Being an immigrant doesn’t entitle you to get more money from the state than a pensioner

15 December 2023
What was claimed

Immigrants in Britain get more money than pensioners to live on.

Our verdict

This is missing context. Some migrants may be paid benefits on the same basis as UK nationals and get more than the state pension, but not because of their immigration status. Many can’t claim benefits at all. Cash support given to asylum seekers is much less than the state pension, though they may also be given temporary accommodation.

A post on Facebook which has been shared more than 77,000 times says: “It’s time to give pensioners enough money to live on. Immigrants get more money than we do. We paid for ours. ! Stop robbing us ! [sic]” The post was first shared in November 2019, but is circulating again, and has received hundreds of new shares in recent weeks. 

While some immigrants who can claim benefits on the same basis as UK nationals may receive more than the state pension, they don’t receive this because they are immigrants. Many migrants are also barred from claiming a wide range of benefits.

Asylum seekers, including those who arrive in the UK on small boats, receive cash support from the government which is significantly less than the maximum pension entitlement, though these people may also be given temporary accommodation.

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What are pensioners in the UK entitled to?

In the United Kingdom, men born on or after 6 April 1951 and women born on or after 6 April 1953 are entitled to the ‘new’ state pension, which if paid in full amounts to £203.85 per week (£10,600 a year). 

Men born before 6 April 1951 and women born before 6 April 1953 are entitled to the ‘basic’ state pension, which if paid in full is £156.20 per week (£8,122 a year). 

In order to qualify for the full amount of state pension, people need to have between 30 to 45 qualifying years of National Insurance contributions (or 35 for the new state pension). 

To receive any state pension payments, people also usually need ten qualifying years on their National Insurance record throughout their lifetime. Currently both men and women can claim their state pension once they reach 66 years of age, although the pension age is due to increase from May 2026 and is being kept under review.

Some people of state pension age are also entitled to additional benefits, some of which are specific to pensioners. These include pension credit and the winter fuel payment

A person with the legal right to live in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland who has accrued enough National Insurance contributions throughout their lifetime can be entitled to the full state pension payments—regardless of whether they have migrated to the UK from another country.

What are immigrants entitled to?

When we’ve seen similar claims in the past comparing the money given to pensioners with that given to immigrants, the focus has often been on “illegal immigrants”.

However, this post does not specify what it means by “immigrants”, so it could be referring to people who have moved to the UK legally, those with refugee status, or those who are in the UK without the legal right to be.

If you do not have the right to be in the UK you are not allowed to claim public funds. This includes benefits, and pension entitlements.

Migrants who do have the right to be in the UK may be able to claim benefits on the same basis as UK nationals, but this will depend on their immigration status. Some may receive more than the state pension, but if they do, it is not because they are immigrants.

Many migrants will have a condition of “no recourse to public funds” (NRPF) applied to their immigration status. This means they can’t claim most benefits or access local authority housing. 

When a person is granted “indefinite leave to remain” or settled status, they will no longer be subject to any restrictions relating to work or access to public funds. 

Under the benefit cap, the most that couples or single parents with children can claim is £1,835 per month (£22,020 a year) outside Greater London or £2,110.25 per month (£25,323 a year) within Greater London. 

This amount is lower if the applicant is living as a single adult, where they can claim £1,229.42 per month outside of Greater London, or £1,413.92 within it. Some households are exempt from the cap.

It’s therefore possible that some immigrants who are receiving benefits could be getting thousands of pounds a year more than the maximum state pension. But this is not due to their immigration status, and the same is true of UK nationals who may receive benefits on the same basis. 

The most recent Department for Work and Pensions statistics on the nationality of benefits claimants show that in November 2020, there were 8.3 million UK nationals and 1.6 million non-UK nationals claiming working-age benefits.

Some immigrants, like UK nationals, can claim state pension entitlement if they have a minimum of ten qualifying years.

What else can refugees claim?

A specific form of government help available to those who have been granted refugee status is an interest-free refugee integration loan, available to people aged over 18, which can help pay for things such as a rent deposit or rent, household items or education or training for work. 

Individuals applying can borrow between £100 and £500, while people applying with their partner can borrow between £100 and £780, but the loan must be repaid in regular instalments. It cannot be used for travel costs for family members to join a person in the UK.

If a person is granted refugee status in the UK then they may be entitled to benefits such as universal credit, pension credit or housing benefits, on the same basis as UK nationals. A refugee or person with settled status is also able to legally work in the UK and begin building their National Insurance contributions, and may potentially be able to claim the state pension in due course. 

What can asylum seekers claim?

Asylum seekers are people seeking international protection who are applying for refugee status but are awaiting a decision on their application. 

Asylum seekers are not able to claim benefits or other public funds. However, they are entitled to cash support in the form of £47.39 a week for each person in the household (£2,464 a year), loaded onto a specific debit card to be spent on items such as food, clothing and toiletries. 

They can also apply for somewhere to live free of charge if they need it. They can’t choose where this is. If this accommodation provides meals then each member of the household will receive £9.58 a week instead (£498 a year). 

Extra money is also provided to buy healthy food if a person is pregnant or a mother of a child under three years old. This amount varies depending on the situation, but ranges between £3 to £5 a week. Expectant mothers can also apply for a one-off £300 maternity payment if their baby is due in eight weeks or fewer, or their baby is under six weeks old.

People who have been refused asylum are also eligible for a place to live and £47.39 per person per week on a payment card for food, clothing and toiletries, though no money will be given directly and the payment card will not be given if they do not accept the offer of accommodation. If the accommodation provides meals they will get £9.58 a week. 

If a person does not qualify for refugee status they will be asked to leave the UK within a specific timeframe, with the option to appeal the decision.

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