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This section provides information about how the immigration status of a person who is not a British citizen (a non-UK national) will determine whether they are able to access public funds.

Non-UK nationals are required to obtain leave to enter or remain in order to live in the UK, unless they have the right of abode or are exempt from immigration control. When leave to enter or remain is granted, conditions may be imposed on the person relating to employment and access to public funds. Different conditions apply depending on the type of leave that the person has been granted. When limited leave to enter is granted to a person to visit, study, work, or join family in the UK, they will have the ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) condition imposed. A person who does not have any leave to enter or remain when they are required to have this will also have no recourse to public funds.

For immigration purposes, the term ‘public funds’ only applies to: 

  • Certain benefits 
  • Homelessness assistance under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 
  • A local authority allocation of social housing under Part VI of the Housing Act 1996

Other publicly funded services are not classed as 'public funds’ for immigration purposes and therefore should not be refused to a person solely because they have no recourse to public funds. However, when a service has immigration-related eligibility requirements, the person’s immigration status will usually need to be established, such as whether they have a form of immigration permission and, if so, what type of visa they hold.

Following the UK's departure from the European Union, European Economic Area (EEA) nationals and their family members are now required to obtain leave to enter or remain in order to live in the UK, although those who were living in the UK before the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 have different residence rights and entitlements to services. Therefore an EEA national's immigration status will be relevant when establishing their entitlement to benefits and housing assistance.

Our rights and entitlements information focuses on when non-UK nationals, particularly those who have no recourse to public funds, can access government and council services. More information about the benefits that are public funds and when exceptions apply can be found in the section on benefits and housing (public funds). The accommodation options that may be available to a person who has no recourse to public funds when they are destitute or at risk of homelessness are set out in the section on support options for people with NRPF. This section provides information about the groups that have no recourse to public funds.  

Immigration terms

Right of abode

Being free to enter and live in the UK without having to obtain leave to remain. Applies to Commonwealth citizens in certain circumstances.

Exempt from immigration control

Being exempt from the requirement to apply for leave to enter or remain. For example, Irish citizens and people who are in diplomatic service.

Leave to enter

Immigration permission issued on entry to the UK, usually after prior entry clearance has been obtained before arrival.

Leave to remain

Immigration permission issued to a person in the UK, usually after a person has made an application to Home Office.