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Accessing UK benefits and services if you’re subject to immigration control

This advice applies to Scotland

If you need permission to stay in the UK (for example, a visa or residence permit) you might not be able to apply for all UK benefits or services.

There are restrictions on what you can apply for if you’re ‘subject to immigration control’ for benefits and services.

You’re subject to immigration control for benefits and services if you’re in any of these situations:

  • ‘no public funds’ is one of the conditions of your stay (what you can and can’t do in the UK)
  • a family member or friend made an agreement called a ‘maintenance undertaking’, which means they said they’d give you somewhere to live and support you financially during your stay in the UK
  • you don’t have permission to stay in the UK at the moment - for example, you entered illegally

If you don’t know what you can apply for, you can check which benefits and services are restricted in your situation.

What you can apply for if you’re subject to immigration control for benefits and services

Don’t apply for anything included in ‘public funds’ - unless you know it’s not restricted in your situation. If you do, you might be breaking the conditions of your stay (what you can and can’t do in the UK). You could be taken to court. You might be told you have to leave the UK - if you don't, you could be detained and deported.

You won’t be told if a benefit or service is included in public funds when you apply, so it’s important to check for yourself.

Which benefits and services are included in public funds

Public funds includes benefits for people on a low income - for example:

  • Universal Credit
  • Pension Credit
  • Council Tax Reduction
  • Carer’s Allowance

Public funds also include some other benefits, financial help and services from the government - for example:

  • Child Benefit
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • housing by local authorities (known as ‘council homes’ or ‘social housing’)
  • help with homelessness from local authorities
  • social fund payments - for example, the Cold Weather Payment

You can check what’s included in public funds on GOV.UK.

Scottish benefits

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

  • Carer’s Allowance Supplement
  • Best Start Grant
  • Best Start Foods
  • Funeral Support Payment
  • Young Carer Grant

It’s best to get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice before you apply for any benefits.

You can’t usually apply for anything included in public funds if you‘re subject to immigration control for benefits and services - but there are some exceptions, including for Child Benefit. Check if you can claim Child Benefit on GOV.UK.

Benefits and services not included in public funds

Some UK benefits and services aren’t included in public funds - for example, benefits based on National Insurance contributions.

You can apply for them even if you’re subject to immigration control for benefits or services. This includes:

  • bereavement benefits
  • contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • NHS treatment - but you may have paid a fee for this when you applied to stay in the UK (this is called the ‘immigration health surcharge’)
  • state-funded schools
  • State Pension
  • statutory maternity pay

You can check what’s included in public funds on GOV.UK.

It’s best to get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice before you apply for any benefits.

Check which benefits and services are restricted in your situation

The benefits and services you can apply for might be different, depending on your situation.

If ‘no public funds’ is a condition of your stay in the UK

You can’t usually apply for benefits and services included in public funds if it says ‘no public funds’ or ‘no recourse to public funds’ on either:

  • your biometric residence card
  • the visa (or other permission to enter the UK) in your passport

If you’re not sure, check your decision letter from the Home Office. You can also check on GOV.UK - find the visa or permission you have and check what you can and can’t do.

If you claim benefits or use services

If you apply for benefits and services included in public funds, you might be breaking the conditions of your stay (what you can and can’t do in the UK).

When you make your next immigration application, you’ll be asked if you’ve claimed public funds. You must say if either you or your partner have:

  • claimed or received benefits included in public funds
  • applied for or used services included in public funds

The Home Office can check this with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Social Security Scotland and local authorities.

If you or your partner have applied for public funds you might have to pay back benefits you’ve received. If the Home Office decides you’ve broken the conditions of your stay:

  • you can be taken to court
  • your immigration application could be refused
  • you might be told you have to leave the UK - if you don't, you could be detained and deported
  • your future immigration applications could also be refused

If you’re worried about benefits you’ve claimed and how it could affect your immigration status, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you have indefinite leave to remain

It should not say ‘no public funds’ on your biometric residence card or in your passport. You can apply for all UK benefits and services, if you’re eligible - unless a family member or friend made a ‘maintenance undertaking’ when you applied.

