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Check if you can get a permanent right to reside in the UK as an EEA national

This advice applies to Wales

To claim benefits like Jobseeker's Allowance, Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit, you have to pass the habitual residence test. This means that you:

  • have a legal right to live in the UK and claim benefits - this is called right to reside
  • intend to make your home for the time being in the UK, Isle of Man, Channel Islands or the Republic of Ireland - this is known as habitual residence

If you've been living in the UK for at least five years, you might have a permanent right to reside. This means when you apply for benefits, you won't have to pass the habitual residence test.

You can only lose a permanent right to reside if you:

  • leave the UK for two or more years in a row
  • commit a serious crime
  • are a security risk

Getting advice

Showing your right to reside and intention to settle in the UK can be difficult and complex. If you're unsure about anything get from your local Citizens Advice.

Check you have a permanent right to reside

To get a permanent right to reside you must have been legally resident in the UK, Isle of Man, Channel Islands or the Republic of Ireland for a continuous period of at least 5 years. During those 5 years you must have been one of the following:

  • a job-seeker
  • a worker
  • self-employed
  • a former worker who has kept your worker status
  • a student who is self-sufficient
  • self-sufficient and supporting yourself financially
  • a family member of a person in one of these groups

If you've had retained worker status, for example when you've been unable to work due to being ill, this time should count towards giving you a permanent right to reside.

Some temporary absences from the country won't affect your 5 years. These include:

  • absences not longer than six months in a year
  • one absence of up to twelve months for very important reasons - such as pregnancy or childbirth, serious illness or employment postings abroad
  • compulsory military service

If you've been in prison, that time won't count towards your 5 years of residence.

If you're an A8 national

You're an A8 national if you're from Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia or Slovenia.

If you worked in the UK from 1 May 2004 and 30 April 2009, it might count towards your 5 years continuous work. It'll count if at least 1 full year of that work was registered with the same employer under the Workers Registration Scheme. Work done after the first year of registered work doesn't have to be registered.

Check your registration certificate to see if you have at least 1 full year of work registered. The start date of your registered work might be earlier than the date on your certificate - it depends on when you applied for registration.

If you applied for registration within a month of starting work, your work counts as registered from the date you started the job. Otherwise, your work will be registered from the date on the registration certificate.

Due to a recent court judgment work between 1 May 2009 and 30 April 2011 doesn't have to be registered anymore.

Work that didn't need to be registered

Work between 1 May 2004 and 30 April 2009 didn't have to be registered if you:

  • previously worked legally in the UK up to and including 30 April 2004 for 12 months without a break of more than 30 days
  • had permission to enter or remain in the UK on 30 April 2004 and there were no limits on what work you did
  • were posted to work in the UK by your employer
  • have dual nationality and are also a UK or non-A8, EEA or Swiss national
  • are the family member of an EEA or Swiss national who has the right to reside
  • are the spouse, civil partner or child under 18 of a person who has leave to enter or remain in the UK which allows that person to work
  • are a member of a diplomatic mission, or a family member of someone on a diplomatic mission
  • have diplomatic immunity

You also won't have had to register your work if you were legally working in the UK on 30 April 2004 during a minimum working period of 12 months - the 30 April could have been at any point in that working period. During that time you can't have had a break in work of more than 30 days.

Applying for a permanent residence document

It's worth applying for a permanent residence document - you'll be able to use it as evidence if you need to claim benefits. It costs £65 to apply.

You can find out how to apply for a permanent residence document at GOV.UK.

If you don't have a permanent right to reside

You might still have the right to reside - this means you'll be able to claim benefits.

Check if you have the right to reside to claim benefits.

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