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No Recourse To Public Funds (NRPF) - Education Logo

No Recourse To Public Funds (NRPF) - Education

State school education

All children, regardless of their immigration status, can receive state school education whilst they are of compulsory school age.

  • The only children who cannot receive a state school education are those who have leave to enter or remain with a condition that does not permit study, or study at a state school. This will apply to:
  • children who have been issued with leave to enter or remain as a visitor
  • Tier 4 (Child) or
  • short-term student (Child)

Further education (age 16+)

When applying to undertake further education aged 16-19 years and those 19-24 years with an education, health and care plan, a person with NRPF will only be able to undertake a course for free if they meet the funding criteria; immigration status and length of residence in the European Economic Area (EEA) will be relevant factors. Individuals aged 19 or over on 31 August may be able to undertake a course for free subject to funding criteria and the providers own funding criteria.

Insecure immigration status can impact a person’s access to FE because it affects how residency eligibility for course fees funding is assessed. There are also particular issues for separated young people whose education has been disrupted and who may have language barriers to overcome. These people often need extra help to make good educational choices, and to stay in education within the structure provided.

However, there are complicated rules and eligibility criteria for different kinds of status – so being a migrant is not necessarily a bar to accessing further education.

FE funding is not a public fund. Someone has the right to study unless they have an explicit condition on their leave stating they cannot. However, those with uncertain immigration status may not be eligible for FE funding and may find difficulties in enrolling with certain institutions. It may be possible for a person with insecure status to pay privately or pay full costs to a learning provider, though course fees vary significantly.

Funding for FE is given by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), which is an executive agency of the Department for Education (DfE) and which was formed out the merger of the Education Funding Agency and the Skills Funding Agency in April 2017.

For the student and institution or training provider to get ESFA funding to pay for the cost of the course, several elements must be in place:

  • the programme of study or training has to be approved, and at the right level
  • there may be a specific age requirement. For young people’s funding, the student has to be not yet 19 years old on the 31 August which falls before the relevant date (download the full fact sheet for a definition), and
  • the student must meet residency rules on the relevant date.

Some institutions restrict access to students who are waiting for a decision from the Home Office or who have limited leave to remain which will expire before the course ends – this is because they need to demonstrate course completion rates to the ESFA (Education and Skills Funding Agency). If you encounter this, there are two points to be made:

  1. A person will have the right to apply to extend (or vary) their leave and may also have the right to appeal a negative decision. During this process, the rights they had (e.g. the right to study, work, or claim benefits) will continue until they are either granted further leave or become ‘appeal rights exhausted’ – so long as the application or appeal was made before their previous status expired.
  2. Institutions, social workers, advisers and students should be wary of restricting the educational ambitions of people who have less certain forms of status. It is not acceptable to enrol a person only on a short, or low-level, course because of doubts about their immigration status, and is unlikely to be in the best interests of that young person.

Higher education

The same applies to higher education, as the criteria for lower ‘home’ fee rates and student finance to help with course and living costs are based on immigration status and length of residence in the UK.

Slightly different rules apply to further and higher education funding in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. For more information about eligibility requirements in each region of the UK for further and higher education course funding, student finance and bursaries see:

  • UK Council of International Student Affairs (UKCISA)              

  • NRPF Network                                       

A person's nationality, immigration status and length of residence in the UK will be relevant rather than whether they have the NRPF condition. For example, in England, a person who has limited leave to remain (with recourse to public funds or with NRPF) will only be able to receive student finance if they have lived in the UK for a certain number of years, which varies depending on their age. 

Free school meals

All children in reception, year 1 and year 2 at state schools in England automatically get free school meals, regardless of their immigration status.

For older children at state schools, normally eligibility for free school meals is linked to the parent being in receipt of certain welfare benefits, all of which are public funds. A child may not be entitled to free school meals if their parents have NRPF and cannot claim these benefits.

The qualifying benefits are:

  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance; 
  • The guarantee element of State Pension Credit 
  • Child Tax Credit (where the family has an annual income less than £16,190 and the parent is not entitled to Working Tax Credit)
  • Working Tax Credit four-week run-on (paid when this benefit stops) 
  • Universal Credit (if applying after 1 April 2018, the parent's income (excluding benefits) must be less than £7,400/year)

Children in families who are getting asylum support from the Home Office under section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 can receive free school meals, but children in families who are getting section 4 asylum support will not be eligible.

Local authorities have their own policies regarding free school meals.   

To find out about a local authority's policy in England or Wales on free school meals see:

Local authorities supporting a family under section 17 Children Act 1989 will need to consider whether free school meals are available when determining how much financial support to provide to meet the child’s needs, as additional support may be needed to cover this cost.

Government funded child care

There are now several different childcare schemes but parents with NRPF, even when they have leave to remain and are working, may not be able to access some of these.

For more information, see:

NRPF Network website            

Free and concessionary travel

Concessionary travel arrangements vary regionally, but usually young children will be eligible for free travel.

Older children may be required to obtain a pass that allows for free or reduced rate travel, which varies regionally. Such schemes do not have immigration restrictions.

FE students will be able to access financial support aimed at removing barriers to access learning. Each provider will have their own eligibility criteria, so it is worth checking with the provider.

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