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Check if you have the right to reside for benefits

This advice applies to Wales

You might need to show you have a right to reside in the UK to claim the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit 
  • Pension Credit
  • Child Benefit
  • Housing Benefit

You don’t need a right to reside to claim any other benefits - for example Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Carer’s Allowance.

You’ll need to show you have a right to reside if you’ve got pre-settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme - or if you’ve applied to the scheme and you’re waiting for a decision.

You might be in this situation if you’re a citizen of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland and you arrived in the UK by 31 December 2020.

You might also be in this situation if you’re the family member of a citizen of the EEA or Switzerland and they arrived in the UK by 31 December 2020.

The EEA is the EU, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

If you haven’t applied to the EU Settlement Scheme yet, check if you can still apply to get pre-settled or settled status.

If you have pre-settled status but no other right to reside

You might still be able to apply for all benefits if:

  • you’re homeless or you can’t get safe housing

  • you can’t afford the basic things you need to look after yourself, like food and clothes

Talk to an adviser to see if it’s worth applying.

Proving your right to reside

If you're an EEA citizen, you might have a right to reside either:

  • because your situation makes you a ‘qualified person’ - for example because you’re working or self-employed
  • as the family member of an EEA citizen - they must have a right to reside because of their situation

If you're not an EEA citizen, you can have the right to reside as the family member of an EEA citizen. You can't have the right to reside as a qualified person.

Example

Lucia and Javier are Spanish citizens who live in the UK. They are married to each other. They both have pre-settled status.

If either Lucia or Javier has a right to reside because they’re working, the other will also have a right to reside as their family member.

You'll only have to show you have one type of right to reside.

You’ll have to give evidence to prove your right to reside when you apply for the benefits. You might need to include this evidence with your application form or take it to an interview.

Talk to an adviser if you need help proving your right to reside.

If you’re working

You'll have a right to reside as a worker if you can prove you’ve earned an average of more than £242 a week for at least 3 months.

If you haven’t earned enough or worked for long enough, you’ll still have the right to reside as a worker if you can prove your work is ‘genuine and effective’.

Getting the right evidence

When you apply for benefits, you’ll need to show evidence that proves you’re working.

Use evidence that shows as many different types of personal information as possible, such as your name, date of birth, address and National Insurance number. Use evidence like:

  • payslips
  • tax documents - for example, your P60 or P45
  • employment contracts
  • letters or emails from your employer - for example, a job offer

If you need to prove your work is genuine and effective

You’ll need to give lots of details about what you do, including:

  • when you started your job
  • how often you work and for how many hours
  • your earnings
  • if you have an employment contract

The person who makes a decision about your benefits claim will look at all these details to decide if your work is genuine and effective.

If you work different hours each week or have a zero-hours contract

You can still prove you have a right to reside as a worker.

The person who makes a decision about your benefits will look at all the details of what you do, including how much you earn, how many hours you work and how regularly you work.

You’re more likely to have a right to reside as a worker if you work regularly - even if your hours change each week.

If you haven’t got any of this evidence

Get help to find other ways to prove you’ve been working.

If you're self-employed

You'll have the right to reside as a 'self-employed person' if you can prove you’ve made an average profit of more than £242 a week for at least 3 months.

If you haven’t made enough profit or been self-employed for long enough, you’ll still have the right to reside as a self-employed person if you can prove your work is ‘genuine and effective’.

Getting the right evidence

When you apply for benefits, you’ll need to show evidence that proves you’re self-employed.

If you’ve only been self-employed for a short time, you’ll still have a right to reside if you can show you’ve taken steps to start working - for example, by advertising your services and looking for work.

Use evidence like:

  • adverts you’ve used to promote your services - for example, a leaflet or social media post
  • letters and emails that show you’ve been looking for new work opportunities
  • proof you’ve registered as self-employed with HM Revenue & Customs - for example, letters or emails confirming you’re registered
  • receipts and invoices for equipment you use in your work - for example, if you’re a decorator you could show you’ve bought paint, brushes and a ladder
  • bank statements for your work accounts

If you need to prove your work is genuine and effective

You can still prove you’re self-employed. You’ll need to give lots of details about what you do, including:

  • when you started being self-employed
  • how often you work
  • how many hours you work
  • your average profit

The person who makes a decision about your benefits claim will look at all these details to decide if your work is ‘genuine and effective’.

If you don’t always work

You should be able to keep your right to reside as a self-employed person if you can prove you’re still running your business and looking for work. You’ll need to show you’re:

  • advertising your business
  • keeping your accounts up to date
  • trying to find new work opportunities

If you become unemployed and you’re looking for another job

You might be able to keep your right to reside as a worker or self-employed person. This is known as ‘retaining worker status’ or ‘retaining self-employed status’.

