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Getting benefits if you’ve recently moved to the UK

This advice applies to Wales

If you’ve recently moved or returned to the UK, there are extra rules about whether you can get most benefits. The rules mean you might have to pass a 'residence test' by showing certain information about where you've been living. The rules apply even if you’re a British citizen.

You might have to pass one of the following tests:

  • habitual residence - this means showing that the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands is your main home
  • past presence - for adults this means showing you've been in Great Britain for 2 of the last 3 years
  • 3-month living in - if you applied for Child Benefit before 27 October 2023

If you’re not a British Citizen, you should also check if your immigration status lets you get benefits and help with housing.

If you’ve come from Ukraine because of the war

You don’t have to pass any of the residence tests if all of the following are true:

  • you were living in Ukraine immediately before 1 January 2022
  • you left Ukraine because of the invasion
  • it doesn’t say ‘no public funds’ or ‘no recourse to public funds’ on your immigration documents

If you’re an Irish citizen, you don’t have to pass the habitual residence or past presence tests if all of the following are true:

  • you were living in Ukraine immediately before 1 January 2022
  • you left Ukraine because of the invasion

If you’re from Afghanistan

You don’t have to pass any of the residence tests if you came to the UK through one of these schemes at any time:

  • the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP)
  • the Afghanistan Locally Employed Staff Ex-Gratia Scheme (ALES)
  • the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS)

You also don’t have to pass any of the residence tests if all of the following are true:

  • you came to the UK from Afghanistan because of the fall of the government on 15 August 2021
  • you’ve been given ‘leave to remain’
  • it doesn’t say ‘no public funds’ or ‘no recourse to public funds’ on your immigration papers

Talk to an adviser if you have a sponsor, or if you’re not sure about your immigration status.

You might be asked to prove your immigration status. You’ll need to show one of the following:

  • a document showing you’ve come to the UK through one of the schemes
  • a stamp or visa in your passport
  • a letter from the Home Office that shows when you arrived and why

If you’re from Sudan

You don’t need to show you’re habitually resident or pass the past presence test if one of the following applies:

  • you’re a British or Irish citizen
  • you have a right of abode
  • you’ve been given leave to remain and it doesn’t say ‘no public funds’ or ‘no recourse to public funds’ on your immigration documents

If you applied for Child Benefit before 27 October 2023, you didn’t need to pass the 3-month living in test if you:

  • were living in Sudan immediately before 15 April 2023
  • left Sudan because of the violence

If you’ve come from Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Golan Heights or Lebanon

You don’t need to show you’re habitually resident or pass the past presence test if all of the following apply:

  • you were living in Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, or Lebanon immediately before 7 October 2023
  • you left these areas because of the attack in Israel by Hamas on 7 October 2023 or the violence following the attack
  • you have a right to live in the UK
  • you’ve been given leave to remain and it doesn’t say ‘no public funds’ or ‘no recourse to public funds’ on your immigration documents

If you have refugee status or humanitarian protection

You don’t need to pass any of the residence tests.

The residence test you need to pass depends on the type of benefit you’re applying for.

If you’re applying for Universal Credit, Pension Credit or Housing Benefit

You need to show you’re habitually resident. This means showing that your main home is the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands.

If you’re making a joint Universal Credit claim with someone else, both of you need to show you’re habitually resident.

You'll usually need to show you’ve been in the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man for 1 to 3 months - this is called an 'appreciable period of time'.

If you lived in the UK before you went abroad, this usually makes it easier to show you’re habitually resident now. You might never have stopped being habitually resident - it depends on your situation.

If you have pre-settled status or you’re waiting for a decision from the EU Settlement Scheme

You don’t need to show you’re habitually resident if you have a right to reside because:

  • you’re a worker - this includes if you’ve retained worker status
  • you’re a self-employed person - this includes if you’ve retained self-employed status
  • you’re the family member of a worker or self-employed person
  • you’ve retired - or you’re the family member of someone who retired
  • you've had to permanently stop working because of illness or an accident at work - or you’re the family member of someone in that situation

You still have to show you’re habitually resident if you have another type of right to reside, for example a permanent right to reside based on 5 years in the UK.

If you’re not sure what type of right to reside you have, you can check the rules about the right to reside for benefits.

If you’ve been told you didn’t pass the ‘habitual residence test’

The habitual residence test checks both:

  • if you’re habitually resident
  • if you have a ‘right to reside’ - this depends on things like your work, family and personal situation

Check the decision letter - it should say why you didn’t pass the test. If it says you didn’t pass because you don’t have a right to reside, check if you have the right to reside for benefits.

If you're applying for a disability benefit

You need to pass the past presence test. This applies if you claim:

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Carer's Allowance

If you’re over 16 years old, you need to show you've been in Great Britain for 2 of the last 3 years to pass the past presence test. 

Great Britain is England, Wales and Scotland. It doesn’t include Northern Ireland.

The time spent in Great Britain doesn't need to have been in one go. For example, if you lived in England for 1 year, the USA for 1 year, and Wales for 1 year, you pass the test.

If you’re claiming benefits for a child under 16 years old

If you’re claiming DLA for your child, the length of time they need to have lived in Great Britain depends on their age.

If your child is aged 3 or older, they need to have lived in Great Britain for 6 months in the last year.

If your child is aged between 6 months and 3 years, they need to have lived in Great Britain for 6 months in the last 3 years.

If your child is aged 6 months or younger, they need to have lived in Great Britain for 13 weeks.

