Extended eligibility criteria for the free early education entitlement for 2 year olds

The Department for Education (DfE) have extended the eligibility for the free early education entitlement for the most disadvantaged children (the ‘2YO entitlement’) to the following groups of children where they meet equivalent income requirements;

  1. Children of Zambrano Carers
  2. Children of families with no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on grounds of private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights
  3. Children of a subset of failed asylum seekers (supported under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 – ‘the 1999 Act’).

A Zambrano Carer is the primary carer of a British citizen child, but is not a British citizen themselves. Requiring the carer to leave the UK would mean the child would be unable to live in the United Kingdom.

Although Zambrano Carers have no recourse to public funds, they are allowed to work in order to support the child. The children of Zambrano Carers will be eligible for a free place if their parents or carers meet similar low level income requirements to others eligible to receive the 2YO entitlement (e.g. a net income threshold of £15,400). 

Assessing income to be eligible for a free place

Check one of the following or alternative evidence:

  • P60
  • Pay slip
  • Letter from employer or bank

There are also 5 non-economic criteria that have to be met for a 2 year old to be eligible for a free early education place when a person is claiming Zambrano Carer status;

Criterion 1. The carer must not be a British citizen or an exempt person

Criterion 2. The child must be a British citizen

Criterion 3.  The carer must be a direct relative or legal guardian of the child

Criterion 4.They must have primary responsibility for the care of the child (primary care can be shared between two relatives)

Criterion 5. There are no other members of the carer’s family in the UK or European Economic Area who could look after the child       

 Annex 1 to Appendix EU of the Immigration Rules provides the full definition of a ‘person with a Zambrano right to reside’.

Assessing eligibility for a free place

 Derivative Residence Card

Zambrano Carers are not required to apply to the Home Office for confirmation of their status, however, they may choose to apply for a derivative residence card as confirmation of a derivative right of residence in order to prove, for example:

  1. their right to reside in the UK
  2. their right to re-enter the UK
  3. their entitlement to take up employment in the UK
  4. their right to rent in the UK

There are several forms of derivative right to reside and being a Zambrano Carer is only one of them, therefore the derivative residence card may need to be considered alongside other forms of evidence (set out below) to ensure the derivative right is based on Zambrano and to assist in assessing eligibility of the child for a free place.

Criterion 1: Carer is not a British citizen or exempt person

  • Passport
  • Birth certificate

Criterion 2: The child is a British citizen

  • Current British citizen passport
  • UK birth certificate showing birth in the UK and evidence that either parent was either a British citizen or settled in the UK at the time of the birth

 Criterion 3: Carer’s relationship to the child

Criterion 4:   Person has primary responsibility for care of the child

The following questions (although not exhaustive) may be useful in assessing whether the person has primary responsibility for care of the child (two relatives can exercise joint primary care):

  • Does your child live with you 7 days a week?
  • If not, how many days a week does s/he live with you?
  • Are social services involved in deciding where your child should live?
  • Is there a court order over the care of your child?
  • Are there different arrangements for childcare during school holidays?
  • Do you buy their clothes and shoes, food and toiletries?
  • Do you do their washing?
  • Do you care for them when they are ill of take them to routine medical appointments?

Criterion 5: There are no other family members who could care for the child (this does not include where the child is being cared for by two joint primary carers)

  • Parent / carer declaration
  • Information from social services 

This is not an exhaustive list and alternative forms of evidence may be considered depending on the circumstances of the case.


Children of families with no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on grounds of private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights

These families are entitled to work and so to be eligible for a free place the parents or carers must also meet the low level income requirements of the 2YO entitlement (e.g. a net income threshold of £15,400). 

To assess income to be eligible for a free place check one of the following or alternative evidence:

  • P60
  • Pay slip
  • Letter from employer or bank

 To assess eligibility for a free place provide:

Evidence of right to remain in the UK under Article 8:

  • Letter from Home Office granting leave to remain in the UK together with a biometric residence card

Children of those supported under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

Children whose families receive support under section 4 of the 1999 Act are eligible for 2YO funding because they are temporarily unable to leave the UK and would otherwise be destitute. These families therefore satisfy the low income requirements to be eligible for the entitlement. 

Assessing eligibility for a free place for refused asylum seekers

To qualify for section 4 support, refused asylum seekers must be destitute and meet a narrow set of criteria. The support consists of accommodation and £35.39 a week via a pre-paid Visa card (ASPEN card). If the child is in a family receiving support under section 4 the child is entitled to a free place.

Evidence of support under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999:

  • Letter from the Home Office confirming s4 support
  • Valid ASPEN card

The application process

Parents should complete an application form (MS Word 368KB) to check if they are eligible for the free early education entitlement for two year olds based on the criteria above.

Additional information

  • The Eligibility  checking service (ECS) cannot be used to check eligibility for these groups of children at this time.
  • A two year old child will not lose their place if their family circumstances change (i.e. they cease to receive support under s4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999)
    As set out in the Department’s statutory guidance local authorities must ensure that two-year-olds who have met the eligibility criteria continue to receive a place once they have taken it up until the point when the child becomes eligible for the universal entitlement (the child remains eligible even where the child or parent ceases to meet these criteria at a later date). 
  • All three and four year olds are entitled to the 15 hour universal entitlement to free early education regardless of their immigration status.