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Check if you can pass the habitual residence test

This advice applies to England

If you want to apply for benefits, you'll need to show you have the right to claim benefits in the UK and plan to stay - this is called the 'habitual residence test'.

You can show this by doing one of the following:

  • getting ‘settled status’ or ‘pre-settled status’
  • passing the ‘habitual residence test’

For most people it’s better to apply for settled status or pre-settled status instead of passing the habitual residence test.

To get settled status or pre-settled status you need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. If you're successful you'll get settled status or pre-settled status. 

Your benefits will stop if you haven’t got settled status or pre-settled status by 31 December 2020.

Check how to apply for settled status.


Brexit - if the UK leaves the EU without a deal

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal you might still be able to claim benefits. It depends on whether you're already living in the UK or if you're planning to come later.

If you’re already living in the UK

If you’re living in the UK before 12 April 2019 you can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. If you're successful you'll get settled status or pre-settled status, and you can apply for benefits.

Your benefits will stop if you haven’t got settled status or pre-settled status by 31 December 2020.

Check how to apply for settled status.

If you’re coming to live in the UK after 12 April 2019

You probably won’t be able to claim benefits if you start living in the UK after 12 April 2019. This is because you might not automatically have the right to enter or remain in the UK. This status is known as being 'subject to immigration control'.

Check if you’re subject to immigration control.

The habitual residence test

You might not want to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. For example, you might decide not to apply if you know you won't be living in the UK and claiming benefits after 31 December 2020. If you don’t have settled status or pre-settled status you’ll need to pass the habitual residence test to apply for benefits.

What you'll need to prove will depend on what benefit you want to claim. You'll usually need to show:

  • the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man is your main home and you plan to stay - this is known as being 'habitually resident'
  • you have a 'right to reside' - this depends on things like your work, family and personal situation

How you complete the habitual residence test depends on the benefit you're claiming. When you make your claim, you'll be told if it will be online, on the phone or face to face.

You won't need to study for the test but you'll need to gather evidence.

Passing the habitual residence test

To pass the test you'll be counted as 'habitually resident in fact'. To pass you'll need evidence to show:

  • when you arrived in the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man
  • the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man is your main home
  • you can afford to live in the UK
  • you have a right to claim benefits in the UK

Evidence you'll need

You'll need to provide original documents - copies won't be accepted.

Show when you arrived in the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man

You'll usually need to be in the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man for at least 1 to 3 months before you can claim benefits - this is called an 'appreciable period of time'.

It's best if you've got at least 2 documents to prove this. The documents can include:

  • your travel ticket or boarding pass
  • your wage slips or tax documents such as a P45 or P60
  • a copy of your tenancy agreement in the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man
  • UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man bank or building society statements

Show the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man is your main home

You'll need to show the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man is your main home and plan to stay. These are called the 'settled intention to remain' and your 'centre of interest'. 

It's best if you've got at least 2 documents to prove this is your main home and you plan to stay. The documents can include:

  • a copy of your tenancy agreement in the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man or proof that you've ended your tenancy in the country you've left
  • UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man bank or building society statements, or proof that you've closed accounts in the country you've left - you don't need to close bank accounts, but it will strengthen your case
  • bills or letters with your name and address in the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man
  • a letter or email from your doctor or dentist
  • a letter or email from your child's school
  • records of membership payments to a local club - for example, a gym membership

Show you can afford to live in the UK

You'll be asked if you have money to support yourself or if you'll get financial support from your family or charities. This is called your 'viability of residence'.

You can do this by showing:

  • UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man bank or building society statements
  • a letter from a charity showing you'll get financial support

Show you have a right to claim benefits in the UK

You'll need to show you have a right to live and claim benefits in the UK - this is called the 'right to reside'. Check if you have the right to reside if you're not sure.

Check if you need other evidence

What you'll need to prove will depend on what benefit you want to claim.

If you're ill, disabled or caring for someone

You'll need to be habitually resident and show you've been in England, Scotland or Wales for 2 of the last 3 years. This is called the 'past presence test'.

You'll need to pass the past presence test if you want to claim:

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

If you're claiming child benefit or child tax credits

You'll need to show you've been living in the UK for the past 3 months - this is called the '3-month living in test'.

If you're claiming income-based Jobseeker's Allowance

You'll need to show you've been living in the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man for the past 3 months - this is called the '3-month living in test'.

After you've gathered your evidence

When you've got your evidence, check if you're eligible for the benefit you'd like to claim.

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