Accessing benefits in the UK

Whether or not a person can claim benefits and, if so, which benefits may depend on several factors. These include nationality, immigration status (and any conditions attached to it), the circumstances under which the person arrived in the UK, whether they are deemed ‘habitually resident’, whether they are in work or looking for work, and whether they arrived alone or with other family members. Many other factors may be relevant.

It is important that individuals who are uncertain about what they are entitled to seek specialist advice before making a claim for any benefit. Most people admitted to the UK from outside the EEA will however have limited (i.e. temporary) leave to remain and will be subject to the condition that they have ‘no recourse to public funds’ during their stay in the UK. A person with limited leave to remain who claims/accesses public funds in breach of their leave conditions can find themselves liable to removal, refusal of further leave and/or prosecution.

To understand the rules on access to benefits and tax credits for people coming to the UK from abroad, it is helpful to split the migrant population into three broad groups:

  • People seeking asylum and refugees
  • Nationals of European Economic Area (EEA) countries
  • Nationals of non-EEA countries

Asylum seekers – i.e. persons waiting for a decision on an asylum application – are not entitled to mainstream non-contributory social security benefits such as Universal Credit. Instead, they may be eligible for accommodation and/or financial support (‘asylum support’) from the Home Office.

Asylum support: accommodation and financial support for asylum seekers

Refugees – i.e. asylum seekers whose application for asylum has been successful, and people brought to the UK under an organised refugee resettlement scheme – will be able to claim social security benefits on the same basis as UK nationals, provided they are granted leave that is not subject to a condition that they have ‘no recourse to public funds’.

European Economic Area (EEA) comprises the EU Member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. For people who are not Swiss nationals or nationals of countries outside the EEA (from here on referred to as ‘non-EEA nationals’), immigration status is the key factor determining which benefits they can claim.

Non-EEA nationals with indefinite leave to remain (often called ‘settled status’) have no time limit on their right to stay in the UK, and no conditions may be attached to their leave. They can therefore access social security benefits and tax credits on the same basis as UK nationals (unless their right to remain was awarded as a result of a formal undertaking by another person to maintain and accommodate them).

If you have pre-settled or settled status

If you have settled status you automatically have a right to reside – this means you can apply for benefits.

If you have pre-settled status you can apply for:

  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Carer’s Allowance

If you have pre-settled status and another right to reside you can apply for other benefits including:

  • Universal Credit
  • Pension Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Benefit or Child Tax Credits
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support

If you applied for benefits before 1 January 2021, you might wait a long time to find out if you can get benefits.

Person Subject to Immigration Control (PSIC)

A person who:
• requires to leave to enter or remain in the UK but does not have it; or
• has leave to enter or remain subject to the condition that they do not have recourse to public funds; or
• has leave to enter or remain as a result of an undertaking by another person to maintain them during their stay; or
• has leave to enter or remain only because they are appealing a decision refusing an application to vary their leave

The benefits a PSIC is prevented from claiming include:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • income-related ESA
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income-based JSA
  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Social Fund payments
  • Universal Credit
  • Working Tax Credit

People from abroad: what benefits can they claim? A full report

Other benefits

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

To apply for PIP, you usually need to have lived in England, Scotland or Wales for at least two of the last three years.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

If your child is subject to immigration control, but you’re not. You can usually claim benefits included in public funds for your child if they’re subject to immigration control for benefits and services, but you’re not. You can’t claim Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for your child.

Child Benefit

Everyone needs to meet the eligibility rules to claim Child Benefit. If you’re moving to the UK from abroad you also need to prove that you:

  • have the right to reside in the UK
  • live in the UK as your main home – except for short periods, like holidays

In most cases, your child must live with you and you must have been living in the UK for 3 months to be eligible for Child Benefit.

Disclaimer:  The content of this page has been provided by GOV.UK and UK.Parliament and is for general information only. It is subject to change without notice.

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