Services and benefits

Extra rules for people coming from abroad

Last updated April 2006

For more information contact your local office.

If you have just come to Great Britain, you may need to know about benefits you can get.

We want to make sure you and your family get the right help, at the right time, in the right way. So even if you are a United Kingdom (UK) national, it is important to know that the rules for some benefits are different if you have just come to Great Britain from abroad. The benefits affected are listed below.

If you have just entered or returned to Great Britain, benefits you can get will depend on one or more of the following:

There are some benefits you can get only if you have paid NI contributions, and there are some which do not rely on NI contributions. See the list below.

You will usually pay NI contributions in the UK if you earn above a certain amount. They help to pay for some social security benefits.

If you have never lived in the UK before, you will not normally have paid NI contributions. This will usually mean that you cannot get benefits that are based on NI contributions.

But if you have paid the equivalent of NI contributions in another country, this can sometimes help you to qualify for benefits in Great Britain. This only applies to some benefits, and only to countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) and countries that have a social security agreement with the UK.

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Benefits based on NI contributions

Contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance
You may be able to get contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance even if you have not paid enough NI contributions if you:

Incapacity Benefit
You may be able to get Incapacity Benefit even if you have not paid enough NI contributions if you:

Maternity Allowance
Maternity Allowance is for pregnant women who cannot get Statutory Maternity Pay, payable for up to 18 weeks.

You may be treated as having paid the necessary National Insurance (NI) contributions to get Maternity Allowance if you have:

Retirement Pension is for people who have reached State Pension age. It is based on National Insurance (NI) contributions and made up of different elements.

There are no special rules if you have just come to Great Britain.

Statutory Maternity Pay
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is a weekly benefit paid to a pregnant woman by her employer, payable for up to 18 weeks.

There are no special rules if you have just come to Great Britain.

Bereavement Payment
A Bereavement Payment is a one-off payment to widows based on their late husband's National Insurance (NI) contributions.

There are no special rules if you have just come to Great Britain.

Bereavement Allowance
A Bereavement Allowance is based on your late husband or wife's National Insurance (NI) and paid for 52 weeks from the date of bereavement.

There are no special rules if you have just come to Great Britain.

Widowed Parent's Allowance (WPA)
WPA is a regular payment for widows bringing up children, based on their late husband's National Insurance (NI) contributions.

There are no special rules if you have just come to Great Britain.

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Benefits not based on NI contributions

You cannot usually get benefits in this section if there is a limit or condition on your entry to Great Britain.

You may be able to get them if you:

Attendance Allowance
Attendance Allowance (AA) is paid to people who need help looking after themselves. You must have become ill or disabled on or after your 65th birthday or be claiming on or after your 65th birthday.

Council Tax Benefit
Council Tax Benefit is paid by local councils to help with Council Tax payments.

You can only get Council Tax Benefit if you have a right to reside and are habitually resident in the United Kingdom (UK), the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is paid to people who need help looking after themselves. You must have become ill or disabled and needed help before your 65th birthday and claim before your 65th birthday.

You may also be able to get it if you are aged 5 or over and under 65, and have difficulty walking or getting around.

Housing Benefit
Housing Benefit is paid by local councils to help you pay rent.

You can only get Housing Benefit if you have a right to reside and are habitually resident in the United Kingdom (UK), the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands.

Income Support
Income Support is for people on a low income who do not have to sign on at the Jobcentre and who do not have savings of more than £16,000.

You can only get Income Support if you have a right to reside and are habitually resident in the United Kingdom (UK), the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands.

Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) is based on how much the law says you need to live on, and paid to people who are capable of working, available for work and actively seeking work.

You can only get income-based Jobseeker's Allowance if you have a right to reside and are habitually resident in the United Kingdom (UK), the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands.

Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit is for people who are disabled by a disease or deafness caused by a job they have done. You may also be able to get Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit if you are disabled as a result of an accident at work.

You may be able to get Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit if one of the following applies:

Carer's Allowance
Carers Allowance (CA) is paid to full-time carers.

Reduced Earnings Allowance (REA)
Reduced Earnings Allowance (REA) is paid to help if you cannot earn as much as you usually could because of an accident or disease caused by work.

You may be able to get REA if one of the following applies:

Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA)
Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA) is for people who have been unable to work for at least 28 weeks in a row because of illness or disability. You may be able to get it if you have never been able to work.

Statutory Sick Pay
Statutory Sick Pay is paid to sick employees by their employer, for up to 28 weeks.

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Right to reside and habitual residence test

You can only get the following benefits if you have a right to reside and are habitually resident in the United Kingdom (UK), the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands:

From 1st May 2004, if you have arrived in the UK in the last 2 years you must show that you have a right to reside and are habitually resident in the common travel area (that is, the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man) before you can get these benefits.

Right to reside
You must provide your birth certificate, passport or ID card and, if you are a national of the European Economic Area (EEA), evidence of your economic status, to confirm your right to reside.

Habitual residence
Once you have shown that you have a right to reside you must also prove habitual residence before you can get these benefits.

A decision maker will decide if you are habitually resident by asking you things like:

You may be treated as habitually resident if you:

If you are a sponsored immigrant, you may not be entitled to these benefits.

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More information

You can get information about countries that have a social security agreement with the UK from this site.

To get more information or leaflets, get in touch with your social security office.

Find your local office on this site or look for social security in the business numbers section of the phone book.

If you are returning from abroad and are already getting a UK social security benefit, contact:

Pensions and Overseas Benefits Directorate
Tyneview Park
Newcastle Upon Tyne
NE98 1BA

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Definitions

European Economic Area
European Community (EC) social security rules apply to European Economic Area (EEA) countries.

EEA countries are:
Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom (UK).

Gibraltar – The UK applies the EC social security rules to Gibraltar as though it is another EEA country.

Switzerland – The EC social security rules largely cover Switzerland.

UK means England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but not the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

Great Britain means England, Scotland and Wales.

Remember that this website is only a general guide to benefits and schemes and is not a full and authoritative statement of the law. We have made every effort to ensure that the information on this website is correct at the date shown at the top of this page. However, changes in the law may make the website become gradually less accurate.