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Check if you can get JSA

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

You might be able to get Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) while you look for a full-time job. You can get it while you’re out of work, or if you’re working less than 16 hours a week.

There are 2 types of JSA:

  • income-based
  • contribution-based

Both types pay the same personal allowance - you might need to claim one or both depending on your circumstances.

If you’re not from the UK

Claiming JSA could affect your right to stay in the UK if you’re not from a country in the European Economic Area (EEA). Contact your nearest Citizens Advice before you apply.

Check if you meet the basic conditions

You can usually claim either type of JSA if you’re under State Pension age and are:

  • not working full-time (less than 16 hours a week)
  • available to work full-time
  • actively looking for full-time work
  • not in full-time education
  • not claiming Income Support

You can't normally get JSA if you're under 18, but there are some exceptions. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice to find out what help you can get.

If you're a British Citizen and recently returned to the UK

If you've been living or travelling outside the UK you might not be able to get JSA straight away. You'll need to show that you:

  • have been living in the UK for the last 3 months - this doesn't have to be physical presence in the UK
  • are habitually resident in the UK - this means you're making the UK your home for the foreseeable future

For the 3 months rule you don't need to be physically in the UK as long as you're habitually resident during that time. For example, if you travelled abroad in the 3 months before making your claim, you might still be considered as living in the UK. The DfC would make a decision based on your circumstances - for example how long you've lived in the UK previously, your family connections and whether you own property in the UK.

If you work part-time

Your wages will affect your JSA claim, and the rules are complicated. If you're over 18, you can use the Turn2us benefits calculator to work out how much you can get, or contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help.

Check if you can get contribution-based JSA

It’s best to claim contribution-based JSA if you can. This is because your savings, capital, and partner’s income won’t affect your claim.

You can usually get contribution-based JSA for 6 months if you:

  • meet the basic conditions
  • have worked and paid National Insurance during the last 2 years
  • haven’t claimed 6 months’ contribution-based JSA in the last 2 years

Before you apply, check if you’re eligible for Universal Credit - if you are, you’ll need to apply for ‘new style JSA’ instead. 

If you can’t get contribution-based JSA

If you can’t get contribution-based JSA, you’ll usually need to claim income-based JSA instead.

You can normally get it as long as you:

  • meet the basic conditions
  • have less than £16,000 in capital
  • aren’t claiming Income Support, income-related ESA or Pension Credit

Capital generally includes savings and one-off payments like inheritance, redundancy payouts or winnings from premium bonds. It doesn’t include your home, personal possessions or your pension.

If you’re part of a couple

In most cases, you need to claim income-based JSA as a couple if your partner is also eligible.

If you or your partner are under 18 and responsible for a child, contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help before you apply. An adviser can help make sure it’s worth claiming JSA.

You’re responsible for a child if they live with you, or if you can claim child benefit for them - it doesn’t matter if you currently claim it or not. Check if you can get child benefit.

How much JSA you’ll get

Each type of JSA pays the same ‘personal allowance’ each week - if you’re eligible, you can get up to:

  • £57.90 if you’re 18 to 24
  • £73.10 if you’re 25 or over
  • £114.85 if you claim income-related JSA as a couple

The exact amount you get will depend on your circumstances - for example, if you work part-time your payment might be less.

You can get extra payments on top of your personal allowance in some cases - these are called ‘premiums’. You get a premium if you claim income-based JSA and you or your partner are:

You need to claim income-based JSA to get these premiums - you can claim both types of JSA if you need to. You’ll only get one personal allowance, but you’ll get the premiums you’re entitled to as part of income-based JSA.

If you're over 18, you can use the Turn2us benefits calculator to work out how much you can get, or contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

Getting help with housing costs

If you claim income-based JSA, you might get extra payments to help with your housing costs - these are usually paid straight to your landlord, lender or mortgage provider.

As with the additional 'premiums', you'll need to claim income-based JSA to get help with housing costs. You can claim both contribution-based and income-based JSA at the same time.

Fill in the section on housing costs on the application form if you need help with your rent or your mortgage, even if you're making a claim for contribution-based JSA.

If you rent your home

You might qualify for Housing Benefit to help pay rent while you claim income-based JSA - find out how much you could get.

If you have a mortgage or other loan for your home

You can get additional JSA payments to help pay your mortgage interest, as well as interest on loans taken out to pay for things like:

  • the freehold of your property
  • your ex-partner’s share in your property
  • major repairs and improvements

These additional payments are a loan from the DfC, so you’ll need to pay them back - but only when you sell your home or give it to someone else.

Payments are usually made directly to your mortgage or loan provider - they only help pay the interest on what you’ve borrowed, not the repayments.

It can take up to 39 weeks to get these expenses included in your income-based JSA claim, so it’s best to apply for them as soon as possible.

See what you could get on nidirect, or find out how to claim JSA.

If you pay ground rent or service charge

You can get an additional JSA payment to help with your ground rent if your lease has more than 21 years left. You won’t need to pay this money back.

You might also be able to get help paying service charges if they’re for:

  • building insurance - if it’s part of a condition of your lease
  • small repairs, for example to water pipes or heating
  • small improvements, for example painting a hallway

You can’t get normally help with your service charge if it’s for major improvements or repairs.

You might be able to get help if you took out a loan to pay for major repairs - for example if your home would’ve been unsafe without structural repairs.

It can take up to 39 weeks to get these expenses included in your income-based JSA claim, so it’s best to apply for them as soon as possible.

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