Starting your Universal Credit claim

This advice applies to Wales. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland

You should first check if you’re eligible for Universal Credit.

If you’re eligible, you’ll usually have to apply for Universal Credit online on GOV.UK. You’ll then get an online account which you'll use to apply for Universal Credit and keep your claim up to date.

You’ll need an email address and a phone number to create an online account.

You can find out how to get an email address on the Which? website.

If you’re reapplying for Universal Credit, you might not have to go through the full application process again. Find out more about reapplying for Universal Credit.

Check when to apply

Usually it’s best to apply for Universal Credit as soon as you can. That way you’ll get your first payment sooner.


If you or your partner aren’t a UK citizen 

Before you apply, you should check if you’re eligible for Universal Credit.

If you’re not eligible, applying for Universal Credit might affect your permission to stay in the UK.

If you’re moving to Universal Credit from other benefits

Universal Credit is replacing 6 benefits called ‘legacy benefits’. These are: 

  • Housing Benefit

  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

  • Child Tax Credits (CTC) 

  • Working Tax Credits (WTC)

  • Income Support

You might have to move to Universal Credit if your situation changes in certain ways - for example if you separate from your partner or move to a different council area.

You might also have to move to Universal Credit if you get a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) telling you to claim Universal Credit by a certain date.

You can still move to Universal Credit if neither of these things have happened, but it’s important to think carefully. If you apply for Universal Credit, you might get less money. Any legacy benefits you're getting will end, and you won't be able to go back to any of the legacy benefits in the future.

Find out more about moving to Universal Credit from other benefits.

If you've left your job

If you’ve got a letter from the DWP telling you to claim Universal Credit by a certain date, it’s called a ‘migration notice’. You should claim by the date on the letter.

If you're waiting to be paid, talk to an adviser. They can help you work out the best time to make your claim.

If the date on the letter is soon, the most important thing is to claim before the date. Check what to do if you’ve got a migration notice.

If you haven’t got a migration notice, you should wait until the day after you get your final wages or any holiday pay from work.

If you get paid after you apply for Universal Credit, the money will count as income - this means you'll get less in your first Universal Credit payment.

You should apply as soon as you can if you’re only waiting for redundancy pay because it doesn’t count as income. Redundancy pay won’t affect how much you’ll get in your first Universal Credit payment unless it brings your total capital to over £6,000. Capital includes any savings and investments you have.

If you’ve been waiting for your last payment from work and need money, it’s best to talk to an adviser before claiming. 

If you can't apply online

You might be able to apply for Universal Credit over the phone or, in exceptional circumstances, arrange for someone to visit you at home.

You can only use these options in certain situations. You might be eligible if you:

  • don't have regular access to the internet 

  • aren't confident using a computer or smartphone 

  • have problems with your sight

  • have a long term physical disability or mental health condition which stops you from applying online

  • have a physical condition that stops you from using a computer or smartphone

  • can’t read or write

If you need help working out if you can claim by phone or have a home visit, you can talk to one of our advisers

To make a phone claim or arrange a home visit, you’ll then need to ring the Universal Credit helpline. Someone else can call for you. When you call, you'll hear several options - choose 'Universal Credit queries'.

Universal Credit helpline

Telephone: 0800 328 5644

Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 328 1744

Textphone: 0800 328 1344

Relay UK - if you can't hear or speak on the phone, you can type what you want to say: 18001 then 0800 328 5644

You can use Relay UK with an app or a textphone. There’s no extra charge to use it. Find out how to use Relay UK on the Relay UK website.

Video relay - if you use British Sign Language (BSL).

You can find out how to use video relay on YouTube.

Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

It can take a while to get through to someone. Tell the person you speak to why you can’t apply online. They’ll ask you some questions to check you’re eligible before going through the next steps of the application with you.

If you’re eligible for a phone claim or home visit

The Jobcentre and the DWP will keep in touch either by:

  • texting

  • phoning

  • sending letters

  • visiting you in person

They’ll ask which is easiest for you when you apply.

Start your online application

You’ll need to apply for Universal Credit online on GOV.UK

You’ll first need to enter your postcode. If you don’t have an address, you can enter the postcode of your nearest Jobcentre.

You can find the address of your nearest Jobcentre on GOV.UK.

If you don’t have a computer or internet access

You can use the internet and a computer for free at your:

If you have a partner  

You’ll need to make a joint claim if you live with your partner and you’re either:

  • married

  • civil partners

  • living together as a couple

If your partner isn’t eligible for Universal Credit, you should still make a joint claim because the DWP need to know about both your incomes. The DWP will change your claim to a single claim when they process your application. This means you or your partner will be paid as if you’re a single person.

You should make a single claim if:

  • you’ve permanently separated from your partner - even if you still live in the same property

  • you’ve been temporarily apart from your partner for at least 6 months

  • you’re going to be temporarily apart from your partner for at least 6 months

To make a joint claim, you’ll both need to open separate accounts. 

You’ll be asked during the application if you live with your partner. If you do you’ll get a ‘linking code’. When your partner sets up their account they should type in this linking code to join their account to yours. This turns your claim into a joint claim. 

You shouldn’t create your account at the same time as your partner - it doesn’t matter who creates their account first.

You’ll both be able to log in to your accounts separately.

Creating your username and password

You’ll be asked to make a username and password. You’ll use these to log in to your Universal Credit account.

It’s important that no one else can get into your account without your permission. If you’ve made a joint claim, don’t share your username and password with your partner.

You should make your username and password strong and memorable. You can read how to create a strong and memorable password on GOV.UK.

It's best if you learn your username and password and don't keep them written down anywhere.

You’ll need to answer a couple of security questions like: ‘where were you born?’ or ‘what was the name of the street you grew up on?’ You’ll be asked one of these questions every time you log in to your account.

You might be asked to add extra security to your account called ‘two-factor authentication’ - this is optional. If you agree, you’ll be sent a one-time passcode to your mobile phone. You’ll then need to enter this code on your account. 

You’ll be sent a new code each time you log in or use a new device - unless you log in on the same device within 24 hours.

You’ll be given a 16 digit Personal Security Number (PSN) after your first Universal Credit interview with your ‘work coach’ - you’ll meet them regularly as part of your Universal Credit claim. It’s important to keep the personal security number safe - you’ll need it if you ever need to create a new password.

Choose if you want to be contacted by email or text message

You’ll need to have an email address and phone number so that the DWP can contact you.

Choose an email address and phone number that you use the most.

You’ll be asked how you like to be contacted - email or text. Choose whichever you check the most. After you’ve made your choice, the DWP will send a code to your email address. 

If you haven’t got an email yet, check your spam or junk folder - it might have gone there.

There will be a space when you set up your account above the ‘Make a claim’ button for you to enter the code. After you’ve typed it in, select ‘Make a claim’.

Next steps

Once you’ve set up your account, you’ll need to answer questions about your situation - this is called your 'to-do list'. It’s best to do this as soon as possible, or it might delay your first payment.

Get help answering questions in your Universal Credit application.

If you need help with your Universal Credit application, you can talk to an adviser.

If you’re struggling with costs while claiming Universal Credit

It might be possible to get help from your local council or an interest-free loan from the government. Find out how to get extra help.

If you have a child under the age of 14 or a disabled child, your local council should help you. They might cover essential living costs or find you somewhere to live. Find your local council on GOV.UK.

If you're struggling to pay for food, find out how to get help from a food bank.

Get help from an adviser if you’re struggling with costs while waiting to finish your Universal Credit application.

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Page last reviewed on 07 March 2022