Immigrants go through an intense vetting process before they can move to the UK. Once their application has been accepted, they become lawful permanent residents and may go on to become full British citizens.
Unlike asylum seekers and refugees, immigrants make a conscious decision to relocate to the UK. They can look into employment and housing options with the aim of moving to the UK permanently. However, there may be a time that you encounter financial or social difficulties and require some extra help.
As an immigrant, you aren't automatically able to claim the same benefits that British citizens can. However, there are different levels of support that you could be offered, depending on your immigration status and how long you have lived in the country.
In this article, we'll look at the benefits that you could be eligible for based on your immigrant status and how much you could potentially claim.
You may be eligible to claim some public fund benefits if your immigration status and financial situation meet certain criteria. The government only offers immigrants access to public funds if they have the legal right to reside in the UK. You will also have to prove that you intend to stay permanently in the UK and that the country is your main home. This is known as being ‘habitually resident’.
A sample of the benefits that you may be able to claim if you're eligible are listed below:
- Child Benefits
- Carer's Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- Housing Support
To claim Universal Credit as an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, you may also need to have a settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. The application deadline for this scheme was 30 June 2021, although you can still apply if there are reasonable grounds for your late application.
If your immigrant status doesn't allow you to claim public funds, you may still be eligible to receive non-means-tested benefits (which don't count as public funds). They don't require the same detailed checks that public fund benefits do.
Below is a list of some of the benefits you can claim, even if you aren't eligible for public funds. Although you may qualify for multiple benefits, you may only be able to claim one:
- State Pension
- Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- Council Tax reductions
- Bereavement Benefit
You can also send your children to a state school or use the NHS (National Health Service) unless you entered the UK using an eGate or you have a visitor visa. If you have children, they may also be able to claim free school meals if you earn a low income.
If you aren't allowed to claim public funds, you won't be able to claim Housing Support. However, you may be able to claim key worker housing if you work in an eligible sector (such as nursing).
Refugees and individuals with a humanitarian protection status don't have to meet the same requirements that immigrants do. This means that they don't have to prove that they intend to stay in the UK or that they have been living in the country for a minimum time period before they can claim benefits.
Some benefits, such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP), require you to have lived in the UK for a set amount of time before you can claim them. For example, to be eligible for PIP, you need to have lived in the UK for at least two of the past three years.
To claim Universal Credit in the UK, you must have lived in the country for at least three months prior to your application. You must also be over 18 years old (but under State Pension age) and have £16,000 or less in money, savings and investments. You could be unemployed or employed and earning a low income to claim Universal Credit.
In most circumstances, you must live in the UK for over three months before you can claim Child Benefits. You cannot claim Child Benefits if you're subject to immigration control past the three-month period. However, you may be able to claim if you have a sponsor or are from a country that has a Child Benefit agreement with the UK.
If you don't currently have settled status, you will need to provide evidence that you have the right to reside before you can claim benefits. There are different reasons that you may have the right to reside. You may have family, such as a parent or partner, who have the right to reside, which may give you the right too. Alternatively, you may have the right due to your working status and income.
When you apply for benefits, you will need to provide evidence of your right to reside. If you've earned over £184 per week for a minimum of three months, you'll have the right to reside as a worker in the UK. You need to have earned a minimum of £183 per week for a minimum of three months if you are self-employed.
Immigrants can claim the same amount of benefits that eligible British and Irish citizens can if they qualify. The amount will depend on factors such as your age and whether you have children or not.
Universal Credit is a benefit that is designed to help individuals on a low income. It is paid monthly. The table below shows the Standard Universal Credit allowance that you can claim, based on your individual circumstances:
|Your situation||Monthly standard allowance|
|Single and under 25||£265.31|
|Single and 25 or over||£334.91|
|Living with your partner (both under 25)||£416.45 (joint payment)|
|Living with your partner (either of you are 25 or over)||£525.72 (joint payment)|
Child Benefits are also paid monthly. You can receive the payment if you are eligible for public funds and have a child under the age of 16 or under the age of 20, and are in approved education or training.