You need to be looking for work to retain your status - you can do this by registering as a jobseeker. The best way to register as a jobseeker is by claiming Universal Credit or new-style Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Registering as a jobseeker

It’s really important that you register as a jobseeker as soon as possible after you leave your job. If you don't, you might have to explain any gaps between leaving your job and registering as a jobseeker.

For example, if you waited 2 weeks to register as a jobseeker, you might have to show what you’ve been doing to look for work during that time.

If you can’t explain why you waited, you could lose your worker status. This means you might not be able to claim certain benefits.

Getting the right evidence

When you apply for benefits, you’ll need to show evidence that proves you were working.

Use evidence like:

  • employment contracts
  • payslips
  • letters or emails from your employer - for example, a job offer
  • tax documents - for example, your P60 or P45
  • something that shows why you had to leave your job - for example, a redundancy letter

You'll also need to prove you’re looking for work when you apply. Show evidence you’re registered as a jobseeker - for example, letters or emails from the Jobcentre.

How long you can retain your worker or self-employed status

If you were working or self-employed for less than 1 year, you can retain your worker or self-employed status for up to 6 months.

After that, you’ll need to have another type of right to reside - for example, through a family member or by finding work.

If you were working or self-employed for more than 1 year, you can retain your status with no time limit.

If you’re pregnant or recently had a baby

You might be able to stop looking for work temporarily while you’re retaining your status, without losing your right to reside.

You can stop looking for work from around 11 weeks before your baby is born. You can then keep your status for up to 1 year (52 weeks) from when you stopped looking for work.

When you apply for benefits, you should make it clear you’re planning to work or look for work after your year is up. If you don’t, you might lose your retained status.

If you stopped working temporarily because of an illness or an accident

If you’re employed and you take sick leave, you still have a right to reside as a worker.

If you’re self-employed and the business keeps going while you’re not working, you still have a right to reside as a self-employed person.

If you have to leave your job or close your business, you might still keep your right to reside.

This is known as ‘retaining worker status’ or ‘retaining self-employed status’.

You’ll need to prove you’ll only be off work temporarily. There’s no time limit to this, but there needs to be a good chance you’ll be well enough to go back to work in the future.

Getting the right evidence

When you apply for benefits, you’ll need to prove both of the following:

  • you’re not well enough to do the work that you normally do
  • you were a worker or self-employed before you became unable to work

You should get a fit note that says why you can’t work.

You can get a fit note from the following healthcare professionals:

  • your GP or a doctor at a hospital
  • a registered nurse
  • a pharmacist
  • an occupational therapist
  • a physiotherapist

Your fit note will be either printed or digital. If you’re not sure which kind you’ll get and how you’ll get it, check with the healthcare professional.

If you get a printed fit note, check that the healthcare professional has signed it.

If you get a digital fit note, check that it includes the healthcare professional’s name.

If the healthcare professional hasn't either signed your fit note or included their name, it could be rejected by the DWP and you might have to get a new one.

Your fit note is free if you’ve been ill for more than 7 days when you ask for it. You might have to pay for it if you’ve been ill for 7 days or less.

You should always keep your fit note - you might have to pay for a replacement if you lose or delete it. You can give the DWP a copy or take a photo of it to upload online.

If you stopped working because you're pregnant

If you’re employed and you take maternity leave, you still have a right to reside as a worker.

If you’re self-employed and your business keeps going while you’re not working, you still have a right to reside as a self-employed person.

If you leave your job or stop being self-employed

If you stop working towards the end of your pregnancy or soon after your baby’s been born, you might be able to keep your right to reside as a worker or self-employed person. This is known as ‘retaining worker status’ or 'retaining self-employed status'.

You can retain your status for up to 52 weeks (1 year) from when you stop working.

You can stop working from around 11 weeks before your baby is due to be born. You can then retain your status for up to 1 year (52 weeks) from when you stopped working.

When you apply for benefits, you should make it clear you’re planning to work or look for work again after your year is up. If you don’t, you might lose your retained status.

If you're looking for work

You might have a right to reside as a ‘jobseeker’.

As a jobseeker, you can only claim Child Benefit - and only for 3 months.

Check if any other types of right to reside could apply to you - you'll usually be able to claim more benefits.

Getting the right evidence

If you apply for Child Benefit, you’ll need to show evidence you’re looking for a job and have a good chance of finding one. For example, emails or letters that show you’ve been applying for jobs, or proof of any relevant qualifications or work experience.

Check how long you can be a jobseeker

You can be a jobseeker for up to 3 months (91 days).

