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Check if you're eligible for ESA

This advice applies to England

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is being rolled out across the UK in stages.

If you live in certain parts of the UK, you’ll have to claim Universal Credit instead of income-related ESA. In the rest of the UK, you can still make a new claim for income-related ESA.

Universal Credit will eventually replace income-related ESA everywhere - you'll still be able to claim contribution-based ESA.

If you’re in an area where Universal Credit has replaced income-related ESA already, the contribution-based ESA you could get is called ‘new style ESA’.

Check if you live in an area where you’ll have to claim Universal Credit

Have you got:

  • an illness
  • a health condition, or
  • a disability

that means you find it difficult or impossible to work?

If you have, you might be able to get money from the government to help you.

ESA is a payment you could get every 2 weeks to help with your living costs.

Can you get ESA?

If you have a visa that says “no recourse to public funds” or you’re subject to immigration control, your immigration status could be at risk if you apply for benefits. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice to get advice.

There are 2 types of ESA - called ‘contribution-based’ and ‘income-related’. You can be eligible for either, or both at the same time.

Contribution-based or 'new style' ESA

You may be able to get contribution-based ESA if:

  • you have a health condition that makes it difficult or impossible to work
  • you’re not getting Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from an employer (but you can apply up to 3 months before your SSP ends - if you get ESA, it will be paid as soon as your SSP ends)
  • you’re not old enough to get the State Pension
  • you don’t work, are going to stop work or the work you do will be ‘permitted work’ when you claim ESA
  • you live in the UK. If you live in the EEA or Switzerland you may get ESA if you have previously lived in the UK - the rules are complicated so it might be best to get advice if this applies to you
  • you’ve paid at least 26 weeks class 1 or class 2 National Insurance (NI) contributions in one of the last 2 complete tax years and have been paid or credited with NI contributions for at least 50 weeks in each of the last 2 complete tax years. The 2 tax years must be the ones that were completed before the benefit year in which your period of limited capability for work began. The benefit year runs from the first Sunday in January. The tax year runs from 6 April to 5 April. You can check your national insurance record online or call HMRC's helpline on 0300 200 3500 if you’re not sure.

You can’t get contribution-based ESA at the same time as Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or contributory Jobseeker’s Allowance. If you get these benefits and want to claim contribution-based ESA instead, you can do, but you’ll need to stop your current claim to claim contribution-based ESA instead.

If you have a partner who is getting one of these benefits, you may still be able to get contribution-based ESA at the same time.

If you were self-employed for the tax year 2015 to 2016 and are making an ESA claim in January 2017, you must pay your 2015-16 class 2 NI contributions before you can get contribution-based ESA. You can pay your NI contributions before submitting the rest of your self-assessment tax return if you need to.

If you haven’t paid enough NI contributions to get contribution-based ESA, you may be able to get income-related ESA if:

  • you’re not old enough to get the State Pension. If you’re not old enough to get State Pension but old enough to get Pension Credit you can choose to claim either income-related ESA or Pension Credit
  • you don’t work, are going to stop work or the work you do will be ‘permitted work’ when you claim ESA
  • you live in the UK
  • you have savings or investments worth less than £16,000
  • your partner works less than 24 hours per week
  • you’re either a British citizen, you're from the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland and you have 'settled status', 'pre-settled status' or the 'right to reside', or you’re not ‘subject to immigration control

You or your partner can’t receive income-related ESA at the same time as Income Support, income-based JSA or Pension Credit. If you or your partner receives Income Support or income-based JSA you’ll have to stop the claim and claim income-related ESA instead.

Worth remembering

If your income is low and you get contribution-based ESA, you may also get income-related ESA. Make sure you fill in both parts of the ESA claim form giving your details and those of your partner if you have one so that you can be considered for both parts of ESA. 

If you’re from the EU or European Economic Area

To claim ESA, you’ll need to have ‘settled status’ or ‘pre-settled status’. This allows people from the EU, EEA and Switzerland to live in the UK and claim benefits after 31 December 2020. The EEA includes EU countries and also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

If you don’t have settled status or pre-settled status you’ll need evidence to show:

You’ll need to give evidence 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 claim benefits in the UK - this is called a ‘right to reside’ and depends on things like your work, family and personal situation

Staying in the UK after 31 December 2020

You’ll need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if you want to live in the UK after 31 December 2020. If you're successful you'll get settled status or pre-settled status. If you have settled status or pre-settled status you can apply for ESA.

Your ESA 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 don’t apply for settled status or pre-settled status

For most people it’s better to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme instead of proving you have a right to reside and are habitually resident. The EU Settlement Scheme application is often faster, and you’ll need it anyway to live in the UK after 31 December 2020.

However, you might decide not 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 after 31 December 2020.

If you don’t have settled status or pre-settled status you’ll need to give evidence to show you are habitually resident and have the right to reside.

It’s best to check if you have a right to reside first. If you have a right to reside, you might not need to show you’re habitually resident.

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 ESA. It depends when you came to live in the UK.

If you’re already living in the UK

If you’re living in the UK before 29 March 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 ESA.

Your ESA 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 29 March 2019

You probably won’t be able to claim ESA if you start living in the UK after 29 March 2019. This is because in the future you might be subject to immigration control.

Check if you're subject to immigration control.

If you're a returning UK resident

You’ll need to give evidence 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’.

Check how to prove you’re habitually resident.

If you’re not eligible

Find out what benefits and extra help you could get using our simple and quick online tool. You may be eligible for Attendance Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.  
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