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Does Claiming Universal Credit and Other Benefits Affect Spouse Visa?

If you are a UK spouse visa holder, it is important to remember that you cannot claim universal credit, as doing so would be a breach of your immigration conditions. However, if your sponsoring UK partner/spouse claims benefits, this will not affect your spouse visa as long as you meet the spouse visa financial requirements.

Under the UK’s immigration rules, if you are subject to the “No recourse to public funds” (NRPF) condition, this means that once you have been granted a spouse visa, you cannot claim any public funds. You will know if you have the NRPF restriction because the words “no public funds” will be stated on your residence permit, entry clearance vignette, biometric residence permit (BRP), or digital status. If you access the NHS on a spouse visa because you need healthcare, this is not considered the same as claiming public funds. This is because you would have paid the immigration health surcharge (£624 per year) when you applied for your spouse's visa. The healthcare surcharge gives you full access to the NHS and is not affected by the NRPF condition.

If you go on to gain Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after 5 years of continuous residence in the UK on a spouse visa, you will then be able to claim public funds (i.e. benefits).

UK Spouse visa holder and public funds

If you are a spouse visa holder subject to the NRPF rule, it is important that you do not claim public funds, as doing so may affect your immigration plans. This may mean that if you were planning to apply for ILR after 5 years on a spouse visa if you are found to have claimed benefits, you may have to switch to the 10-year route and wait longer to settle in the UK.

It may be possible for a spouse visa holder to claim public funds without breaching their immigration conditions in exceptional circumstances. It is always advisable to check with an immigration specialist before making a claim to ensure this is the case. You may be able to claim public funds as a spouse visa holder in certain circumstances, as follows:

Child benefit

If you have a child, you may be able to claim child benefits on spouse visa if there is a reciprocal social security agreement between your country of nationality and the UK. Countries with a reciprocal social security agreement with the UK include:

  • Barbados
  • Canada
  • Israel
  • Jersey and Guernsey
  • Mauritius
  • New Zealand
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Serbia
  • Montenegro
  • North Macedonia
  • Kosovo
  • Switzerland

It is also important to bear in mind that whether you can claim child benefit depends on your immigration and residence status, not your child’s. If your child has the NRPF condition attached to their leave, it may not be possible to claim child benefit. The rules also state that if you have sole responsibility or if you and your partner are subject to the NRPF rule, you will not normally be able to apply for child benefits.

Maintenance undertaking

A maintenance undertaking is an agreement provided to a spouse visa holder by a sponsor stating they will take responsibility for their financial maintenance and accommodation while they are in the UK. It may also be possible as a spouse visa holder to access public funds if you have a maintenance agreement in place with your UK-based spouse and:

  • You have been living in the UK for 5 years, or
  • The maintenance agreement was signed at least 5 years ago, or
  • You have been living in the UK for less than 5 years, but your sponsor has died

Social housing and homelessness assistance

The rules also state that those subject to immigration control, including spouse visa holders, cannot normally access local authority housing. An exception may be made if a spouse visa holder has a child in need where a local authority is required to provide support under the law.

Domestic violence

Under the current rules, domestic violence is not an exceptional condition that allows access to public funds. However, spouse visa holders affected by domestic violence may be able to apply for ILR early, which will then allow access to benefits.

Claiming public funds as a UK Spouse visa sponsor

If you are a British citizen who sponsors a spouse visa holder, you can still claim universal credit and other public funds without affecting the immigration status of your partner. It is important, however, that you only claim universal credit in your name and that you disclose your sponsored partner’s income, as this may affect your entitlement.

If you claim any of the following benefits or allowances when making a spouse visa extension application, your partner may be able to meet the financial requirements on the basis of ‘adequate maintenance’ rather than the income requirement:

  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment or Guaranteed Income Payment under
  • the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme
  • Constant Attendance Allowance, Mobility Supplement, or War Disablement
  • Pension under the War Pensions Scheme
  • Police Injury Pension

It is important to note, however, that income-related benefits do not count towards meeting the spouse visa financial requirement.

How can Reiss Edwards help?

Reiss Edwards specialises in all aspects of spouse visa applications and extensions. Our immigration solicitors can:

For assistance with your spouse visa application, please speak to our immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation at 020 3744 2797 or by email at [email protected].

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