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EEA nationals - claiming benefits while in work or self-employed

This advice applies to England

If you're an EEA national who has come to the UK from abroad and you want to claim certain means-tested benefits, you may have to 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 UK, Isle of Man, Channel Islands or Ireland (the 'Common Travel Area') 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 in who is in work or is self-employed.

European Economic Area (EEA) countries include all those in the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Switzerland is not in the EEA but Swiss nationals and their families have the same rights of entry and residence as EEA nationals. To check which countries are members of the European Union, see the Europa website www.europa.eu.

Getting advice

Showing your right to reside and intention to settle in the UK can be difficult. If you're unsure about anything seek advice.

If you need more help

You are working or self-employed

You may not have to satisfy the conditions of the HRT if you're:

  • a worker, or
  • self-employed.

If you were recently in work but are no longer working, see EEA nationals – former workers.

Worker

If you're working in the UK you don't have to satisfy the conditions of the HRT. However you'll need to show that the job you're doing is 'genuine and effective' and not 'marginal or ancillary'. There is no clear definition of what this means, but if it's a real and necessary job that an employer would pay you to do, it should be classed as work. It can be full or part time. However, from 1 March 2014, you will be asked to show that for the three months before your benefit claim your gross earnings from your work have been at least at the level at which employees start paying national insurance contributions (£155 from 6 April 2016). If your earnings have reached this level you will automatically be regarded as a worker. If your earnings are below this 'minimum earnings threshold' you may still be considered a worker but you will be assessed against a wider range of criteria, for example, how much you earn, how many hours you work and whether your work is regular or intermittent.

Self-employed

If you're self-employed in the UK, you don't have to satisfy the conditions of the HRT. However, you must be genuinely self-employed. This includes setting yourself up as self-employed. For example, by advertising your services, doing accounts, registering with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and trying to get work. There is no minimum period of time in which you must have been self-employed. However, from 1 March 2014, you will be asked to show that, for the three months before your benefit claim, your average profits from your work have been at least at the level at which employees start paying national insurance contributions (£155 from 6 April 2016). If your profits have reached this level you will automatically regarded as self-employed. However, if your profits are below this 'minimum earnings threshold' you may still be considered to be self-employed but you will be assessed against a wider range of criteria, for example, your level of earnings, how many hours you work and how regularly you work.

You should register as self-employed with HMRC and keep details of the work you do, for example keep accounts and copies of invoices or receipts as this may be useful evidence when making your benefit claim.

If you're on maternity or sick leave

If you're employed and you're on maternity or sick leave you'll keep your worker status for as long as you remain employed.

If you're self-employed you will keep that status as long as you remain self-employed and intending to return to work.

Next steps

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