Croatian nationals - claiming benefits - Citizens Advice Scotland
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Croatian nationals - claiming benefits

This advice applies to Scotland

If you are an EEA national who has come to the UK from abroad and want to claim certain means-tested benefits you must 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 a 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 known as habitual residence.

This page explains what your rights are if you're from Croatia.

Which Croatian nationals have the right to reside

Croatia joined the EU on 1 July 2013 but Croatian nationals do not yet have the same rights to claim benefits in the UK as other EEA nationals.

From1 July 2013, if you are a Croatian national, or the family member of a Croatian national, you will have the right to reside and will therefore be able to claim certain means-tested benefits if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • you are working in authorised employment
  • you have completed 12 months' authorised employment with fewer than 30 days of non-working time within that period
  • you are self-employed
  • you are self-sufficient
  • you are a student
  • you are a family member of an EEA national in the UK who themselves has a right to reside.

Working in authorised employment

If you're a Croatian national, you are normally only allowed to work in the UK if you get prior permission from the Home Office. This is known as working under the Worker Authorisation Scheme. You need to apply for an accession worker card before you start work. You will need a new card every time you change jobs and only certain types of work entitle you to a card. If an employer employs you when you are not authorised they could be committing an offence and you could also be committing an ofence if you work without authorisation or in breach of your authorisation conditions.

If you're on maternity or sick leave and you are registered as a worker, you will keep your worker status as long as you're still employed.

While you're working in authorised work you satisy the right to reside test and are exempt from the remainder of the habitual residence test from your first day of authorised work.

You can find more information about the Worker Authorisation Scheme on the GOV.UK website at

Are you exempt from registering your work?

There are some Croatian nationals who can work in the UK without needing to get permission first. If you're in this category you're treated in the same way as other EEA nationals. You are exempt from the Worker Authorisation Scheme if you come into one of the following categories:-

  • you had already been in the UK legally for a year on 1 July 2013 and had no restriction on your employment
  • you were already working legally in the UK on 1 July 2013 and had been doing so for a year
  • you are the partner of a UK national
  • you are the family member of a non-Croatian EEA national who themselves has the right to reside
  • you are the partner or child under 21 (or over 21 and a dependent) of a Croatian national who is in authorised work
  • you have a permanent right to reside in the UK
  • you are highly skilled and have a certificate allowing you unconditional access to the UK jobs market
  • you are a student with a certificate allowing you to work up to 20 hours a week in term-time and full time during vacations.

To see a full list of who is exempt, go to the GOV.UK website at .

If you're exempt from having to register under the Worker Authorisation scheme, you will have the same rights as other EEA nationals under the right to reside and habitual residence test rules. For example, you will be able to sign on as unemployed and have a right to reside as a jobseeker.

Completed twelve months' authorised employment

If you've completed 12 months of authorised employment in the UK, you will no longer have to do any further work under the Worker Authorisation Scheme and you have the same rights as other EEA nationals to claim benefit and help with housing. You will be treated as having worked for 12 months if you were legally working at the beginning of that period and have not had more than 30 days of not working during that time. So the earliest you could complete 12 months of authorised employment if you're a Croatian national would be 1 July 2014, unless you're exempt from having to register.

It is important to remember that after working for 12 months you do not automatically satisfy the right to reside or habitual residence tests but you will be in the same position as other EEA nationals. So, for example, you could have the right to reside as a jobseeker if you are then signing on and looking for work.

Next steps

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