Check if you can get Universal Credit
Universal Credit is a benefit you can claim if you’re on a low income or unemployed.
It might be worth claiming Universal Credit if:
you’re struggling to pay the bills
you’ve lost your job and have no income
your income has dropped but you’re still working
you have a disability or illness that stops you working
you have childcare costs
you’re caring for someone
If you already get other benefits, you might have to move to Universal Credit instead.
There’s no set level of income where you stop being eligible for Universal Credit - it depends on your situation.
Read our advice to check if you can get Universal Credit. If you’re still not sure, you can talk to an adviser.
Who can get Universal Credit
To get Universal Credit you must:
be 18 years old or over - or in some cases 16 or 17
be under State Pension age - check your State Pension age if you’re over 60 years old on GOV.UK
live in the UK - there are extra rules if you’re not a British citizen
You must usually have less than £16,000 in savings or other investments - called ‘capital’. Capital doesn’t include your pension pot or the home you live in.
If you live with a partner, their income and capital will be taken into account.
If you have more than £16,000 in capital, you might still be able to get Universal Credit for up to a year. This applies if you get tax credits and you’ve had a letter from the DWP telling you to move to Universal Credit by a certain date.
You can get Universal Credit if you’re living with other people but it might affect how much you get. For example, living with parents might mean you get less help with housing costs.
You can get Universal Credit if you’re self-employed - the application process is the same.
Whether you’ll be able to get Universal Credit depends on your situation.
If you’re already claiming benefits or tax credits
Universal Credit is gradually replacing:
income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
Child Tax Credit
Working Tax Credit
You can usually stay on one of these benefits unless:
- something about your situation has changed - not every change means you need to claim Universal Credit
- you’ve had a letter from the DWP telling you to move to Universal Credit by a certain date - this is called a ‘migration notice’
If you’ve had a letter, you only have to move to Universal Credit if it’s an official migration notice. Find out more about moving to Universal Credit from other benefits.
If you’re appealing a benefit decision
If you’ve had a migration notice, you should claim by the deadline on the notice.
If you haven’t had a migration notice, it might be worth waiting for a decision on your appeal or mandatory reconsideration before claiming Universal Credit. If you make a claim for 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.
If you're in full-time education or training
You can only get Universal Credit if at least one of the following applies:
- you’ve reached State Pension age and you live with a partner who’s below State Pension age - check your State Pension age on GOV.UK
- you’re under 21 (or you turned 21 during your course), not in higher education, and your parents have died or you can’t live with them
- you’re waiting to return to a course after taking time off because of illness or caring responsibilities
- you get Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment and the DWP decided you have ‘limited capability for work’ before you started your course
- you look after a child under 16, or under 20 if they’re also in full-time education or training
- you’re a foster parent and have a child living with you
If none of these applies to you, you can still get Universal Credit if you get other benefits and you’ve had a migration notice telling you to move to Universal Credit. You can usually get Universal Credit until your course ends.
If you live with your partner
You can get 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
Check if you’re in full-time education or training
You count as in full-time education or training if either:
- you’re in full-time higher education - this includes anything above A level
- you’re doing any full-time course where you get a loan or maintenance grant
You also count as in full-time education or training up to 1 September after your 19th birthday, if you’re spending at least 12 hours a week doing work for either:
- school or college
- certain types of training - as long as the training isn’t part of your job
If you’re aged 16 to 25 and you’re doing a traineeship that lasts less than 6 months, this doesn’t count as full-time education or training.
If you’re not a UK citizen
You can only get Universal Credit if your immigration status lets you claim public funds. In some situations you also need a ‘right to reside’.
You can claim public funds if you have any of the following:
- British or Irish citizenship
- settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme
- indefinite leave - unless you came to the UK on an adult dependent relative visa
- refugee status or humanitarian protection
- right of abode
If you have pre-settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme, you can claim public funds - but you also need to show you have a right to reside to get Universal Credit. Check if you have a right to reside.
If you’ve applied to the EU Settlement Scheme and you’re waiting for a decision, you can claim public funds - but you also need to show you have a right to reside to get Universal Credit. Check if you have a right to reside.
If you have any other immigration status, check if your immigration status lets you claim public funds.
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 apply for Universal Credit. 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 or your partner has reached State Pension age
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 you’re paying rent
If you’ve both reached State Pension age and you’re paying rent, you might be able to get Housing Benefit. You should check if you can get Housing Benefit.
If only one of you has reached State Pension age
If only one of you has reached State Pension age, you usually can’t make a new claim for Pension Credit or Housing Benefit. You’ll often need to claim Universal Credit instead.
If you turned State Pension age before 15 May 2019 and you’re getting Pension Credit or Housing Benefit, you can keep getting it unless your circumstances change.
You can make a new claim for Pension Credit even if only one of you has reached State Pension age if both of the following apply:
you reached State Pension age before 15 May 2019
you’ve been claiming Housing Benefit or Pension Credit as part of the same couple since before 15 May 2019
You should also check if you can claim Housing Benefit if you’re paying rent.
You don’t need to claim Universal Credit if the person who hasn’t reached State Pension age is claiming:
income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
income-related Employment and Support Allowance
You can carry on getting the benefit you’re currently on.
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 you can't 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've lived outside the UK
You’ll need to give evidence to show that the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man is your main home. This is known as being ‘habitually resident’. You have to do this even if you’re a British citizen.
Apply for Universal Credit
If you’re eligible for Universal Credit, you’ll usually have to apply online.
If you’re not sure if you can get Universal Credit, you can talk to an adviser.