The Child Benefit rates are listed below:
|Who the allowance is for||Rate (weekly)|
|Eldest or only child||£21.80|
|Additional children||£14.45 per child|
You can seek advice on how much you may be eligible for in benefits by visiting the government website.
Immigrants who have a 'no recourse to public funds' condition aren't able to claim public funds. This includes a number of benefits, including Universal Credit and Child Benefits. You also won't be able to claim support from your local council, such as Housing Benefits and Council Tax Reduction.
The Home Office will reject your application for public funds if your immigrant status doesn't allow you to claim for them. A rejected claim may also affect your future applications, including a request to extend your visa or to gain a permanent right to live in the UK.
In some extreme cases, an attempt to claim public funds under false pretences could result in the Home Office taking you to court and potentially revoking your visa.
You may be denied benefits if you haven't resided in the UK for the minimum time period. Once you have lived in the UK for the specified number of months or years, you can apply for the benefits (as long as you meet the other criteria too).
The government issues 'no recourse to public funds' to individuals who are subject to immigration control. If you have this on your immigrant documents, it means you can't claim the majority of benefits, including income support and housing benefits.
If you have one of the following immigrant statuses, you won't be able to claim public funds:
- Leave to enter as a visitor
- Leave to remain as a spouse
- Leave to remain as a student
- Leave to remain granted under family or private life rules
Can I get a no public funds condition removed?
You could apply to have your 'no public funds' condition removed from your immigrant documents if you have a child, parent or partner British National (Overseas) visa.
You can also apply for change of conditions of leave if your circumstances change. This will allow you access to public funds if you need financial help. If you are destitute, are at risk of destitution or have a child who could be affected by your situation, you may be allowed access to public funds.
To be eligible for change of conditions, you must have one of the following permissions:
- leave to remain under the 10-year partner, parent or private life route
- leave to remain under the 5-year partner/parent route
- leave to remain based on another ECHR right
- leave to remain on the British National (Overseas) (BNO) visa.
Your application will only be accepted if there are compelling reasons for the change. This could be because you are destitute or your child's welfare is at risk. You are considered destitute if your basic needs cannot be met, such as food and shelter.
The government website has an online form that you can fill out to have the 'no public funds' condition removed. You will need to include the following evidence with your application:
- Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or passport
- documents that demonstrate that you meet the policy requirements to have the condition removed
- documents that demonstrate your financial circumstances (including bank statements and recent payslips)
There isn't a timeframe on how quickly your application will be processed, but caseworkers will aim to make the decision as quickly as possible. Applicants who have a disability, children or are homeless will be treated as priorities in the application process.
How do I know which benefits I'm allowed to claim as an immigrant?
Your immigration documents will feature your immigrant status, which will determine what types of benefits you could be eligible to claim in the UK. You will likely have the same access to benefits that British citizens do if you have indefinite leave to enter or stay in the UK.
If your immigration documents state 'no public funds', you won't be able to claim most benefits. You can appeal this decision if you are struggling to pay for food and housing.
Can I claim benefits if I'm on a spouse or partner visa?
You won't be able to claim Universal Credit if you have a spouse or partner visa. Your partner is expected to support you financially for the first five years that you live in the UK.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, you should seek specialist advice from Citizens Advice or Rights of Women. It's important that you get immigration advice before you approach the Home Office and ask to claim benefits.
You can claim some benefits if you meet specific financial criteria and your immigration status allows it. Some immigrants are able to claim public funds, which means they can claim benefits such as income and housing support. However, you may have 'no recourse to public funds' on your immigration documents, which means you are more restricted in what you can claim.
There are certain benefits that you can only claim once you have been living in the UK for a set period of time. Other benefits are restricted based on your personal circumstances. For example, if you have a spouse or partner visa, you won't be able to claim Universal Credit because your partner is expected to provide for you financially.