You can split this time across more than 1 period as a jobseeker. For example, if you spent 1 month looking for a job before you found one, you could still spend 2 more months as a jobseeker if you needed to in the future.

You might be able to extend your 3 months by a short period if you can prove you’re likely to get a job. This is called the ‘genuine prospects of work test’.

You’ll need to show what you’ve been doing to look for a job and how you’ve been improving your chances of finding one. For example:

  • emails and letters that show you’ve applied for jobs or had interviews
  • proof of relevant qualifications or training you’ve been doing (or that you’re planning to do)

  • proof of any volunteering you’ve done to help you get a job - this could be a letter from the organisation you’re volunteering for

If you’ve had to leave your job

You don’t automatically get a new 3 month period as a jobseeker - but you can keep your right to reside as a worker while you look for work.

This is called ‘retaining worker status’. 

If you were working or self-employed for less than 1 year, you can retain your worker or self-employed status for up to 6 months.

If you were working or self-employed for more than 1 year, you can retain your status with no time limit.

If you leave the UK for more than 1 year

You can start a new 3 month period as a jobseeker.

Proving a right to reside from a family member

You might have a right to reside if you have a family member and all of the following apply to them:

  • they're an EEA citizen
  • they arrived in the UK by 31 December 2020
  • they have a right to reside

You don't need to be an EEA citizen to get a right to reside from a family member.

A family member can be your:

  • husband or wife
  • civil partner
  • parents or grandparents, if you’re under 21 - this includes your husband, wife or civil partner’s
  • parents or grandparents, if you’re over 21 and depend on them to live - this includes your husband, wife or civil partner’s
  • child or grandchild, if you rely on their support to live - this includes your husband, wife or civil partner’s

You might also have a right to reside if you’re caring for a child who’s in education - this is called a ‘derivative’ right to reside.

If a member of your family has a right to reside

You might have a right to reside as their family member and have the same right to claim benefits as them. 

For example, if your husband, wife or civil partner is working in the UK, you’ll have a right to reside as the family member of a worker, even if you’re unemployed.

Any change to your family member’s right to reside will affect yours - for example, if they lose their right to reside as a worker, you might lose the right to reside as the family member of a worker.

You might also have the right to reside because of other family members, such as brothers and sisters. If this applies to you, you're known as an ‘extended family member’.

You can only have a right to reside as an extended family member if you have a family permit, registration certificate or residence card. You must have applied for it before 31 December 2020 - even if you got it later.

The rules are complicated so get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If your family member is a British citizen

The rules are different.

You won’t automatically have a right to reside because of a British family member.

The rules are complicated so get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice.

Getting the right evidence

When you apply for benefits, you’ll need to prove your family member’s right to reside - for example, with employment contracts and payslips if they’re a worker.

You’ll also need to show evidence of your relationship to them, such as birth or marriage certificates.

If you're having trouble, find other ways to prove your family member has been working.

If you’ve split up with your husband, wife or civil partner

If you’re still married or in a civil partnership with them, you’ll keep your right to reside as their family member.

If you’ve had a right to reside as their family member for at least 5 years, you might have a permanent right to reside.

If you’re divorced or have ended your civil partnership

You won’t have a right to reside as their family member any more.

Check which other types of right to reside could apply to you. You might have a permanent right to reside if you were married or in a civil partnership with them for at least 5 years.

If you can’t get evidence from your partner

You can get help if you’re having trouble getting evidence of your ex-partner’s right to reside.

If you’re caring for a child who’s in education

You might have a right to reside if you’re caring for a child or young person who:

  • is in education - this doesn’t include pre-school or nursery and it usually ends when they’re 18
  • has a parent or step-parent who is an EEA citizen who has worked in the UK - this doesn’t need to be you
  • was in the UK while their parent was working

This is called a ‘derivative’ right to reside.

You must be the child’s ‘primary carer’. This means you’re:

  • their parent, grandparent or legal guardian
  • you’re responsible for looking after them and they wouldn’t be able to stay in the UK if you had to leave

You can still be a primary carer if you look after the child with someone else.

Example

Jakub and Lena are from Poland and have been living in the UK. They’re married and have a child who is 5 years old and in school. Jakub has a right to reside as a worker because he has a job. Lena doesn’t work, but she has a right to reside as the family member of a worker because she’s married to Jakub.

Jakub and Lena get divorced and Jakub moves back to Poland. Lena loses the right to reside she got from her husband, but can get a derivative right to reside from her child.

Getting the right evidence

When you apply for benefits, you’ll need to prove:

  • one of the child’s parents or step-parents is working or has worked in the UK - for example, with payslips, P60s or P45s, or a letter from an employer
  • the child was living in the UK when their parent or step-parent was working
  • you’re the child’s primary carer - for example, by showing you live together
  • your relationship to the child you’re the primary carer for - for example, with a birth certificate
  • that the child you’re caring for is in education - for example, with a letter from their school

Proving you have a derivative right to reside can be difficult - contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help.

