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Check if you're eligible for Universal Credit

This advice applies to Scotland

You might get Universal Credit if you’re unemployed or struggling to get by. For example, you could get Universal Credit if you have a low-paid job, expensive rent or childcare costs.

There’s no set level of income where you stop being eligible for Universal Credit - it depends on your situation.

You can also get Universal Credit if you can’t work because of disability, illness or caring responsibilities.

Who can get Universal Credit

To get Universal Credit, you must:

  • be 18 years old or over - or in some cases 16 or 17 years old
  • live in the UK - there are extra rules you’ll need to meet if you’re not a British citizen
  • have less than £16,000 in savings

You can’t get Universal Credit if you’re getting a benefit with a severe disability premium (SDP). Check your benefit letter if you’re not sure.

If you've stopped getting a benefit with an SDP in the last month, check if you’re still eligible for the SDP on GOV.UK. If you’re still eligible, you can’t claim Universal Credit for a month after your benefit stopped.

If you’re in full-time education or training, you usually can’t get Universal Credit - though there are some exceptions.

If you’re in full-time education or training

You can only claim Universal Credit if at least one of these applies: 

  • you’re old enough to get Pension Credit and you live with a partner who’s below Pension Credit age
  • you get Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment and the DWP have said you have ‘limited capability for work’
  • you look after a child under 16, or under 20 if they’re also in full-time education or training
  • you’re waiting to return to a course after taking time off because of illness or caring responsibilities
  • you’re a foster parent and have a child placed with you
  • you’re under 21 (or are 21 and were under 21 when your course started), not in higher education, and you don’t have parental support

Not having parental support means your parents have died or you can’t live with them. For example, you wouldn’t have parental support if your relationship has broken down or living with them would put your health at risk.

If you live with your partner

You can also keep getting Universal Credit during full-time education if you live with your partner and they:

  • aren’t in full-time education
  • are also in full-time education, but they’re entitled to Universal Credit while studying
  • are also in full-time education, and one of you is responsible for a child or is a foster parent    

If you or your partner have reached State Pension age

If you've both reached State Pension age, it's usually best for you to claim Pension Credit. You can check what your State Pension age is on GOV.UK.

You can talk to an adviser if you’re not sure which benefit to claim - they can help you work out when you’ll be better off. 

If only 1 of you is over State Pension age, you can’t usually make a new claim for Pension Credit. You usually need to claim Universal Credit instead.

If you’re already getting Pension Credit, you’ll keep getting it unless your circumstances change.

You can make a new claim for Pension Credit even if your partner’s under State Pension age if both of the following apply:

  • you reached State Pension age before 15 May 2019
  • you’ve been claiming Housing Benefit since before 15 May 2019

Otherwise you usually need to claim Universal Credit instead.

If you were claiming a benefit with a severe disability premium (SDP) when you reached State Pension age

You should keep getting the benefit with the SDP instead of Universal Credit.

Check your award letter to see if you’re getting an SDP. You might get an SDP with:

  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance

  • Income Support

  • Housing Benefit

If you’re 16 or 17 years old

You might be able to claim Universal Credit if you meet all the other conditions and also one of these: 

  • you can’t work because you’re disabled or ill - you’ll need to give the DWP medical evidence showing this
  • you have a child - or are expecting a baby in the next 11 weeks
  • you care for a severely disabled person
  • your parents have died or it’s not possible for you to live with them - for example if your relationship has broken down or your health would be at risk      

You won’t need to look for work as part of your Universal Credit claim if both of the following apply:

  • you're in full time education or training
  • you don’t have a parent, foster parent or local authority looking after you

If you get or recently stopped getting a benefit with a severe disability premium

You can't apply for Universal Credit if you get the severe disability premium or you’re eligible for it.

You also won’t be able to apply if you were getting the severe disability premium in the last month and you’re still eligible for it.

You might get an SDP with: 

  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance

  • Income Support

  • Housing Benefit

If you’re getting one of these benefits, check your award letter to see if you’re getting an SDP.

If you've stopped getting a benefit with an SDP in the last month, you’ll have to wait a month before you can claim Universal Credit. Check if you’re still eligible for the SDP on GOV.UK.

If you can’t claim Universal Credit, check what other benefits you can get.

If you’re self-employed

You'll need to show that being self-employed is your main job. This is called being 'gainfully self-employed'. You'll also have to show: 

  • you get regular work from self employment
  • you can show your work is organised - for example, you have invoices and receipts, or regular accounts
  • you expect to make a profit 

You’ll need to show evidence that you’re likely to make money. For example, you could show a business plan if your business is new, or records from previous years if you’ve made a profit in the past.  

If you’ve had your business longer than a year and it doesn’t make money you might not get much Universal Credit. The DWP will assume you’re earning at least the minimum wage for the hours they expect you to work - usually 35 hours a week. They’ll reduce your Universal Credit payments because of this - even if you’re earning less. 

Find out more about how Universal Credit payments work when you’re self-employed.

If you’re a returning UK resident

You’ll need to give evidence to show the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man is your main home and you plan to stay. This is known as being ‘habitually resident’.

Check how to prove you’re habitually resident.

If you’re not a UK citizen

If you're from the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein

To apply for Universal Credit you need to show:

  • you have a right to claim benefits in the UK - this is called a ‘right to reside’ and depends on things like your work, family and personal situation
  • the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man is your main home and you plan to stay - this is known as being ‘habitually resident’

If you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years or more you should apply for ‘settled status’. If you’ve got settled status you won’t need to show you have a right to reside.

To get settled status you need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. Check how to apply for settled status.

Your Universal Credit payments will stop if you don't have settled status by 31 December 2020 - unless the law changes.

Applying as a couple

If you and your partner are making a joint claim for Universal Credit then you both need to be eligible. You’ll both need to be habitually resident, and have either settled status or a right to reside.

If one of you isn’t eligible, the other person can still make a claim. 

They should make a joint claim because the DWP need to know about both your incomes. 

When the DWP process the claim, they’ll change it to a single claim. This means you or your partner will be paid as if you’re a single person.

If you’re from a country outside Europe

You can’t apply for Universal Credit if you’re subject to immigration control.

You’ll also need to meet or be exempt from the ‘habitual residence test’

Applying as a couple

If you and your partner are making a joint claim for Universal Credit you both need to be eligible.

If one of you isn’t eligible, the other person can still claim Universal Credit. They should make a joint claim because the DWP need to know about both your incomes. 

The DWP will change your claim to a single claim when they process your application. This means you or your partner will be paid as if you’re a single person. 

If you rent with your partner

Claiming Universal Credit if one of you isn’t eligible could affect your immigration status.

Contact your local Citizens Advice before making an application.

If you’re an asylum seeker

You can claim Universal Credit if your asylum application has succeeded.

You can’t claim Universal Credit if you’re waiting for a decision on an asylum application. You might be eligible for asylum support instead.

If you’re already claiming benefits

Universal Credit replaces 6 other benefits (called ‘legacy benefits’). You won’t be able to get these benefits any more if you apply for Universal Credit. Find out more about moving to Universal Credit from other benefits if you get any of:

  • Housing Benefit
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Income Support

If you’re appealing a legacy benefit decision

It can be worth waiting for a decision on your appeal or mandatory reconsideration before claiming Universal Credit. You might not be able to go back to your other benefit even if your appeal succeeds. 

You can talk to an adviser if you’re not sure whether to claim Universal Credit or wait for your appeal or mandatory reconsideration result.  

Apply for Universal Credit 

If you’re eligible, get started with your Universal Credit application.

Get help

If you need help with your Universal Credit application, you can talk to an adviser.

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