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Taking disability benefits to other European countries

The European Court of Justice decided in October 2007 that certain disability and carers benefits are sickness benefits and may be paid to people who leave the UK to live elsewhere in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.

Affected benefits

The decision affects:

  • Disability Living Allowance (care component only)
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Carer's Allowance

The mobility component of Disability Living Allowance has not been affected by this judgement.

Who can continue to get the benefits

There are four main groups of people who may continue to receive these benefits if they move from the UK to live in another EEA state or Switzerland. The EEA consists of the 27 member states of the European Union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

You may continue to receive these benefits if:

  • you work in the UK or pay National Insurance in the UK because of your work, but leave the UK to live in another EEA state or Switzerland and thus become a frontier or posted worker
  • you have paid enough National Insurance Contributions to be able to claim a UK contributions-based sickness benefit
  • you are in receipt of State Pension, Industrial Injuries Benefit, Incapacity Benefit, contributions-based Employment and Support Allowance or Bereavement Benefits from the UK - these are referred to as 'relevant benefits'
  • you are a family member (spouse, civil partner or someone dependent on a parent) of someone who works in the UK, or has paid enough National Insurance Contributions to be able to get a UK contributions-based sickness benefit, or is in receipt of short-term Incapacity Benefit or the assessment phase rate of contributions-based Employment and Support Allowance

The exportability team at the Department for Work and Pensions can check your National Insurance records for you.

Other things to be aware of

If you can get a sickness benefit from another EEA state or Switzerland or if you work in another EEA state or Switzerland, this may affect whether you can take the disability benefit with you when you move.

If you are entitled as a family member, whether you can take the disability benefit with you when you move may also be affected if your spouse, civil partner or parent can get a sickness benefit or works in another EEA state or Switzerland.

If you are in receipt of a retirement pension or invalidity benefit from another EEA state or Switzerland, you may be entitled to a disability benefit from that country rather than from the UK.

You must still meet the usual entitlement conditions for the benefits you wish to take with you. The only difference is that after you have moved you no longer have to:

  • be normally resident in the UK
  • be in the UK

If you receive certain benefits, including State Pension, that are paid at a rate that is the same or more than Carer's Allowance, you may not receive payment of Carer's Allowance.

How long the benefits will be paid for

If you can take your benefits with you when you move to live in another EEA state or Switzerland, the length of time that you will continue to be paid depends on your circumstances. If your needs or circumstances change, this may affect how long your benefit is paid.

If you are in receipt of 'relevant benefits' from the UK, your disability benefit will be paid for as long as you remain in receipt of one of those benefits, or the duration of your current disability benefit award if shorter.

If you have paid enough National Insurance Contributions to be able to claim a contributions-based sickness benefit, your benefit will be paid for as long as you remain insured from these contributions, or the duration of your award if shorter.

If you are claiming as a family member of:

  • someone who is working in the UK, your benefit will be paid for as long as that person continues to work in the UK, or the duration of your award if shorter
  • someone who has paid enough National Insurance Contributions for them to be able to claim a contributions-based sickness benefit, your benefit will be paid for as long as that person remains insured from their contributions, or the duration of your award if shorter
  • someone who is in receipt of short-term Incapacity Benefit or the assessment phase rate of contributions-based Employment and Support Allowance, your benefit will be paid for as long as that person remains in receipt of that benefit, or the duration of your award if shorter

If you can get a sickness benefit or retirement pension from another EEA state or Switzerland or if you work in another EEA state or Switzerland, this may affect whether you can continue to get your disability benefit from the UK.

If you are entitled as a family member, whether you can continue to get the disability benefit may also be affected if your spouse, civil partner or parent can get a sickness benefit or starts work in another EEA state or Switzerland.

What to do next

If you are moving to live in another EEA state or Switzerland, you need to notify the exportability team of this change of circumstances.

When you contact the exportability team, tell them:

  • your National Insurance number
  • whether you are going to work in another EEA state or Switzerland
  • whether you already get or will be able to get any other benefits from another state

If you are moving to live in another EEA state or Switzerland and think you might be entitled as a family member, also tell them:

  • who the family member is
  • their National Insurance number
  • whether they are going to work in another EEA state or Switzerland
  • whether they already get or will be able to get any other benefits from another state

If you think you may be affected by the court's decision and are unsure about what to do, or if you need any further information, you should contact the exportability team.

If you have already contacted the exportability team about the judgement, you do not need to contact them again.

If you ask to export your disability benefit and you do not satisfy the relevant conditions, your application will be disallowed. You will be able to ask for a reconsideration and appeal against that decision within certain deadlines.

If you have made an appeal

If your Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance stopped when you moved abroad, you may have made a new claim or requested reinstatement of a benefit.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has selected a small number of these appeals which share common issues (known as lead cases). These have been sent for tribunal hearings. The DWP has requested that similar cases are suspended until the tribunal has made a decision.

The tribunal will hear these cases in March 2010. If you have made an appeal, you will be updated as soon as the tribunal has made a decision, expected to be April 2010 at the earliest.

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