If you have refugee status or humanitarian protection

It should not say ‘no public funds’ on your biometric residence card or in your passport. You can apply for all UK benefits and services, if you’re eligible.

If a family member or friend made a ‘maintenance undertaking’ for you

A ‘maintenance undertaking’ is an agreement made by a sponsor (usually a family member or friend) who agrees to house and support you financially while you're in the UK.

You can’t usually apply for benefits and services included in public funds if both:

  • a sponsor made a ‘maintenance undertaking’ for your current stay in the UK
  • you got permission to enter or stay during the last 5 years

If you need help with care needs, you can still claim:

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Attendance Allowance if you’ve reached State Pension age

Check if you have a maintenance undertaking

If you got a visa or residence card as an ’adult dependant relative’, your sponsor probably made a maintenance undertaking.

Check the documents you submitted with your immigration application. A maintenance undertaking is likely to be either:

  • on form SU07
  • in a document that says any benefits paid to you are recoverable by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)

If you got permission to stay more than 5 years ago

You might be able to apply for all benefits and services in the UK, if your permission to stay is still valid. 

If you think this applies to you, get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice before you claim benefits or use services in the UK.

If your sponsors have died

If all sponsors named on the maintenance undertaking have died, you might be able to apply for all UK benefits and services.

If you think this applies to you, get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice before you claim benefits or use services in the UK.

If you’re in the UK but you don’t have permission to stay

You can’t apply for benefits and services included in public funds if you don’t have permission to stay in the UK.

This includes if:

  • you re-applied to stay in the UK after your visa or permission to stay ended and you’re waiting for a decision on your application
  • you’re in the UK illegally - check your options if you’re in the UK illegally
  • you’re on immigration detention bail in the UK

Find out more about immigration detention bail on GOV.UK.

If you or your family are from the EU, EEA or Switzerland

Up to 31 December 2020, you might be able to apply for all UK benefits and services if you’re from:

  • a country in the EU, EEA or Switzerland
  • another country, but you have an EU, EEA or Swiss family member

The EEA includes EU countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

When you claim a benefit, you might still need to prove certain things about your life in the UK - for example:

  • you have the right to claim UK benefits (known as your ‘right to reside’)
  • your main home is now in the UK, Isle of Man, Channel Islands or Ireland, and you plan to stay (known as being ’habitually resident’)

Find out more about claiming benefits in the UK if you or your family are from the EU, EEA or Switzerland.

Keeping your access to benefits and services after 31 December 2020

You should apply to stay in the UK before 31 December 2020.

If you have settled status, indefinite leave to remain or British citizenship

You can apply for all benefits and services in the UK, if you’re eligible - before and after 31 December 2020.

If you’re British or Irish and you’ve been living abroad

You can usually apply for all UK benefits and services as a British or Irish citizen, if you’re eligible.

If you claim benefits after living somewhere else, you might need to prove you are now ’habitually resident’. This means the UK, Isle of Man, Channel Islands or Ireland is now your main home and you plan to stay.

Find out more about claiming benefits as a British or Irish citizen if you’ve been living abroad.

If your partner is subject to immigration control, but you’re not

You can’t apply for benefits and services as a couple if both of the following apply:

  • the benefit or service is included in public funds - for example, Universal Credit or help with homelessness from a local authority
  • your partner is subject to immigration control for benefits and services

If you can't apply for benefits or services as a couple, you might still be able to apply for them as a single person.

Before you try to claim benefits or use services as a single person, get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice. Applying for public funds could affect your partner’s permission to stay in the UK now and in the future.

When you apply for benefits as a single person, you’ll still need to give your partner’s details and say if you’re living together. You’ll also need to answer questions about your partner’s income, savings and property, as well as your own.

If your child is subject to immigration control, but you’re not

You can usually claim benefits included in public funds for your child if they’re subject to immigration control for benefits and services, but you’re not.

This is because your child isn’t making the claim - the money will come to you. This doesn’t apply to Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Don’t try to claim DLA for your child, because it could affect their permission to stay in the UK.

It’s best to get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice if you’re not sure whether to claim benefits for your child.

If you need help applying for benefits or services

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if need help with claiming benefits or using services in the UK.

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