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EEA nationals - claiming benefits as a jobseeker

If you're an EEA national who has come to the UK from abroad and you want to claim certain means-tested benefits, you must satisfy the conditions of a test, known as the habitual residence test (HRT). To satisfy these conditions, you must show:

  • you have a legal right to live in the UK. This is called the right to reside, and
  • you intend to settle in the 'Common Travel Area' (the UK, Isle of Man, Channel Islands or Ireland) and make it your home for the time being. This is known as habitual residence.

This page explains what your rights are if you're an EEA national looking for work.

Getting advice

Showing your right to reside and intention to settle in the UK can be difficult. If you're unsure about anything, seek the help of an adviser.

If you need more help

Satisfying the conditions of the HRT – your status

Some EEA nationals don't have to satisfy the test at all. Others may have the right to reside but must still show their intention to settle in the UK. Your rights depend on your status.

EEA countries European Economic Area (EEA) countries include all those in the EU plus Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. To check which countries are members of the European Union, see the Europa website www.europa.eu.

Jobseeker

If you're an EEA national who has come to the UK looking for work and you've registered as a jobseeker at Jobcentre Plus, you've a right to reside. However, you will still have to satisfy the rest of the conditions of the HRT and show you intend to settle in the UK and make it your home for the time being. Until you can do this you will not be able to claim many benefits, for example, income-based jobseeker's allowance. From 1 January 2014 regulations mean that you will not be able to satisfy the conditions of the HRT for the purpose of claiming income-based jobseeker's allowance until you have been living in the 'Common Travel Area' for at least three months (although some short absences are allowed). This means you will have to wait at least three months before you will be allowed to claim this benefit. You will be exempt from the need to wait three months if you have at any time in the three months before you claim paid Class 1 or 2 national insurance contributions while working abroad. You are also exempt from the rule if you have at any time in the past three months been posted abroad as a member of Her Majesty's forces or as a British government employee.

After living in the Common Travel Area for three months you should be able to claim income-based jobseeker's allowance. You must satisfy all the conditions for claiming this benefit, including showing that you are actively looking for work and have a genuine chance of finding it. You may be asked about what efforts you made to find work before coming to the UK and about your English language skills.

If you're an EEA national who has come to the UK as a jobseeker, you can’t claim income-based jobseeker's allowance during your first three months in the country. After that you can claim for a total of 91 days, which can be split across several periods of jobseeking. If you leave the UK for a year or more you can start a new jobseeking period when you return. If you leave for less than a year you can only have jobseeker status when you return if you can provide 'compelling' evidence that you have a genuine chance of finding work.

From 10 November 2014, if you become a jobseeker after living in the UK for more than three months with a different status (for example, as a student) and you don’t have a right to reside for another reason, you may only receive income-based jobseeker's allowance for 91 days. Your claim for income-based jobseeker's allowance may stop after you’ve been claiming for a total of 91 days, unless you can provide 'compelling' evidence that you have a genuine chance of finding work. In this case your benefit may continue for a short period. A firm offer of a job starting in the near future would count as compelling evidence. You will be asked to attend a 'Genuine Prospect of Work Assesment' to find out how likely you are to find work. 

If you have a right to reside in the UK for another reason apart from being a jobseeker, take any evidence you have about this to the interview.

Since 1 April 2014 if you're an EEA national who is a jobseeker, or if you're the family member of an EEA jobseeker, regulations mean that you will not be able to claim housing benefit even if you are receiving income-based jobseeker's allowance. However, if you were already receiving both these benefits on 31 March 2014 you can continue to receive housing benefit until your jobseeker's allowance ends, or until you make a new claim for housing benefit, whichever happens first.

If you're an EEA national who is a jobseeker and you have come to the UK on or after 1 July 2014, or if you're the family member of an EEA jobseeker who has come to the UK on or after this date, regulations mean that you will not be able to claim either child benefit or tax credits until you've been living in the UK for three months. This restriction will not apply if you've lived in the UK for a continuous period of at least three months then leave the UK and come back within a year.

Claiming Universal Credit as an EEA jobseeker or their family member

If you’re an EEA national who is a jobseeker in the UK (or their family member), you will not be entitled to Universal Credit (UC) unless you also have a different right to reside as any of the following:

  • a worker
  • self-employed
  • a former worker
  • a student
  • self-sufficient
  • a person who has a permanent right to reside
  • a family member of one of the above
  • the main carer of a child who is at school

To be able to make a claim for UC, you have to live in an area where it’s been introduced. Read more about UC eligibility.

If you were working in the UK and have lost your job

If you're an EEA national who has been working in the UK but have lost your job for reasons that are not your fault, for example, you've been made redundant or a fixed-term contract has ended, you are said to be involuntarily unemployed. If you're involuntarily unemployed and have registered as a jobseeker you may continue to have a right to reside as a worker and to claim benefits such as income-based jobseeker's allowance and housing benefit. From 1 January 2014 if you're involuntarily unemployed and have been working in the Common Travel Area for less than a year before losing your job you can only keep the status of worker and claim income-based jobseeker's allowance for six months after you lose your job. Throughout this period you must show that you are actively looking for work and have a genuine chance of finding it. After this six month period your benefit will stop, even if you are still looking for work and still have a genuine chance of finding it. However, if you've worked in the UK for more than a year before becoming involuntarily unemployed you may be able to claim income-based jobseeker's allowance for longer than six months if you're continuing to look for work and and can provide' compelling' evidence that you have a genuine chance of finding work.

If you left your job without a good reason, you'll be classed as making yourself voluntarily unemployed. This may affect your claim for jobseeker's allowance.

Next steps

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