If you have a terminal illness

If you’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness and your doctors say you could die within 12 months, you won’t have to pass the past presence test to claim DLA, PIP or Attendance Allowance.

You’ll need to show that you’re habitually resident instead.

If you’ve been abroad serving in the armed forces

If you were living in Great Britain before you went abroad, you’ll pass the past presence test when you come back. This is because you’re treated as if you stayed in Great Britain while you were abroad.

If you used to live in the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein

Even if you haven’t lived in Great Britain for long enough, you might be able to pass the past presence test.

You might pass the test if you’ve worked or claimed benefits for 2 out of the last 3 years in the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein.

You might also pass the test if you’ve got a ‘genuine and sufficient link’ to the UK.

You might have a ‘genuine and sufficient link’ if for example:

  • you’ve lived in the UK for nearly 2 years
  • you work or are self-employed in the UK
  • you have a family member who works or is self-employed in the UK
  • you have close family in the UK who you rely on for care and support
  • you get certain benefits in the UK

The rules in this area are complicated and it’s best to get advice before you apply. Talk to an adviser.

If you applied for Child Benefit before 27 October 2023

You needed to pass the ‘3-month living in test’ if you applied for Child Benefit before 27 October 2023. This means you had to show you'd been living in the UK for 3 months before applying for Child Benefit.

If you had pre-settled status or were waiting for a decision from the EU Settlement Scheme when you applied

You didn’t need to pass the 3-month living in test if you had a right to reside because:

  • you were a worker - this includes if you’d retained worker status
  • you were a self-employed person - this includes if you'd retained self-employed status
  • you were the family member of a worker or self-employed person

You still had to show you were habitually resident if you had another type of right to reside, for example a permanent right to reside.

If you’re not sure what type of right to reside you have, you can check the rules about the right to reside for benefits.

Check what evidence you’ll need

The evidence you’ll need depends on the test you need to pass.

How you send your evidence depends on the benefit you're claiming. The benefit provider will tell you how to send your evidence when you make your claim.

If you need to prove habitual residence

You'll need evidence that shows the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man is your main home. 

You should collect together evidence that shows:

  • when you moved to the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man
  • the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man is your main home

The benefit provider will need to believe you’re not just visiting the UK. They’ll consider things like:

  • why you moved and how long you plan to stay 
  • where you’re living - for example if you have accommodation or an offer of accommodation
  • if you’re working or looking for work
  • your connections to the UK - for example if you have family already in the UK or if family are joining you 
  • how often you return to the country where you previously lived and any connections you still have to it - for example whether you’ve moved your main bank account to the UK
  • if you’re a member of local organisations - like clubs, gyms, social or community groups
  • if you’ve registered with healthcare providers like a local doctor or dentist
  • if you’ve applied for a local school place for your children if you have them

You should collect as much evidence as you can. You'll need to provide original documents, not copies.

For example, you could provide:

  • your travel ticket or boarding pass
  • your wage slips or tax documents, for example P45s or P60s
  • your renting agreement or proof of where you’ve lived in the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man
  • proof you've ended your renting agreement in the country you left
  • statements from banks or building societies in the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man
  • proof you've closed bank or building society accounts in the country you've left - you don't need to close them, but it will strengthen your case

You can also use letters, bills, and other documents as evidence. For example, you might include:

  • bills, letters or contracts with your name and address in the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man
  • letters or emails from your doctor or dentist
  • letters or emails from your child's school
  • records of membership payments to a local club - for example a gym membership

If you’re not working, it might help if you show you have savings or you get financial support from your family or friends. For example, you could prove this using statements from a bank or building society account based in the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

If you need to pass the past presence test

You should collect as much evidence as you can to show when you’ve been living in Great Britain. You'll need to provide the original documents, not copies.

For example, you might show:

  • your travel tickets or boarding passes
  • copies of your renting agreements or proof of where you’ve lived in Great Britain
  • your wage slips or tax documents, for example P45s or P60s
  • statements from a bank or building society in Great Britain

You can also use letters, bills, and other documents as evidence. For example, you might include:

  • bills, letters or contracts with your name and address in Great Britain
  • letters or emails from your doctor or dentist
  • letters or emails from your child's school
  • records of membership payments to a local club - for example a gym membership

If you needed to pass the 3-month living in test

If you applied for Child Benefit before 27 October 2023, you needed evidence to show you'd been living in the UK for 3 months before you applied. You needed to provide original documents, not copies.

For example, you might have shown:

  • your travel ticket or boarding pass
  • a copy of your renting agreement or proof of where you’ve lived in the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man
  • your wage slips or tax documents, for example a P45 or P60
  • statements from a bank or building society in the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man

You could have also used letters, bills, and other documents as evidence. For example, you might have included:

  • bills, letters or contracts with your name and address in the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man
  • letters or emails from your doctor or dentist
  • letters or emails from your child's school
  • records of membership payments to a local club - for example a gym membership

If you’re refused benefits because of one of the tests

If you think the decision was wrong you can make a new claim or challenge it. You should try to provide more evidence to support your new claim or challenge.

You can make a new claim whether you challenge the decision or not and it might mean you get benefits sooner.

If you’re refused benefits because of the past presence or the 3-month living in test, it’s usually best to challenge the decision. You should then make a new claim when you definitely pass the test.

If you’re refused because you can’t show you’re habitually resident, it's usually best to:

  • make a new claim each week - until they agree you’re habitually resident
  • challenge each decision that you’re not habitually resident

Keep doing this until they agree you’re habitually resident.

Challenging a benefit decision

How you should challenge a decision depends on the benefit. Check how to:

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