Skip to main content
Shelter Logo

Universal credit: Immigration and residence conditions

Universal credit (UC) is a benefit for working age people who have a low or no income. It includes money to help with rent.

You can usually get benefits in the UK if you have:

  • British or Irish citizenship

  • EU settled status

  • indefinite leave to remain (ILR)

  • refugee status or humanitarian protection

  • a visa under the Ukraine family scheme or the Homes for Ukraine scheme

You have to meet extra conditions if you have EU pre-settled status.

You cannot get UC if your immigration status says you have 'no recourse to public funds'.

British and Irish citizens

You can get UC if you are 'habitually resident' in the UK.

This means you must plan to live in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man for the foreseeable future.

Irish citizens have the right to live in the UK without restrictions. You do not need to apply to the EU settlement scheme to claim benefits.

If you've lived outside the UK recently

You usually count as habitually resident within 3 months of arriving back in the UK.

Sometimes you can qualify as soon as you arrive. For example, if:

  • you've been living in Ireland, the Channel Islands or Isle of Man

  • you were previously resident and have returned to resettle

  • you've been deported or removed from another country

Show your plans to resettle by looking for work, sorting out school places and registering with a GP.

Apply for universal credit as soon as you can. You usually have to wait at least 5 weeks for the money.

Refugees and people with discretionary leave

You can usually get UC if you have:

  • refugee status

  • humanitarian protection

  • discretionary leave with recourse to public funds

If you apply to extend your leave before it runs out, you continue to qualify until the Home Office makes a decision.

If you're seeking asylum

You cannot get UC or other benefits while the Home Office looks at your asylum claim.

You can apply for asylum support if you're homeless or have no money.  

Settled status or indefinite leave to remain

You can usually get UC if you have either:

  • EU settled status

  • indefinite leave to remain (ILR)

You must be habitually resident.

If you have ILR because a relative sponsored you in the last 5 years, you can only get benefits if your relative has died.

EU pre-settled status and extra conditions

You have to meet extra conditions to get UC if you have pre-settled status.

You need to show you're in one of these situations:

  • working or self employed

  • looking for work after a job or self employment ends

  • cannot work because you're pregnant or have recently given birth

  • cannot work at the moment because of illness or an accident

  • looking after a child who is in school

Working or self employed

You can get UC if you've earned enough to pay national insurance for the last 3 months.

You can sometimes get UC if you earn less than this or your income changes. The DWP look at the hours you work and how much you earn to decide if your work counts.

Lost your job and looking for work

You can usually get UC if you:

  • lose your job and are looking for another one

  • stop being self employed and are looking for work

Register with Jobcentre Plus. Start looking for work as soon as you can even if you do not need benefits.

Pregnant or recently given birth

You can usually get UC if you're:

  • on maternity leave from your job and on a low income

  • give up your job or looking for work in the late stages of pregnancy

You will not be expected to look for work for around:

  • 3 months before the birth

  • 9 months after the birth

You must plan to return to or look for work within 41 weeks of your baby being born.

Get advice from Maternity Action about claiming benefits when pregnant.

Cannot work because of illness or an accident

You can usually get UC if you:

  • have worked in the UK before

  • cannot work at the moment because of illness or an accident

This could include a longer term health condition or disability. You may need to show that you're likely to work again.

Children in school

You can sometimes get UC if a child who lives with you:

  • goes to school in the UK

  • has at least one parent who is or was an EU worker or self employed

Your child must have lived in the UK while you or their other parent was an EU worker or self employed. You do not need to be working now.

If your EU settlement application is still being processed

The EU settlement scheme closed for applications on 30 June 2021.

You might be able to get UC if the EU settlement scheme is still dealing with your application.

You could get UC if you can show you:

  • were living in the UK by 31 December 2020

  • applied to the EU settlement scheme by 30 June 2021

You also need to show that either:

  • you meet one of the pre-settled status conditions

  • you've lived here legally and continuously for at least 5 years

Find out more about staying in the UK from Citizens Advice.

Information in other languages for EU citizens

Find information in other languages from these charities:

If you came to the UK as someone's partner

You cannot usually claim UC if you're on a spouse or partner visa.

The Home Office expects your partner to support you for your first 5 years in the UK.

If you experience domestic abuse

You can sometimes get Home Office permission to claim benefits if your relationship ends because of domestic abuse.

Get immigration advice before you contact the Home Office.

Find specialist advice through:

Some refuges have spaces for women who cannot get benefits.

Commonwealth citizens

You can get UC if you're habitually resident and have right of abode.

Many other long term residents from the Commonwealth also have the right to live, work and claim benefits in the UK.

You could get help through the Windrush Scheme if you moved to the UK before 1989 and are settled here but do not have the documents to prove it.

Proving your immigration status online

You can prove your immigration status online. You can:

  • check if you can claim benefits

  • get a share code to prove your status

Update your universal credit journal and contact the Home Office if you have problems getting a share code or seeing your immigration status online.

Need immigration advice?

Get advice before claiming benefits if you're not sure of your status.

You cannot get universal credit if you have no recourse to public funds. It could affect your residence rights if you try to apply.

Shelter cannot give immigration advice.

Citizens Advice can help you get specialist immigration advice.

You can search for a regulated immigration adviser on GOV.UK

Last updated: 24 April 2024

If you need to talk to someone, we'll do our best to help

Get help