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If it’s difficult to prove your right to reside

This advice applies to England

If you’re from the EEA and need to show you have a right to reside because you or a family member has been working, you’ll need evidence to prove it.

If you're finding it hard to get documents like payslips or employment contracts, there are other ways of getting the evidence you need.

Proving you’ve been working

You can still prove you have a right to reside from your work if you don’t have the right evidence.

If you don’t have all your payslips or tax documents

You can ask for information about work you’ve done in the past from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

You have a legal right to get this information from them - this is known as making a ‘subject access request’.

HMRC can give you information about National Insurance and tax you’ve paid, which can prove where you’ve worked.

It’s free to make a subject access request, but it can take up to 1 month to get the information.

If you need evidence more quickly, you could get in touch with the person or company you used to work for. Ask them to write to you confirming you worked there and the details of your job. It’s best if they send you a written letter on headed paper.

Ask them to say:

  • what your role was
  • the dates you worked there
  • how much you were paid

If you need help getting the right evidence of your work history, talk to an adviser at your nearest Citizens Advice.

Making a benefits claim without evidence

If you can’t get any evidence, you should say so as soon as possible when you make your benefits application. This could be when you fill in your application form or when you have an interview.

Give the details of who you worked for and when you worked there, and say you need help getting evidence to prove it.

Whoever you’re claiming benefits from should get in touch with any government departments that have records about work you’ve done.

For example, if you’re claiming Universal Credit, your application will be processed by the DWP. If you tell the DWP you’ve worked in the past but don’t have documents to prove it, they can ask HMRC about who you worked for and income tax you paid.

You should also give details of any benefits you’ve claimed in the past - for example, working tax credits or Housing Benefit. There might be information about your income in the records from your claim.

If they won’t help you or you’re having trouble getting this evidence, talk to an adviser at your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you’ve done informal or cash-in-hand work

You might still be able to prove you were working - even if you didn’t get an employment contract or payslips.

Put as much information as you can in your benefit claim form about the work you’ve done, for example:

  • who you’ve been working for
  • your tasks and responsibilities
  • when you started the job
  • how often you work
  • how much you earn

If you’ve been putting the money you earn into a bank account you should include copies of your bank statement with your benefits application. This will help prove you’ve been getting a regular wage.

If you’re claiming benefits for the first time, you should say so. This shows you’ve been able to support yourself financially which can help prove you’ve been working.

Get help at your nearest Citizens Advice if you’re finding it hard to prove you’re working.

Proving your family member has been working

If you have a right to reside because of a family member, you’ll need evidence to prove their right to reside. A family member means someone like your:

  • husband, wife or civil partner
  • parents
  • children or grandchildren

If you can’t get evidence from a family member

You should say so as soon as possible when you make your benefits application. This could be when you fill in your application form or when you have an interview.

Explain that you have a right to reside because of your family member, but you need help getting evidence to prove it.

You should say why you can’t get evidence from your family member - for example, if you’ve lost touch with them or you don’t want to talk to them.

If your partner makes you feel anxious or threatened, you should get help.

You can call Refuge or Women's Aid on 0808 2000 247 at any time.

Men's Advice Line is a charity that helps men suffering domestic abuse. You can call their helpline on 0808 801 0327 (9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday).

If you’re not sure what to do next, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

It’s useful if you know your family member’s National Insurance number, but don’t worry if you haven’t got it - just give as much information about them that you can. For example:

  • their name
  • their date of birth
  • what country they’re from
  • the last address you know they were living at
  • the last place you know they were working

Whoever you’re claiming benefits from should get in touch with other government departments that could have records about your family member. For example, they might be able to get information from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) about who your family member worked for and income tax they’ve paid. 

You should also give details of any benefits they’ve claimed in the past - for example, working tax credits or Housing Benefit. There might be information about their income in the records from their claim.

Your family member won’t be told you’ve tried to get this information.

If your claim is rejected because you don’t get help finding the information, talk to an adviser at your nearest Citizens Advice - they can help you appeal the decision.

You’ll usually need a birth or marriage certificate to prove you’re related to someone who has a right to reside. For example, if you’re proving you have a right to reside because your mother or father have been working, you’ll need your birth certificate.

If you don’t have the right document, you’ll need to get a copy. 

The way you get copies of birth or marriage certificates is different for each country. You usually need to get them from the place the birth or marriage was registered in and there might be a cost.

Get in touch with the embassy of the country that the birth or marriage was registered in and ask how to get copies. You can find the details of foreign embassies in the UK on GOV.UK.

Next steps

If you can prove you have a right to reside, you might also need to show you plan to settle in the UK when you claim benefits. You do this by passing the habitual residence test.

You don’t need to pass the habitual residence test if you have a right to reside because you:

  • are a worker or self-employed person
  • are the family member of a worker or self-employed person
  • have retained your worker or self-employed status
  • got a permanent right to reside in less than 5 years - for example, because you retired or can’t work any more because of illness or an accident

If you have another type of right to reside, you’ll have to pass the habitual residence test to claim:

  • Universal Credit
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment Support Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Pension Credit
  • Personal Independence Payments
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Carer’s Allowance

Check if you can pass the habitual residence test

You don’t need to take the habitual residence test for Child Benefit.

Find out more about Child Benefit

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