Check if your immigration status lets you get benefits and help with housing

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales

If you’re not a British citizen, you should check if your immigration status lets you claim ‘public funds’. Public funds include most benefits, applying for social housing or making a homeless application.

You should also check what you can do if you can claim public funds but you have a partner or child who can’t.

If you’re struggling because you’re not allowed to claim public funds, there might be other support you can get. You might also be able to apply to get access to public funds.

If you’ve recently arrived in the UK

For some benefits, you must have been living in the UK for a certain amount of time before you can claim - for example Adult Disability Payment (PIP).

To claim many other benefits or get help with housing, you need to show the UK is your main home and you plan to stay here. This is known as being ‘habitually resident’ in the UK. It’s harder to show you’re habitually resident if you’ve recently arrived in the UK - unless you were living in Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man.

You have to meet these requirements even if you’re allowed to claim public funds. If you have refugee status or humanitarian protection, you will not have to meet these requirements.

Check the rules for the benefit you want to claim.

Check if your immigration status lets you claim public funds

You’re always allowed to claim public funds if you have any of the following:

  • British or Irish citizenship

  • settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme

  • indefinite leave - unless you came to the UK on an adult dependent relative visa

  • refugee status or humanitarian protection

  • right of abode

If you don’t have a right to be in the UK, you can’t claim public funds.

If you have pre-settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme

You can claim public funds - this means you can get:

  • Adult Disability Payment 

  • Child Disability Payment

  • Attendance Allowance

  • Carer’s Allowance

  • Carer Support Payment

You’re usually only allowed to claim other public funds if you also have a 'right to reside'. You can have a right to reside for different reasons - for example, because of things like your work or your family. You can check if you have a right to reside for benefits.

You can usually switch to settled status after you’ve been in the UK for 5 years. You can claim public funds when you have settled status. Check the rules about switching to settled status.

If you came to the UK on an adult dependent relative visa

You may have an adult dependent relative visa if your family member needs to look after you and you’re their:

  • parent

  • grandparent

  • grown up child

  • sibling

There are special rules because your family member had to sign a ‘maintenance undertaking’. This is a form that says they’ll support you financially.

If you have indefinite leave as an adult dependent relative, you can’t claim the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit

  • Pension Credit

  • Housing Benefit

  • tax credits

  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

  • Income Support

You also can’t apply for council housing, or make a homeless application to your local council.

The rules end 5 years after you arrive - or earlier if the family member who signed the maintenance undertaking dies.

You can claim any other benefits if you meet the eligibility rules, for example Personal Independence Payment, Adult Disability Payment or Attendance Allowance.

If you don’t have indefinite leave, you can’t claim any public funds. This is called having a ‘no public funds condition’. You’ll only be in this situation if the family member who signed the maintenance undertaking was a refugee who didn’t have indefinite leave.

If you’re waiting for a decision from the EU Settlement Scheme

You’re usually only allowed to claim public funds if you have a right to reside. You can have a right to reside for different reasons - for example, because of things like your work or your family. You can check if you have a right to reside for benefits.

If you have any other immigration status

Check your immigration documents, including:

  • your biometric residence permit

  • your decision letter from the Home Office

  • your online immigration status if you have one

You’re not usually allowed to claim public funds if it says ‘no public funds’ or ‘no recourse to public funds’ on your documents. This is called having a ‘no public funds condition’.

If your immigration documents don’t say you have a no public funds condition, you can claim public funds.

If you came to the UK as a visitor, you have a no public funds condition. This includes if you scanned your passport at an ‘eGate’ and didn’t get any immigration documents.

If your visa has ended

The rules depend on whether you applied to change or extend your visa before it ended.

If you applied before your visa ended and you’re waiting for a decision, you still have the same rights as under your old visa. Check your documents to see if you were allowed to claim public funds.

If you didn’t apply to change or extend your visa on time, you can’t claim public funds. If you were already getting benefits, you need to tell your benefits provider your visa has ended - they will stop your benefits. If you don’t tell them, you’ll have to pay the benefits back later. Check what you can do if your visa has ended.

Check what benefits are included in public funds

If you’re not allowed to claim public funds, this includes claiming any of the following benefits from the government:

  • Universal Credit

  • Pension Credit

  • Child Benefit

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

  • Attendance Allowance

  • Carer’s Allowance

  • Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments

You’re also not allowed to claim the following benefits that Universal Credit is replacing:

  • tax credits - unless it’s a joint claim with a partner who is allowed to claim public funds

  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

  • Income Support

Some benefits can only be claimed by people living in Scotland. If you’re not allowed to claim public funds, you might not be able to claim Scottish benefits like:

  • Adult Disability Payment

  • Best Start Foods

  • Best Start Grant

  • Carer's Allowance Supplement

  • Carer Support Payment

  • Child Disability Payment

  • Child Winter Heating Payment

  • Funeral Support Payment

  • Job Start Payment

  • Scottish Child Payment

  • Scottish Welfare Fund payments

  • Young Carer Grant

You’re also not allowed to claim any of the following benefits from your local council:

  • Housing Benefit

  • Council Tax Reduction - or Council Tax Support or Council Tax Benefit

  • Discretionary Welfare Payments

  • welfare assistance or payments from the Household Support Fund

Check what help with housing counts as public funds

If you’re not allowed to claim public funds, this includes applying for council housing or making a homeless application to your local council.

