Anyone who has looked into applying for a UK visa will most likely be familiar with the phrase “no recourse to public funds”. This restriction is always highlighted in information relating to visa applications, but the truth is that you do have access to these public funds if you’re an immigrant in the UK. We explain exactly which funds you do and don’t have access to below.


This blog was first published in October 2017 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and new information.

What are public funds?

‘Public funds’ refers to most benefits, tax credits and housing assistance provided by the UK government. These benefits are often given to people on a low income. The following public funds are not available to immigrants in the UK:

  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income support
  • Child tax credit
  • Universal credit
  • Working tax credit
  • Social fund payment
  • Child benefit
  • Housing benefit
  • Council tax benefit
  • Council tax reduction (Council tax support)
  • Domestic rate relief (Northern Ireland)
  • State pension credit
  • Attendance allowance
  • Severe disablement allowance
  • Personal independence payment
  • Carer’s allowance
  • Disability living allowance
  • Discretionary welfare payment
  • Income-based employment and support allowance

UK public funds which migrants may access

As a general rule, migrants in the UK do not have access to UK public funds, but as with most rules there are exceptions. Below are some public funds that migrants have the right to access.

State-funded schooling

All children of school-going age in the UK have the right to attend state schools free of charge. This, of course, excludes children who are just visiting the UK for a short period of time. This means that if you relocate to the UK for an extended period of time, your child will have the right to attend a state-funded UK school, free of charge.

The school that your child will attend will depend on the area in which you live. To find out which schools are in your area, and compare them, all you need to do is go to your local council website.

Joint claims

There are certain benefits that couples can claim jointly in the UK. If one person in a couple is subject to certain immigration controls, this does not affect their ability to claim these benefits.

For example, Universal Credit is claimed jointly. Universal Credit has replaced Working Tax Credit (WTC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). It is no longer possible to make a new claim for WTC or CTC unless you are a frontier worker.

See also: Tax credits if you leave or move to the UK.

Child Benefit

You can claim child benefits if:

  • You have been granted permission to enter or remain in the UK, provided that someone is responsible for your financial maintenance and accommodation.
  • You are a citizen of a state with which the UK has concluded a Trade and Continuity Agreement providing for equal treatment of workers in the field of social security or access to family benefits for workers and members of their families legally resident in the UK.
  • You are an EEA citizen and / or the family member of one protected by the Citizens’ Rights Agreements.
  • You are a national of, or are someone who has come to live in the UK from, a country that has a reciprocal social security agreement with the UK which covers Child Benefit.
  • You were entitled to Child Benefit before October 1996 and you are subject to immigration control.

State housing

Many people move to the UK and end up working in the public sector. A benefit of working in the public sector is that, although you are still subject to immigration control, you are eligible to receive housing assistance without this counting as a public fund.

See also: How much a UK visa will cost in 2022.

Illegal claims

There are cases where people receive public funds accidentally and are not at fault, in which case the relevant department will ask them to repay the amount they were given. However, if you or your partner are found to have claimed public funds to which you are not entitled to, you are at jeopardy of having your visa revoked or any further visa applications denied.

If you’re not sure whether or not you are entitled to certain public funds, it’s always a good rule of thumb to consult an expert. You don’t want to leave anything to chance, or risk having your visa revoked simply because you didn’t ask the right questions.

See also: Minor offences that could harm your UK citizenship application.

National Insurance contributions

Here’s some great news: ‘Public funds’ do not include benefits that are based on National Insurance (NI) contributions. These are benefits you are entitled to if you have your NI number (and therefore contribute NI). They include:

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

Anyone who wishes to work when they get to the UK needs to have a National Insurance (NI) number. This number is used to track your taxes and National Insurance contributions. Many UK employers will not employ you if you do not have a National Insurance number, and if you do find employment you will pay emergency tax rates, which are much higher than normal tax rates.

It’s a good idea to get your NI number sorted as soon as you land in the UK. Our 1st Contact team can sort out your NI number for you – all you need to do is complete our simple online application form, and we’ll sort out the admin with the Department for Work and Pensions. We’ll remove the hassle for you, and you’ll have your NI number within six to eight weeks.

Our specialist immigration advisers are on hand to assist you with any of your immigration-related queries. Get in touch with us on +44 (0) 20 7759 5330 or send us an email on

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