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Nationals of non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries

Non-EEA nationals will be subject to immigration rules and their right to benefits will be defined by their immigration status.

1. Indefinite leave to remain

Please note: This is a very complex area of the law so it is important that you seek specialist advice. You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find a local adviser to help you further.

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Non-EEA nationals with indefinite leave to remain (often called ‘settled status’) have no time limit and and usually no conditions on their right to stay in the UK. If this is your immigration status, you have broadly the same rights and entitlements to services as UK citizens and can apply for welfare benefits and tax credits.

The exception is if your right to remain was awarded as a result of another person formally agreeing to maintain and accommodate you. In this case, you will be excluded from some benefits for five years.

2. Limited leave to remain

If you have limited leave to remain (leave for a limited period of time) you are likely to be excluded from benefits and tax credits. When people are given limited leave to remain it is usually on the condition that they have ‘no recourse to public funds’ while they are in the UK.

Public funds

Public funds in this situation includes the following benefits and tax credits:

You will also be excluded from most forms of local authority housing and homelessness assistance.

Immigration status does not affect eligibility for benefits which depend on National Insurance contributions such as:

Or other work-related benefits, including:

You may find it difficult to gain entitlement to contributory benefits though since these depend upon you having a sufficient National Insurance contribution record.

A person with limited leave to remain who has recourse to public funds could be risking removal, refusal of further leave and/or prosecution so it is important that you seek specialist advice in relation to benefits. You can use our Find an Adviser tool.

3. Reciprocal agreements

People coming to the UK from countries which have a bilateral social security agreement with the UK, may be able to use periods of residence and contributions paid in those countries to help them qualify for benefits in the UK.

The scope of the agreements, in terms of the benefits covered and the categories of people that can take advantage of them, differs from country to country.

4. Partner not subject to immigration control

Specialist advice should be sought if you are a person subject to immigration control who has a partner who is not subject to immigration control.  Your partner may be able to claim some benefits either in their name or in some situations for you both.

Example: For Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit claims, as long as one member of the couple is not subject to public funds restrictions, neither will be considered to be.

However, advice should always be sought to ensure a benefit claim does not affect the status of the person subject to immigration control

Please note: This is a very complex area of the law so it is important that you seek specialist advice. You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find a local adviser to help you further.

Last updated: 8 May 2015