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Eligibility for universal credit

This content applies to England

A survey of the categories of claimant entitled to universal credit and exceptions to the rules.

Eligible claimants

Regulations set out the conditions for entitlement. The claimant must:[1]

  • be aged 18 or over (with limited exceptions) and under the qualifying age for pension credit
  • be habitually resident in the Common Travel Area (UK, Channel Islands, Republic of Ireland or Isle of Man) with a 'right to reside' and not subject to immigration control. In the regulations the category of ineligible claimant is described as 'persons treated as not being in Great Britain'
  • not be in education, with limited exceptions
  • accept the 'claimant commitment'. For further information on this, see claimant commitment.

Persons from abroad

Regulations set out the eligibility requirements for persons, including British citizens, who have come to the UK from abroad. The categories of persons from abroad who are ineligible for universal credit are broadly the same as those ineligible for housing assistance under parts 6 and 7 of the Housing Act 1996.[2]

See the following pages for information on which persons from abroad are eligible for assistance under parts 6 and 7 of the Housing Act 1996:

Windrush generation
The DWP has issued Memo ADM 14/18 giving guidance on Commonwealth citizens who are claiming universal credit, and are long term-residents in the UK, but are unable to provide documentary evidence of their immigration status. This advises that 'where the evidence of nationality and status provided to and held by DWP and the Home Office indicates that the balance of probabilities is that the claimant is likely to have legal and habitual residence, the decision maker may determine that the claimant is eligible to claim...'. This is not restricted to the ‘Windrush generation’ (migrants from Commonwealth Caribbean countries who settled in the UK before 1973), see para 4 of the Memo for details.

Claimants aged 16 or 17

A claimant aged 16 or 17 is entitled to claim universal credit if s/he:[3]

  • has a dependent child or in some cases is a member of a couple and the other member of the couple is responsible for a child
  • has been assessed as having limited capability for work, or is awaiting assessment
  • is caring for a severely disabled person
  • is pregnant and it is less than 11 weeks until the expected date of birth
  • was pregnant and it is less than 15 weeks since the date of birth
  • is without parental support. This includes where the claimant is estranged or at risk from her/his parents.


Most people in full-time education are not entitled to universal credit. The exceptions to this rule include a student who:[4]

  • is aged under 21 and in non-advanced education (or was under 21 when s/he started the course of study) and is without parental support
  • has a dependent child, or is a member of a couple in which the other member is also in education and has a dependent child
  • is a foster parent, or is a member of a couple in which the other member is also in education and is a foster parent
  • is entitled to attendance allowance, disability living allowance or personal independence payment and has been assessed as having limited capability for work
  • is over the qualifying age for pension credit and her/his spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner is under that age.

Claimants in receipt of severe disability premium

From 16 January 2019, a claimant who is (or who was in the previous month) entitled to a legacy benefit that includes a severe disability premium cannot claim universal credit.[5] This restriction also applies where either one of joint claimants meets the condition. The restriction is intended to ensure protection for people who are entitled to a severe disability premium attached to their existing 'legacy' benefit, because the premium is not payable under the universal credit regulations. Whilst universal credit contains disability elements, they are targeted differently from legacy benefits.

The benefits that can include a severe disability premium are:

  • jobseeker's allowance (income-based)
  • employment support allowance
  • income support
  • housing benefit.

Claimants in this category will not migrate naturally onto universal credit, but will instead be moved onto universal credit through a managed migration process (due to begin in July 2019). See Migration and transitional protection for more information on migration. The Department for Work and Pensions has issued HB Circular A1/2019 providing guidance on housing benefit for claimants who are entitled to the severe disability premium.

18 to 21 year olds

From 31 December 2018, 18 to 21 years olds are entitled to universal credit housing costs element.[6]

From 1 April 2017 until 31 December 2018, for claims made in a full digital service area, claimants aged between 18 and 21 years were not eligible for the housing costs element of universal credit unless they were in an exempt group.[7] See 18 to 21 year olds condition - now revoked for details.

Claimants of pension credit age

People over the qualifying age for pension credit are not eligible to claim universal credit.[8] However, where the claimants are a couple, if only one member is over the qualifying age for pension credit, then they may be able to claim Universal Credit.[9] However, they may be able to claim housing benefit and pension credit instead as claims for those benefits for a person of pension credit age have not yet been closed.[10] The state pension calculator can be used to calculate when a claimant will qualify for pension credit.

At a date to be decided, pension credit will include:

  • a 'housing credit' element for pension credit claimants who need help to pay their rent , and
  • an extra amount for dependent children.

After this change, a claimant in receipt of pension credit will not be able to receive housing benefit or tax credits.

[1] regs 7 to 19 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376.

[2] reg 9 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/37, as amended.

[3] reg 8 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376.

[4] reg 14 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376.

[5] reg 4A Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014 SI 2014/1230 inserted by reg 2 Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) (SDP Gateway) Amendment Regulations 2019 SI 2019/10.

[6] reg 4 Universal Credit and Jobseeker's Allowance (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2018 SI 2018/1129.

[7] para 4A – para 4C, Sch 4, Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376 as inserted by Universal Credit (Housing Costs Element for claimants aged 18 to 21) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 SI 2017/252; ADM Memo 6/17.

[8] s.4(1)(b) Welfare Reform Act 2012.

[9] reg 3(2) Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376.

[10] Art 7(4) The Welfare Reform Act 2012 (Commencement No. 23 and Transitional and Transitory Provisions) Order 2015 SI 2015/634.

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