Benefits (public funds) and eligibility for free childcare


01   What are public funds?

The majority of spouses in the UK on five-year (limited leave) visas as partners of serving personnel have ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF). If you have a biometric residence permit you will see this noted on the back of the permit. NRPF means that you cannot claim most benefits.

For the full list of the public funds which you are not eligible for, see–2/public-funds

What if I do claim public funds?

If you claim public funds when you have no entitlement to do so you could be breaking the law and you may have difficulties applying for further leave in the UK.

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02   What public funds can a couple claim?

If you have a partner who is entitled to claim benefits then you are not considered to be illegally accessing public funds if it is your partner claiming them in their own right. Non-UK serving personnel are entitled to claim public funds because they have settled status under the immigration rules whilst they are serving. However, when claiming they will not be able to claim additional amounts for partners who have NRPF (see Universal Credit claims below).

Claiming child benefit

Only one person can make a child benefit application so it should be the serving person who applies, see It doesn’t matter what immigration status the child has because eligibility for child benefit is based on the parent’s immigration status, so children with limited leave in the UK are eligible.

Claiming Universal Credit

The Shelter website provides the guidance for couples where one person is not eligible to claim. In summary, the soldier is able to claim but a joint application must be made. Any payment given will be at the single person rate.

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03   Benefits available if you work/have worked

For a list of benefits that are NOT considered to be public funds because you work or have worked and paid National Insurance, see

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04   Can I use the NHS?

The National Health Service (NHS) is not a public fund, however the majority of people on limited leave visas in the UK have to pay a ‘health surcharge’ in order to use it. Partners and children of serving personnel in the UK with valid visas do not have to pay the health surcharge, they are entitled to use the NHS for free. However, if you are in the UK as a visitor or you are an overstayer, you will not be entitled to use the NHS. Visitors are expected to take out insurance prior to travelling to the UK.

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05   Childcare and Education

Government-funded childcare

This is not classed as a public fund and is available to children whatever their immigration status. However, some childcare schemes have a residence requirement which will mean that only the soldier will be able to apply. Visit

Primary and Secondary education

Education up to the age of 16 is not a public fund, children are legally entitled to attend school regardless of their immigration status. Schools must not check the immigration status of a non-UK child and must not refuse to admit a child on the basis of their immigration status. If you have been told otherwise you should contact the F&C team.

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06   Public funds for separated spouses

For information about accessing public funds if you are separated, see our Divorce/Separation page.

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07   Further information

For all information relating to rights and entitlements when you have NRPF status see or contact us for further information.

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