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Getting support if you fail the habitual residence test

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

If you are 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 the 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 called habitual residence.

The habitual residence part of the test can also apply to British citizens who are returning to the Common Travel Area after time spent living or working abroad. However, British citizens automatically have the right to reside in the UK.

If you have come to the UK from abroad and tried to claim income-related benefits you may have been refused because you didn’t satisfy the habitual residence test (HRT). You may have been told either that you don't have the right to reside or that you do not satisfy the rest of the test.

If you've failed to satisfy the test other help may be available, depending on your circumstances and your other rights to be in the UK.

This page tells you what to do and what help you might be able to get if you don’t pass the habitual residence test.

Immigration control

If you're a non-EEA national you are likely to be subject to immigration control which means that you can't claim benefits. Making a claim may affect your right to stay in the UK.

This may be the case if you:

  • need permission to enter or remain in the UK but don't yet have it
  • have permission to enter or remain in the UK only if you don't claim benefits or use other public services
  • were given permission to enter or remain in the UK because someone formally agreed to support you.

If you are subject to immigration control

Get advice

If your benefits claim is refused because you do not satisfy the HRT you should seek advice immediately.

Access to other benefits or support

If your claim has been refused and you're struggling to cope or are destitute, get advice about what other support may be available.

The right to reside part of the HRT test only applies to means-tested benefits, child benefit and child tax credit. It's therefore worth checking whether you may be entitled to other benefits where you don’t need to show that you have the right to reside, although you do have to show that you are habitually resident to claim some of these benefits. For example, depending on your circumstances, you may be entitled to claim:

  • contribution-based employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • contribution-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA)
  • disability living allowance
  • attendance allowance
  • personal independence payment
  • carer’s allowance.

If you have a partner seek advice about whether your partner may be able to satisfy the test instead. They could therefore make a claim for benefits instead of you.

You could try getting emergency help from a welfare assistance scheme in your area, but this will only be given in very limited circumstances.

If you have children

If you have children you may be able to claim child benefit or child tax credits. You need to have the right to reside and be ordinarily resident to claim these benefits. Being ordinarily resident is a separate test to the habitual residence test. You should get advice if you're not sure if you're ordinarily resident.

You may be able to get support for your child from your local authority. Local authorities have a duty to look after the welfare of children in their area who are in need. Your local authority may provide support by giving you food, fuel or clothing. 

However, the help you get from your local authority will depend on where you live. Each has their own policy about the support they are able to give. They will usually want to carry out an assessment to see if you qualify for help.

Contact the Children's Services department of your local authority to find out what help is available.

If you are a vulnerable person

You may be vulnerable and in special need of care and attention because of your age, illness, disability or other vulnerabilities, such as mental health problems.

If you are a vulnerable person who can't claim benefits because you don't satisfy the HRT, you may be able to get some help from your local authority. However, the help you get from them will depend on where you live. Each local authority has their own policy about the support they are able to give. They will usually want to carry out an assessment to see if you qualify for help.

Contact the social services department at your local authority to find out what help is available.

Next steps

Other useful information

You might be able to get help from a charity - use the Turn2us grant search tool to see what you can apply for.

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