For those granted Further Leave to Remain (FLR) status in the UK, you will have discovered that you are yet to shake off that “No recourse to public funds” stuff, despite the likelihood that you will be working and paying taxes just like everyone else in the UK. All sense of unfairness aside, what is considered “public funds” and what is not, is a patchwork of grey that is more than likely going to scare most migrants from even attempting to ask for help, should the need arise.
Undoubtedly, this scare-tactic is intentional, but we are not without information. When someone is granted their FLR, with the letter should also come a three-page informational document (for reference, I’m working of the version of the form with “ICD.3914” in the footnote portion on the page – which I can only guess to be some sort of shorthand for the true name of the document and the date it was last revised) that details, among other things, which fund are public – and cannot be claimed – and which ones are not public – and can be claimed.
AM I ENTITLED TO CLAIM PUBLIC FUNDS?
Under the Immigration Rules you are not entitled to receive public funds to help meet your living and accommodation costs (or those of any dependents). In addition your sponsor is not entitled to claim or receive public funds on your behalf. The term “public funds” is defined in paragraph 6 of the Immigration Rules. the public funds which you are not allowed to claim for and receive are listed below:
- income-based jobseeker’s allowance
- attendance allowance
- severe disablement allowance
- carer’s allowance
- disability living allowance
- income support
- child tax credit
- working tax credit
- a social fund payment
- child benefit
- housing benefit
- council tax benefit
- state pension credit
- an allocation of local authority housing
- local authority homelessness assistance.
It is a condition of your state that you must not receive any of the public funds listed above. This condition is shown on your Biometric Residence Permit under “no public funds”. If you do claim and receive any of the public funds listed above, that will be in breach of your conditions of stay which is a criminal offence under section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971. This may result in your prosecution for that offence and/or curtailment of your leave to stay in the United Kingdom. It may also result in any future application for further or indefinite leave to remain being refused.
Well, doesn’t that read with all of the joy and rapture of an obituary notice? A part of me is very curious how they feel that it is acceptable to deny UK born citizens (i.e. the sponsor 80% of the time) rights to claim these benefits that they would ordinarily be entitled to were they not sponsoring a non-EEA migrant. One of the many times I wish I was a Lawyer/solicitor, let me tell you…
Anyway, it does go on to add a clause for exceptions to the rule:
However, there are some exceptional circumstances in which people who have the condition “no public funds” recorded on their BRP may be able to receive some of the public funds listed above if, for example, there is an agreement between the United Kingdom and their home country. To find out if this applies in your case, you should ask the agency or local authority responsible for the particular fund(s).
Which, if you ask me, reads like wild goose chase. Assuming the agency/local authority actually knows what nations are exempt (not to be snarky or anything, but this is the UK we’re talking about here, so I have my doubts) and isn’t going to dink someone around to get access.
All that said, it does eventually get around to telling you:
There are also benefits which you may be entitled to receive that are based on National Insurance contributions and are therefore not classified as non-contributory public funds.
- contribution based jobseeker’s allowance
- incapacity benefit
- retirement pension
- widow’s benefit and bereavement benefit
- guardian’s allowance
- statutory maternity pay
If you have received any of these funds then you will not be regarded as having had recourse to public funds. Claiming and receiving any of these benefits will not breach your conditions of stay.
At this point, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the differences between some of these (example: “income-based jobseeker’s allowance” vs. “contribution based jobseeker’s allowance”), which does nothing to elevate my sense that this all just a trap for innocent people to get fouled up in. Furthermore, what about dependents that are UK-born? By how this is read, it sounds as though they, too, are denied access to vital safety-nets, solely on the basis that one or more of their guardians happens to be an immigrant.
Time to do some research. The UK Government Website does give some additional clarity in relation to tax credits, but does beg the question: Why on earth would they suggest someone with “no recourse to public funds” can’t claim, or their sponsors can’t claim, tax credits when there is already an exemption clause already in place that suggests otherwise? One could make the argument that it is a recent change and the powers-that-be could easily claim that they simply have not updated the website to correctly reflect current rules. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard it, that’s for sure. Though I suspect that, at the time of this writing at least, with the last revision of the webpage in question being dated just a month prior that it’s pretty up-to-date as far as these rules are concerned.
It sounds like a trap and I feel like I need to be a lawyer/solicitor just to pick this all apart. The best way I can wrap my brain around it is by thinking of it like this: an Immigrant with no recourse to public funds cannot claim any of the items that they say they cannot claim, nor can their sponsor claim said immigrant as a dependent for any of those benefits/tax credits/allowances. This would not bar them from claiming for another dependent in the household that is not subject to immigration law.
So, if I look at it like that (and let’s keep in mind that I could very well be wrong, so don’t take this as anything remotely close to advice or guidance – I’m making some uneducated guesses on this one), in theory the powers-that-be would have to issue any public funds on a lower rate than they would normally for the number of people in the household. Example: Sponsor has two children – one child is subject to immigration control and the other is not; the Sponsor could only claim child tax credits for the child who is not subject to control.
And, yes, that was the easiest example I could think of. All I can say is, for anyone who would like to claim anything they would have to be exceptionally mindful of the other trip-fall that is often experienced: the dreaded incorrect payment amounts. It’s not a new thing, to be fair, but it is very common for families to basically be punished for receiving the wrong amounts – even if it was the government entity that was at fault.
It has been stated in many ways before on this blog: For UK families who are not subject to immigration, this usually results in a portion of their benefits being garnished to “pay back” what was wrongly given to them. The effect, specially when so many people are figuratively barely treading water (or worse, already drowning), is that many simply cannot cope under the strain.
Why the added concern for families with one or more migrants? Perhaps I’m just paranoid on this one, but whenever the subject of fraud is mentioned – and let’s be honest, that is how it is treated regardless of who was actually at fault for the error – it sends my alarm bells ringing. Any excuse is an excuse that is good enough for the UK Home Office. By all means, if I’m off the mark, please do put me out of my misery and let me know in the comments (I’m sure my husband would thank you greatly for it as I’ve had him clawing his way up the drapes with my anxiety over it).
No, it isn’t anxiety born of necessity, just one out of constant fear and concern that I, or others like me, might somehow be tricked into violating terms of stay. I haven’t heard of any cases of that happening, that needs to be said – it is unfounded concern at this point in time – but the fear remains and I am smart enough to admit when I’m not clever enough to untangle a snare.