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What is the habitual residence test?
If you're an EEA national and want to claim certain means-tested benefits, you must normally meet the conditions of the habitual residence test. The purpose of the test is to show whether you have the right to live in the UK (known as the right to reside) and whether you intend to settle in the UK, Isle of Man, Channel Islands, or Ireland (the 'Common Travel Area') for the time being (this is known as habitual residence).
Even if you satisfy the habitual residence test you must also satisfy the normal conditions for the benefit you are claiming. For example, if you are claiming income-based jobseeker's allowance you must show that you are unemployed and that you are available for and actively seeking work.
This page explains what you need to know about the habitual residence test.
Showing your right to reside and intention to settle in the UK can be difficult. If you're unsure about anything, seek the help of an adviser.
What is the habitual residence test
The habitual residence test (HRT) is carried out on most EEA nationals who apply for benefits. The habitual residence part of the test is also carried out on some UK nationals who have been living or working abroad. However, UK nationals automatically have the right to reside so don't have to satisfy the right to reside part of the HRT.
To satisfy the test you must show:
- you have a right to reside in the UK. This means you have a right to live here, 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.
The right to reside part of the HRT was introduced in May 2004. If you're an EEA national who was entitled to income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance, pension credit, housing benefit or council tax benefit on 30 April 2004 you don't have to satisfy the right to reside part of the test if you have not had any break in your claim. You may still need to show that you are habitually resident in the Common Travel Area.
You can argue that you have a right to reside if you:
- are working or self-employed
- are jobseeking
- are a former worker
- are self-sufficient
- are a student
- have been living in the UK for at least five years and have acquired a permanent right to reside
- are the primary carer of a child who themselves has the right to reside
- are the family member of someone with the right to reside.
Even if you can show that you have a right to reside you may still need to show that you are habitually resident.
You will be asked questions to find out if you satisfy the habitual residence test. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) will then decide whether you have a right to reside and, if they decide that you do, they will then decide whether you are habitually resident. If you do not satisfy the test you will be refused most means-tested benefits. If this happens to you you should seek advice.
What benefits does the test apply to?
If you're a non-EEA and non-UK national you may be subject to immigration control and you can't normally claim benefits. Making a claim may affect your right to stay in the UK.
You are subject to immigration control if you:
- need permission to enter or remain in the UK but don't yet have it
- have permission to enter or remain in the UK only if you don't claim benefits or use other public services
- were given permission to enter or remain in the UK because someone formally agreed to support you.
The habitual residence test applies to claims for the following benefits:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Council Tax Reduction
- Universal Credit
The right to reside part of the test also applies to Child Tax Credits and Child Benefit, but you don't have to show you are habitually resident to claim these benefits. Instead you have to show that you are 'ordinarily resident'. If you have come to the UK since 1 July 2014 and you are not a worker or self-employed, for example, you are a jobseeker, you need to live in the UK for at least three months before you can claim Child Tax Credits or Child Benefit. However, this rule will not apply to you if you were previously ordinarily resident in the UK and have returned to the UK after an absence of less than one year.
You may need to seek advice if you want to claim Child Tax Credits or Child Benefit.
Some people are exempt from the habitual residence part of the test. If you are exempt you will not have to show that you are habitually resident. For example, you may be exempt if you:
- are a refugee or have been granted discretionary leave or leave under humanitarian rules
- have been granted leave under a domestic violence concession
- are not subject to immigration control and have been deported, expelled or removed from another country to the UK
- are an EEA worker or an EEA self-employed person, or a family member of that person
- are an EEA national who has worked in the UK but is now unable to work because of incapacity, or involuntary unemployment, or you have retired, or you are the family member of that person.
You are not exempt from the test if you are a jobseeker.
- Find out how the decision is made on whether you have the right to reside or are habitually resident