It doesn’t count as claiming public funds if you apply for key worker housing - for example if you’re a nurse.

It also doesn’t count as claiming public funds if you’re housed by your local council because either:

  • your child’s health or development is at risk - you’ll be housed under the ‘Children (Scotland) Act 1968’

  • you’re disabled and need help - you’ll be housed under the ‘Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968’

If you apply for public funds when you’re not allowed to

Your application for public funds will usually be refused.

The Home Office might refuse any immigration applications you make in the future. They might refuse an application to:

  • extend your visa

  • change to a different visa

  • get a permanent right to live in the UK - this is called ‘indefinite leave’

In rare cases, the Home Office might take you to court or end your visa early.

If you’re worried that you’ve claimed public funds when you weren’t allowed to, talk to an adviser.

If your partner or child can’t claim public funds

There are extra rules if you can claim public funds but your partner or child can’t.

Claiming benefits

Some benefits aren’t affected by your partner or child. You can claim the following benefits for yourself:

  • Adult Disability Payment

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

  • Attendance Allowance

  • Carer’s Allowance

  • Carer Support Payment

If your child isn’t allowed to claim public funds, you can’t claim Child Disability Payment for them.

The rules are more complicated for other benefits - for example Universal Credit. If you get more money from benefits because of your partner or child, this might make it difficult for them to extend their visa or get indefinite leave. Talk to an adviser before you claim other benefits, or if you’re worried because you’ve already claimed them.

Applying for council housing or making a homeless application

You’re allowed to apply, but it will make it more difficult for your partner or children to extend their visa or get indefinite leave. Talk to an adviser before you apply, or if you’re worried because you’ve already applied.

Check what help you can get if you’re not allowed to claim public funds

You’re allowed to claim benefits that don’t count as public funds. This includes:

  • new style Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

  • new style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

  • State Pension

  • bereavement benefit

  • discretionary Council Tax reductions

You can use other public services - for example you can send your children to state schools.

If you have permission to be in the UK, you can use the NHS without paying - unless you have a visitor visa or you entered the UK as a visitor using an eGate. You can check the full rules about using the NHS if you’re from abroad.

If you have children

If your children are at school, check if you can claim free school meals

You might be able to apply to the Best Start Foods scheme. You’ll get a prepaid card with money to buy healthy food like milk and fruit. You can get Best Start Foods if you meet all of these conditions:

  • you're responsible for at least 1 child under 3 who is a British citizen

  • your family income is £625 or less a month after tax

  • you cannot claim public funds because of your immigration status.

Read more about Best Start Foods if you have no access to public funds on mygov.scot.

If you’re disabled and need help

You’re allowed to apply to your local council for help and care. You’ll need to show it’s not reasonable for you to return to another country to get help and care. You can find your local council on myscot.gov.

If you’ve applied for asylum

You might be able to get housing and money while you wait for a decision about your application. Check what asylum support you can get and how to claim on GOV.UK.

Getting a no public funds condition removed

You might be able to apply to remove the condition if one of the following applies:

  • you won’t have enough money to feed yourself or your family - or afford somewhere to live

  • your child’s welfare might be harmed because of your low income

  • you don’t have enough money to live on because of exceptional circumstances - for example, if you have extra costs because you’re disabled

If you’re not on a partner, parent or British National (Overseas) visa, you also have to show it's not reasonable for you to go to the country where you're a citizen.

If you’re ready to apply, you can get the form to remove the no public funds condition on GOV.UK. You can find advice about how to apply further down on the GOV.UK page, starting where it says ‘Evidence required’.

If you need help to apply or you’re not sure if you should apply, get help from a specialist adviser.

If you have a partner visa and you’ve experienced domestic abuse

You and your children can apply for indefinite leave if your relationship with your partner has ended because of domestic abuse. Check what domestic abuse is.

You can usually also apply to access benefits while you’re applying for indefinite leave. This is called applying under the ‘destitution domestic violence (DDV) concession’.

Extending a partner or parent visa if you’re struggling with money

If you don’t have enough money to live on, this might also affect:

  • how you apply to extend your visa

  • when you can apply for indefinite leave

If you have a partner or parent visa, you’ll be on either the ‘5-year route’ or the ‘10-year route’ to settlement in the UK. This affects when you can apply for indefinite leave.

If you’re not sure which route you’re on, check the letter that came with your visa or permit. If it doesn’t say which route you’re on, you’re probably on the 5-year route.

If you’re on the 5-year route, you’ll need to have a certain amount of income or savings when you apply to extend your visa or get indefinite leave. This is called the ‘financial requirement’. You need to meet the financial requirement even if the no public funds condition is removed.

If you don't meet the financial requirement, you’ll need to apply to move to the 10-year route instead. This means you’ll have to wait longer before you can get indefinite leave. Talk to an adviser if you want to move to the 10-year route.

Page last reviewed on 05 August 2022