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EEA nationals - claiming benefits as a former worker

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 normally 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 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 who is a worker or former worker who is not currently working.

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

You are a former worker

If you're an EEA national you may have a right to reside as a former worker or self-employed person if you have previously worked in the UK and you:

  • are temporarily unable to work
  • are starting vocational training
  • are retired
  • stopped work due to long-term ill-health or disability.

If you've a right to reside as a former worker or self-employed person, you may not have to show that you satisfy the rest of the HRT and may be able to claim means-tested benefits.

From 1 March 2014, you may not be accepted as being a former worker or self-employed person if your gross earnings or your profits in the preceding three months of work or self-employment were less than a 'Minimun Earnings Threshold'.

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.

Temporarily unable to work

If you've been working for an employer or as a self-employed person and are temporarily unable to work due to your illness or to an accident that you've had, you should still have the right to reside as a worker. There is no legal definition of temporary, but there must be a realistic possibility that you will be able to work again in the forseeable future.

If you're on unpaid sick leave from your job but can return when you're well you're still a worker and should still have the right to reside as a worker. If you're on maternity leave you're still a worker even if you're not being paid while you're on maternity leave. If you're self-employed but have stopped work for a period of maternity leave you can still be a worker if you intend to go back to self-employment after your maternity break.

If you've left work because of the physical effects of the later stages of pregnancy or the aftermath of childbirth you may still be counted as a worker provided that you return to work or find another job within a reasonable period of the birth. During the period when you are not working you may be able to claim means-tested benefits such as income support.

Started vocational training

If you've stopped working for an employer to start work-related training you may have the right to reside as a former worker. If you gave up your job voluntarily the training must usually be related to your most recent job. If you're 'involuntarily unemployed', for example, you were made redundant, your training need not relate to your last job.

Retired

If you've retired early from employment or reached state pension age and meet the following conditions you will have a permanent right to reside in the UK and will not have to satisfy the other conditions of the HRT. You must have:

  • worked or been self-employed in the UK for at least 12 months before retiring and lived in the UK continuously for at least three years, or
  • worked or been self-employed in the UK before retiring and have a spouse or civil partner who is a UK national.

Stopped work because of ill health or disability

You may have stopped work or self-employment because you've a long-term health problem or disability. This is called incapacity. If you meet the following conditions you will have a permanent right to reside and you don't have to satisfy the other conditions of the HRT. You must have lived in the UK for more than two years unless:

  • you're permanently unable to work because of a work-related accident or disease and get a pension payable by a UK institution, or
  • your spouse is a UK national.

Next steps

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