.

Illegally claiming UK Public funds

The UK Government has checks and balances in place to ensure that persons do not illegally claim public funds. Various government departments and agencies share information between themselves.

If a person is discovered to be claiming public funds, to which they are not entitled, it is very likely that it will be revealed in future visa or permit applications. The Home Office will then, in all likelihood, refuse the visa or permit application.

In cases where someone received public funds in good faith and was not at fault, the relevant department of the agency may ask that the person repay them. In such cases, they will not necessarily refuse the visa application.

How Breytenbachs can help you 

We strongly recommend that you get in touch with us if there are any issues on public funds that are causing you concern.


Please note that the information in this article does not constitute professional advice. It is provided for general information purposes without any warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied.

Please contact us today for further information or applications.

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