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Will Claiming Child Benefits Affect My Visa?

As specialists in UK immigration law, we are regularly asked by people who are subject to immigration control in the UK whether it is possible to apply for child benefits under the terms of their visa. This is an important question as the majority of non-EEA nationals subject to immigration control in the UK are not eligible to claim benefits, and by doing so they risk losing their right to be in the UK.

UK immigration law on claiming public funds

Section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 states, “No person is entitled to universal credit under Part 1 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 or to income-based jobseeker’s allowance under the Jobseekers Act 1995 or to state pension credit under the State Pension Credit Act 2002 or to an income-related allowance under Part 1 of the Welfare Reform Act 2007 (employment and support allowance) or to personal independence payment or to attendance allowance, severe disablement allowance, carer’s allowance, disability living allowance, income support, social fund payment, health in pregnancy grant, child benefit, housing benefit”.

In practical terms this means that if your resident permit, biometric resident permit, or entry clearance vignette states “no public funds”, you may be in breach of the terms of your visa if you claim benefits; you may also hear this restriction referred to as ‘No recourse to public funds (NRPF)’, or the ‘NRPF restriction’.

Claiming child benefit while under immigration control

The government guidance specifically on claiming child benefit confirms those under UK ‘immigration control’ may not be eligible to claim, including those who:

  • have permission from the Home Office to stay in the UK but have an NPRF restriction
  • do not have permission to stay in the UK – i.e. if permission to stay in the UK has expired, been revoked or curtailed by the Home Office (this covers overstayers, illegal entrants, people who are subject to a deportation order, those allowed temporary admission to the UK and anyone whose immigration status has yet to be determined).
  • have been refused permission to stay in the UK, appealed and are still awaiting a decision
  • have been given permission to stay in the UK, but on the condition that someone else, such as a friend or relative, pays for your upkeep and provides you with somewhere to live
  • were entitled to child benefit prior to October 1996.

By claiming child benefit and hence breaching the terms of your visa, your leave may be curtailed and you may be required to leave the country at short notice.

This, however, does not confer a blanket ban on anyone in the UK under immigration control from claiming child benefit; there limited exceptions which may mean you can claim without breaching the terms of your visa, including if you are a:

  • sponsored immigrant under Home Office rules – this is also referred to as a ‘maintenance undertaking’ and means you have a nominated sponsor who is responsible for your maintenance and accommodation
  • a country with which the UK has an agreement for equal treatment for Child Benefit – these currently include Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, the Channel Islands, Israel, Kosovo, Mauritius, Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, and Serbia
  • a family member of a person who is a UK, Swiss, or EEA national
  • national of Algeria, Morocco, San Marino, Tunisia or Turkey who is a lawful worker* in the UK, or a member of the family of such a person and you’re living with them

* A ‘lawful worker’ refers to a person who “who has permission to work and is working, or retired on reaching pension age, or whose work has been interrupted because of sickness or invalidity, an accident at work or an industrial disease, involuntary unemployment, or because of pregnancy or looking after children”.

Can my partner claim child benefit even I can’t?

Yes, if you live with a partner or spouse who has recourse to public funds, but you are restricted from claiming benefits, then they will be able to make a claim for child benefit according to their normal rights. They will not, however, be able to claim benefits on your behalf.

Are there any public funds I can claim if I am under immigration control?

While it is true that you cannot claim public funds if your visa has an NRPF restriction, there are other options which you may be able to consider, these include:

  • early years education – early years education funding is not classified as public funds from the perspective of immigration. Funding is available for those who qualify for two to four-year-olds, and in addition, there is a tax-free childcare scheme for children up to the age of 12.
  • child maintenance – if you are caring for your child, but you are now separated from the father, you may be able to apply to the Child Maintenance Service for regular payments from your former partner.
  • housing association tenancy – those with NPRF restrictions are unable to seek housing from their local authority (council), but they can apply for assistance directly from a private housing association.
  • legal aid – eligibility for legal aid is typically based on affordability and financial circumstances rather than immigration status.

There is a wide range of non-public funding services available to those in need; if you are unsure of the services available to you and your family consider speaking to your local Citizen’s Advice office or experienced immigration Solicitors.

Wrapping up

When it comes to seeking financial assistance from the public purse if you are subject to immigration control, it is highly recommended that you do not submit an application unless you are fully sure that you will not be penalised or, worse, in legal breach of your immigration terms. The risk of doing so may put you and your family’s immigration status in jeopardy and may lead to your removal from the country. If you are considering applying for funding, speak to an immigration lawyer first; your right to remain in the UK may depend on it.

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