This section provides an overview of a person’s entitlement to benefits based on their immigration status. Benefit eligibility rules can be complex, particularly when a person is in a 'mixed household', where family members have different nationalities or types of immigration status. In such cases, specialist benefits advice may need to be obtained.
A person who is subject to the ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) condition will not be able to claim any benefits that are classed as 'public funds' for immigration purposes, so cannot claim means-tested benefits to top-up a low income or when they are unable to work. However, there are some limited exceptions that enable people of certain nationalities to claim some benefits that they would otherwise be excluded from claiming. A person with no recourse to public funds may also claim any benefit that is not classed as a public fund for immigration purposes, when they meet the qualifying criteria. When a benefit can be claimed, either due to an exception or because it is not classed as a public fund, the person's immigration status may still be relevant if they need to satisfy a residence or presence requirement.
When a person with leave to remain that is subject to the NRPF condition claims a benefit that is classed as a public fund, they may be considered by the Home Office to have breached their immigration conditions. This could affect their current status and/ or the outcome of future immigration applications. Legal advice from an immigration adviser should always be sought if a person is unclear about what they can or cannot claim, or if they think they have received a benefit that is classed as a public fund when no exception applies.
Different rules apply to European Economic Area (EEA) nationals and their family members who have obtained pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, or who were living in the UK before 31 December 2020 and are still in the process of applying for settled or pre-settled status.
British citizens returning to live in the UK after a period of residence abroad may be ineligible to claim benefits on their return, although this should only be for a temporary period.
Information about all the benefits referred to in this section can be found on gov.uk.
See also the specialist information and advice provided by the following organisations: