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No recourse to public funds

Produced with Southall Black Sisters

This information outlines support that is available if you have experienced domestic abuse and are in the UK and have ‘no recourse to public funds’.

If you have ‘no recourse to public funds’, it is important that you speak to a qualified immigration adviser immediately about your rights and options. A list of organisations that can help you further can be found at the end of this page.

What is no recourse to public funds? 

No recourse to public funds is a condition that applies to most migrants in the UK until they have permanent settled status.

Some visas that allow you to live in the UK have the condition ‘no recourse to public funds’ attached. This includes:

  • spousal visas
  • student visas
  • visitor visas
  • some other types of limited leave.

This information may be stamped in your passport or written on the back of your residence permit.

Undocumented migrants and many asylum seekers also have no recourse to public funds.

It means that you cannot claim most forms of state benefits. It also means that you may not be able to access accommodation in a refuge. This can be a major barrier to escaping abuse.

Domestic abuse and no recourse to public funds

If you do not have the right to live in the UK permanently, it can leave you more vulnerable to domestic abuse, including economic abuse. Your immigration status may mean that you little money of your own. You may be financially dependent on someone else.

You may feel worried about seeking help and you may feel trapped with the abuser. The abuser may use your immigration status to make you afraid to seek help. For example, they might threaten to have your visa taken away or to have you deported if you report the abuse. 

Even if you have no recourse to public funds, there are some things that you can do to try to reach safety.

First steps you can take 

Speak to a qualified immigration adviser 

This is the most important step you can take when seeking support. An immigration adviser can let you know:

  • what your legal rights are
  • how you might be able to apply for the right to remain in the UK if you have experienced abuse and are afraid to return home.

If you need more help to stay safe, they may also be able to help you get in touch with a support service for migrant women in the UK who have experienced abuse.

To find an immigration adviser, contact Southall Black Sisters, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, Rights of Women, or one of the other organisations listed at the end of this page.

You should always check that the person you see for immigration advice is professionally qualified. You can check by calling the Officer of the Immigration Services Commissioner on 0345 000 0046. There may be a charge for calling this number. 

Speak to your local domestic abuse service 

A local domestic abuse service may be able to help you reach safety and access support in your area. Your safety will be their first priority. You can find a local service by: 

Call the police 

You have the right to call the police to protect you from abuse. If you are in immediate danger, call the police on 999. If you are worried about your immigration status, speak to a domestic abuse support service. They can support you to contact the police and can liaise with the police on your behalf. 

Apply for a court order 

You can apply for a court order to protect you from the abuser without needing to speak to the police. There are two types of court orders that could protect you from the abuser. These are also called injunctions.

  • An occupation order: This can prevent the abuser from living in the family home, depending on your circumstances. 
  • A non-molestation order: This can protect you (and your children) from being harmed or threatened by the abuser.  

You should seek advice from a legal professional if you are applying for an injunction against the abuser. You may be eligible for legal aid to help you with the cost of legal fees (see below). To find a solicitor, contact Rights of Women or the Law Society.

Securing your immigration status 

If you have limited rights to remain in the UK and have experienced domestic abuse, including economic abuse, you may be able to apply for the right to remain in the UK. This is known as indefinite leave to remain

A qualified immigration adviser can advise you on how to do this, depending on your circumstances. 

If you have access to your passport, visa and any other immigration documents, try to take these with you when you see an immigration adviser (if you can do so safely). If you cannot access your documents safely or if they have been taken from you, speak to your immigration adviser. 

The immigration adviser will need to know: 

  • when you came to the UK 
  • how long you are allowed to stay 
  • why you came to the UK 
  • if your visa has any conditions or restrictions 
  • your background of abuse 
  • why you can’t return to your country of origin.

It would also be helpful to:

  • inform your adviser or lawyer about any reports you have made about the abuse to any other agencies
  • provide any evidence that you may have about the abuse (such as: court protection orders; police reports; letters from a medical professional, counsellor, domestic abuse service or school authority; a letter from your local MARAC – Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference – if your case has been reported to them; testimonies from neighbours and friends).

If you don’t have any evidence, explain why to your immigration adviser.

The Domestic Violence Rule 

One way of applying for the right to remain in the UK is through the Domestic Violence Rule. You may be able to apply under this rule if:

  • you are in the country as the wife, partner or civil partner of someone who is British or has indefinite leave to remain in the UK and
  • have experienced domestic abuse, including economic abuse and
  • you do not have any criminal convictions and
  • you can provide evidence of the abuse (see above). 

A qualified immigration adviser or a domestic abuse service can help you collect evidence and make the application. 

There is a fee for applying for indefinite leave to remain through the Domestic Violence Rule. However, if you are destitute and cannot access any money, you do not have to pay the fee. Your immigration adviser can support you to explain why you cannot pay and help you to provide evidence.

If you do not have current leave to remain in the UK, for example because it has expired, you may still be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain under the Domestic Violence Rule. It is vital that you get legal advice from an immigration adviser and explain your history and circumstances of abuse. 

The Destitution Domestic Violence Concession 

If you are applying for indefinite leave to remain under the Domestic Violence Rule, you may be able to get temporary financial support. This is called the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC). This provides financial support for three months while you make your application for indefinite leave to remain under the Domestic Violence Rule.

This option is only for people who have come to the UK on a spousal visa.

To apply for the DDVC you must show that: 

  • you are living in the UK 
  • you are the partner of a British person or someone settled in the UK and were granted leave to remain as a spouse or partner 
  • the relationship has broken down as a result of domestic abuse 
  • you intend to apply for leave under the Domestic Violence Rule as a victim of domestic abuse, including economic abuse. 

You should get advice from an immigration lawyer or a domestic abuse service to see if you are eligible. 

Other financial support

If you have no recourse to public funds, some financial support may still be available to you if you are a victim of abuse.

Support with childcare costs

This may include:

  • child maintenance from a partner or former partner
  • child benefit (if you are a spouse or partner of a person who is a UK, EEA or Swiss national)
  • free school meals
  • government-funded childcare. 

Benefits associated with National Insurance contributions 

This includes statutory maternity pay and statutory sick pay. 

Social services support if you are destitute and in need.

Speak to your immigration adviser before applying for support from social services or the local authority.

Legal aid 

You will be eligible for legal aid if you have faced abuse and are destitute, even if you have no recourse to public funds. Speak to a qualified legal professional if you are applying for legal aid to cover legal fees.

‘No recourse fund’

Southall Black Sisters (London), BAWSO (Wales), Ashiana Sheffield and Birmingham Solihull Women’s AidShakti Women’s Aid (Edinburgh) and Foyle Women’s Aid (Northern Ireland) operate a ‘No Recourse Fund’. This can provide temporary support for housing and living costs if you are destitute.

Other grants

Search the Turn2us website for any other grants you may be eligible for.

Finding somewhere to stay 

Your accommodation options may be limited because of the no recourse to public funds rule. Your options may include:

  • Refuge accommodation: It may be difficult to access refuge accommodation if you have no recourse to public funds. There are domestic abuse helplines that you can call, many of which offer a 24-hour service. They may be able to suggest some refuges that provide accommodation for people with no recourse to public funds.
  • Staying with friends or relatives: Be careful and only stay with people you can trust to keep you safe, and who do not take advantage of you in any way. 
  • Local authority: If you have children, the local authority has a legal duty to fund accommodation for you and your children. It is vital that you contact a local domestic abuse service or speak to a legal adviser to support you to speak to the local authority.
  • Hostels and charities: Homeless Link has details of some temporary accommodation that may be available in England. 

Accessing healthcare 

Free health care 

The following services are free for everyone, regardless of immigration status: 

  • accident and emergency (A&E) services (up until you are admitted to hospital as an inpatient) 
  • family planning services (not including pregnancy termination) 
  • diagnosis and treatment of certain contagious diseases, e.g., TB or HIV 
  • diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections 
  • treatment for any physical or mental condition that is a direct result of torture, female genital mutilation (FGM), domestic violence or sexual violence (as long as you have not travelled to the UK specifically for treatment) 
  • palliative care services provided by a registered palliative care charity or a community interest company, such as a hospice  
  • support from a local authority under the Care Act or receiving treatment under the Mental Health Act
  • vaccinations for Covid-19 and treatment for Covid-19.

In addition: 

  • GPs have can decide to accept anyone as an NHS patient to receive free treatment. If you are seen by another staff member, ask to speak to a GP. If you have paid the health surcharge (see below), you are entitled to all NHS treatments. 
  • Some minor illnesses and injuries can be treated free of charge at NHS walk-in centres and minor injuries units. 
  • In some circumstances, prescriptions may be free of charge.  

All maternity care is classed as ‘immediately necessary treatment’ and must not be refused or delayed for any reason. You cannot be refused maternity care or face delays because of charges or potential charges. Maternity Action has more information.

If you are receiving the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession, you will not need to pay charges to access healthcare for you or your children. 

Paying for health care 

To access most other healthcare, you will normally need to pay the ‘immigration health surcharge’ as part of your immigration application.

If you need urgent medical care, you should get legal advice. If you cannot wait, ask to speak to the Overseas Visitors Manager at the hospital to discuss your options. 

If you access healthcare in the UK that you are required to pay for, it can affect your immigration application if you are not able to pay. An application for leave to remain can be refused if you have debts of £500 or more due for medical care. However, the NHS may be able to write off debts if you are destitute. 

The No Recourse to Public Funds Network (see below) has more information on healthcare services that may be available to you.

Speak to a specialist immigration advice organisation like Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) or Rights of Women  if you are not sure about your entitlement to health care. 

Organisations that can help

No recourse advice and support
Click to show

Angelou Centre (Newcastle)

Ashiana (Sheffield)

BAWSO (Wales)

Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid

Foyle Women’s Aid (Northern Ireland)

Safety4Sisters (Manchester)

Southall Black Sisters (London)

Shakti (Edinburgh)

Immigration advice and support
Click to show

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)

Migrants’ Right Network

Rights of Women

Law Centres Network

Hackey Migrant Centre


Also contact Southall Black Sisters for immigration advice and support (see details above).

Project 17

We have information on organisations that can help with housing, legal advice and much more.

Find other organisations that can help

Last updated April 2023

Further support 

If you are experiencing economic abuse, you are not alone. We have more information that can support you to take steps towards safety and begin to regain control of your finances.