People who are granted leave to enter or remain in the UK for a limited period will usually be subject to a 'No Recourse to Public Funds' (NRPF) condition.
However, people who are applying for, or have obtained leave, on the basis of their family or private life in the UK can be granted recourse to public funds when certain circumstances apply. This is sometimes referred to as the 'NRPF policy' and is set out in detail in the Home Office guidance Family life (as a partner or parent), private life and exceptional circumstances. People with leave on the Hong Kong BN(O) visa route can also apply to gain access to public funds when they meet the policy requirements.
The guidance states that the Home Office should not impose the NRPF condition when a person:
This policy applies when a person makes an application for leave to remain or requests a change of conditions.
The NRPF policy only applies when a person is applying for leave to remain on one of the following grounds:
A request to access public funds that is supported by evidence will need to be made as part of the leave to remain application. This is also necessary when a person is reapplying for leave on one of these routes and previously had access to public funds.
If the appropriate information and evidence is not submitted with the application, the NRPF condition could be imposed, even if the person previously had recourse to public funds. In such cases, a change of conditions application would need to be made.
A change of conditions can be applied for when a person's circumstances have changed after they have been granted leave to remain on one of the following grounds:
The change of conditions application is free and can be made online. However, it is recommended that a person obtains legal advice from an immigration adviser for help with making the application, particularly if they have leave granted under Appendix FM on the 5-year settlement route. It is also highly advisable for a person who has leave as a partner to get legal advice to find out what their options are if they have separated from their partner.
For more details, see the Home Office information about applying for a change of conditions.
Additional information for people with leave to remain on the 5-year settlement route granted under Appendix FM
Home Office information about applying for a change of conditions currently states:
'You can also be eligible to apply if you have leave to remain under the 5 year partner/parent route. If you’re accepted you would be considered to have moved on to the 10 year route to settlement and as such any future applications for leave will be considered under the 10 year route. However, when you come to reapply if you feel that you again meet the criteria under the 5 year route you should be aware that any leave you had previously accumulated under the 5 year route will not count towards your new 5 year period.'
However, in a response to a Parliamentary question, on 10 February 2022, the Government stated:
'We are currently reviewing the policy whereby an applicant on the family route who submits a change of conditions application and receives recourse to public funds is then required to complete 10 years on the family route in order to qualify for settlement.
Pending this review we have currently suspended the process of automatically requiring an applicant to complete 10 years on the family route following the lifting of ‘no recourse to public funds’ conditions, and will instead review their situation in line with the Immigration Rules at their next application for leave to remain.'
Advice and assistance with a change of conditions application would need to be provided by an immigration adviser registered at OISC level 1 or above.
However, it can be difficult to find free legal advice. The Unity Project has produced guidance to help applicants who need to apply by themselves and may be able to assist some people to make an application.
Hong Kong BN(O) visa holders can get information about local immigration advisers from their regional Hong Kong Welcome Hub, hosted by the Strategic Migration Partnerships.