Skip to content Skip to footer

How Universal Credit works for couples

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

If you want to speak to someone about changes to benefits, you can phone the independent welfare changes helpline for free on 0808 802 0020 or contact your local Citizens Advice.

Whether you can claim Universal Credit as a couple depends on where you live and your personal circumstances. Check if you're eligible for Universal Credit.

To get Universal Credit as a couple you’ll usually need to:

  • be living in Northern Ireland
  • live at the same address
  • be married to each other, civil partners, or living together as if you were married
  • be 18 or over
  • be under State Pension Credit age
  • not be in full-time education
  • not have savings or capital over £16,000

You must make a joint claim as a couple if you live with your partner. If one of you isn’t eligible, their savings and income will still be taken into account when your payment is worked out.

Only one member of the couple needs to complete the claim form, but that person will need to enter details for both of you.

When to claim as a single person even if you’re part of a couple

There are a small number of cases where you need to apply for Universal Credit as a single person even though you're in a couple. You'll have to do this if your partner is in one of the following situations:

  • aged 16 or 17 and is not eligible for Universal Credit as an under 18 year old
  • not in Northern Ireland and not treated as in Northern Ireland during a temporary absence
  • treated as not being in Northern Ireland, for example, because they’ve failed the 'habitual residence test' or 'right to reside' test
  • a prisoner
  • a member of a religious order and that order pays for all their housing and living costs
  • temporarily not living with you and you have been or are likely to be living apart for more than 6 months
  • subject to immigration control

You're subject to immigration control if you:

  • need permission to enter or remain in the UK but don't yet have it, for example, you've applied for a visa
  • have permission to enter or remain in the UK only if you don't claim benefits or use other public funds, such as getting NHS treatment
  • were given permission to enter or remain in the UK within the last 5 years on the grounds that another person signed a maintenance undertaking agreeing to support you

If you're not sure whether to apply as a single person or couple, call the Universal Credit helpline to check.

Universal Credit helpline
Telephone: 0300 123 3017
Textphone: 0300 123 3018
Monday to Friday 8.00am to 6.00pm

Calls to these numbers can cost up to 10p a minute from a landline, and between 3p and 40p a minute from a mobile (your phone supplier can tell you how much you’ll pay). It should be free if you call from your mobile and have landline calls included in your contract. When you call, you can ask them to call you back.

If you or your partner already get benefits

If you or your partner are getting any of the benefits being replaced by Universal Credit, these other benefits will stop when you make your Universal Credit claim as a couple.

If either of you are claiming tax credits you should contact the Tax Credit Helpline or write to the Tax Credit Office to tell them you have claimed Universal Credit as a couple.

Tax Credit Helpline
Telephone: 0345 300 3900
Textphone: 0345 300 3909

Calls to this number can cost up to 9p a minute from a landline, or between 3p and 55p a minute from a mobile (your phone supplier can tell you how much you’ll pay).

If one of you is over Pension Credit age

You might be better off claiming Pension Credit instead of Universal Credit - you should check with your nearest Citizens Advice.

You’ll usually get more if you claim Pension Credit but you should use the Turn2us benefits calculator to check.

If you separate from your partner

If you separate from your partner, contact the Universal Credit helpline. Either or both of you will be able to keep getting Universal Credit without having to make a new claim.

Universal Credit helpline
Telephone: 0300 123 3017
Textphone: 0300 123 3018
Monday to Friday 8.00am to 6.00pm

Calls to these numbers can cost up to 10p a minute from a landline, and between 3p and 40p a minute from a mobile (your phone supplier can tell you how much you’ll pay). It should be free if you call from your mobile and have landline calls included in your contract. When you call, you can ask them to call you back.

If you’re getting Universal Credit and then become part of a couple who are living together

You should call the Universal Credit helpline or use your online Universal Credit account if you have one, to report that you’re now in a couple. If your partner was also already receiving Universal Credit, they’ll also need to report that they’re now in a couple. You’ll be able to keep getting Universal Credit together as a couple, as long as you’re both eligible.

If your partner wasn’t getting Universal Credit before you became a couple you can claim as a couple if eligible. If your partner was getting JSA, Income Support, income-related ESA, Housing Benefit or tax credits that award will stop and Universal Credit will be paid instead.

Universal Credit helpline
Telephone: 0300 123 3017
Textphone: 0300 123 3018
Monday to Friday 8.00am to 6.00pm

Calls to these numbers can cost up to 10p a minute from a landline, and between 3p and 40p a minute from a mobile (your phone supplier can tell you how much you’ll pay). It should be free if you call from your mobile and have landline calls included in your contract. When you call, you can ask them to call you back.

Did this advice help?