After 10,000 people signed our petition calling for the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) visa condition to be scrapped, the government was obliged to respond.

No Recourse to Public Funds leaves migrants with no safety netmakes families homeless, traps women with violent partners and leaves children hungry. Attempting to justify it is defending the indefensible. Here, we unpick some of the government's arguments. 

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The government says: The principle of NRPF was established as far back as 1971 and is a condition that has been applied to those staying here with a temporary immigration status under successive Governments. Migrants here without lawful status are also subject to NRPF.

The reality: NRPF conditions apply to all those on a visa who have not been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain – this includes people who intend to stay in the UK permanently or have been in the UK for many years but are on restrictive and long routes to settlement, which are set by the Home Office.

A former JCWI client, Seema, was forced to stop working when the pandemic hit, and she needed to shield. Due to the NRPF condition on her visa, she couldn't get Universal Credit. With no way to pay rent, her landlord kicked her out. Seema has lived and worked in the UK for 11 years. But the government says her life here is "temporary".

The government says: Statutory sick pay and some other contribution-based benefits, such as contributory employment support allowance, are not classed as public funds and are available to all who are eligible and unable to work during this difficult time.

The reality: It makes no sense for the government to accept that we all need a safety net, then cut migrants out of it. It's true that NRPF doesn't block you from all support. But you are cut off from Universal Credit, income-based Job Seekers Allowance, housing benefit, child benefit, disability living allowance and many more. NRPF is not a technicality; it has real life, damaging and dangerous consequences.

The government says: The Government remain committed to protecting vulnerable people and have acted decisively to ensure we support everyone through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reality: People were suffering due to NRPF rules long before the pandemic hit. NRPF restrictions push working families into abject poverty, forcing them into unsustainable debt and into homelessness or unsafe, overcrowded housing. Women fleeing abusive partners are not entitled to access mainstream refuges. Campaigners have warned the government about these consequences for years - NRPF needs to be scrapped completely.

The government says: Migrants who have been granted leave on the basis of their family life / human rights can apply to have the NRPF condition on their stay lifted by making a ‘change of conditions’ application.

The reality: Forcing people in crisis to apply for the right to ask for help makes no sense. It's true that you can apply to have your NRPF condition removed. But you can't even make the application until you've reached crisis point. And if you are successful, you are effectively punished by being moved onto a 10-year route to settlement, adding thousands of pounds in extra visa fees along the way.

The government says: The Government’s position is that those seeking to establish a life in the UK must do so on a basis that prevents burdens on the taxpayer and promotes integration.

The reality: The government says NRPF saves money, but local authorities are picking up the bill. As local authorities have statutory duties to support homeless and destitute people in their area, in a crisis, families may be able to access this support. This often involves a major battle. This is more expensive than if central government had provided basic support earlier.

No one should face going hungry or sleeping rough because of where they were born.

Help us scrap NRPF by signing and sharing our petition.

If you are struggling due to NRPF conditions please get in touch with us. Get legal advice.

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