Getting a permanent right to reside

A derivative right to reside won’t help you get a permanent right to reside in the UK - it doesn’t count towards the 5 years of having a right to reside that you need to become a permanent resident.

Check which other types of right to reside could apply to you.

If a family member is joining you in the UK

Your family member might also have a right to reside because of their relationship to you. This means they’ll have the same right to claim benefits as you. 

Any change to your right to reside will affect theirs. For example, if you have a right to reside because you’re working, they’ll have the right the reside as the family member of a worker.

Make sure you know what right to reside you have. If your family member wants to apply for benefits, they’ll need to give evidence of your right to reside.

Proving a permanent right to reside

You might have a permanent right to reside if you’ve been in the UK for 5 years or more. You can sometimes get a permanent right to reside in less than 5 years - for example, if you retire or can’t work any more because you’re ill.

You’ll lose your permanent right to reside if you spend 2 years outside the UK without gaps.

If you’ve been in the UK for 5 years or more

You might have a permanent right to reside.

You’ll need to prove you’ve spent 5 years in the UK without gaps and with a right to reside as:

  • a worker or self-employed person
  • someone who’s had to stop working but has kept their worker status (known as ‘retained worker status’)
  • a jobseeker
  • someone who can support themselves financially (know as being ‘self-sufficient’)
  • a student who is self-sufficient
  • the family member of someone with a right to reside

You can also always count the first 3 months after you came to the UK, even if you didn't have another right to reside.

You can count more than one type of right to reside towards your 5 years.

For example, you might have a permanent right to reside if you’ve spent 4 years working, 6 months retaining your worker status and 6 months as the family member of someone who’s working.

If you have a permanent right to reside you should check if you can switch from pre-settled status to settled status.

If you’ve spent time outside the UK

During your 5 years, you can have short gaps outside the UK, including:

  • up to 6 months outside the UK each year
  • one gap of up to 12 months outside the UK for very important reasons - for example, pregnancy or childbirth, serious illness or time spent working abroad

Getting the right evidence

When you apply for benefits, you’ll need to give evidence for all 5 years that you had a right to reside in the UK.

If it’s difficult to get the evidence and you need money quickly, you should try to prove another type of right to reside.

If it’s easy to get evidence for your 5 years, you should prove you have a permanent right to reside when you apply for benefits. For example, if you have 5 or more years of payslips and tax documents from your job, include copies of them with your benefits application.

Proving you have a permanent right to reside can be complicated. Get help from your nearest Citizens Advice - an adviser can help you gather the right evidence to prove it.

If you’re from a country that joined the EU after 2004

There used to be special rules about your right to reside in the UK.

The rules have now ended but they might have affected your right to reside in the past. This is important if you’re trying to prove you have a permanent right to reside because of what you’ve done in the past.

The countries affected by the special rules are:

  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Estonia
  • Hungary
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia

People from these countries are sometimes known as A8 nationals or A2 nationals.

The special rules are complicated. If you're from one of these countries and want to prove you have a permanent right to reside, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you or your family member retire

You might have a permanent right to reside when you reach State Pension age or retire early if either:

  • you lived in the UK continuously for the last 3 years before you retired and you were a worker or self-employed for the last year before you retired
  • your husband, wife or civil partner is a UK citizen

If you were the family member of someone who retired in those circumstances, you also have a permanent right to reside.

If you or your family member can’t work any more because of illness or an accident

This is known as ‘permanent incapacity’. You might have a permanent right to reside if you were a worker or self-employed when you were permanently incapacitated. One of the following must also apply:

  • you lived in the UK continuously for the last 2 years before your permanent incapacity
  • your accident or illness was caused by something that happened at work and you’re entitled to benefits because of it
  • your husband, wife or civil partner is a UK citizen

If you were the family member of someone who became permanently incapacitated in those circumstances, you also have a permanent right to reside.

If you were refused benefits because of the right to reside 

You can challenge the decision. Check how to:

If your situation has changed since you applied and it’s easier to show you have a right to reside, it’s usually best to make a new claim.

You can make a new claim at the same time as challenging the decision to refuse your original claim.

If you're challenging a Universal Credit decision and you want to make a new claim

When you make a new claim, letters, documents and messages will normally disappear from your Universal Credit online account.

You might need this information to challenge the original decision. You should keep a record of what’s on the online account before you make a new claim - for example you can:

  • take screenshots

  • download documents

  • copy and paste messages

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