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Which public funds are available to immigrants in the UK?

by John Dunn | Oct 13, 2017
  • 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.

    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
    • A social fund payment
    • Child benefit
    • Housing benefit
    • Council tax benefit
    • Council tax reduction
    • Domestic rate relief (Northern Ireland)
    • State pension credit
    • Attendance allowance
    • Severe disablement allowance
    • Personal independence payment
    • Carer’s allowance
    • Disability living allowance
    • An allocation of local authority housing
    • Local authority homelessness assistance

    Exceptions to the rule

    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, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit are both claimed jointly. These claims will not be affected by one person in the relationship not being allowed to claim the benefit.

    You can claim Child Tax Credit if you’re responsible for children who are aged 16 or under. Claims can be made up until 31 August after their 16th birthday. You do not need to be working to claim Child Tax Credit. The amount you receive will depend on how many children you have. Do note, only one household is allowed to claim Child Tax Credit for a child.

    Working Tax Credit can be claimed if either of the following apply to you:

    • You’re between 16 and 24 years old and have a child or a qualifying disability
    • You’re 25 years old or older (with or without children)

    To be able to claim, you must work a certain number of hours per week. This will vary based on your circumstances:


    Minimum number of hours worked per week

    Age 25 to 59

    30 hours

    Age 60 or over

    16 hours


    16 hours

    Single with one or more children

    16 hours

    Couple with one or more children

    24 hours between the two of you (with one of you working at least 16 hours)


    To be able to claim, you must earn a certain amount. This will vary greatly depending on your circumstances. The general amounts are:

    • £13,100 or less for a single person without children
    • £18,000 between a couple without children

    The standard amount of Working Tax Credit per year is £1,960. You can claim Working Tax credit at any time of the year.

    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.

    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.

    National Insurance contributions

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

    So it’s a good idea to get you NI number sorted as soon as you land in the UK. Our Kickstart 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

    We are a professional services company that specialises in cross-border financial and immigration advice and solutions.

    Our teams in the UK, South Africa and Australia can ensure that when you decide to move overseas, invest offshore or expand your business internationally, you’ll do so with the backing of experienced local experts.

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