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EEA nationals and family members

Eligibility for means-tested benefits, such as Universal Credit, is determined by a European Economic Area (EEA) national's immigration status and, in some cases, whether they are exercising a right to reside in the UK. This section summarises the eligibility tests that will apply to EEA nationals and their family members according to their current immigration position. 

Granted settled status

A person with settled status (indefinite leave to remain) will be eligible if they are habitually resident in the UK. 

Granted pre-settled status

A person with pre-settled status (five years’ limited leave to remain) will need to be exercising a qualifying right to reside, such as:  

  • The right to reside as a worker or person who has retained their worker status 
  • The right to reside as a self-employed person or person who has retained their self-employed status 
  • A permanent right of residence   
  • The right to reside as the family member of an EEA national who is exercising a qualifying right to reside
  • The right to reside as a family member who has retained their right to reside, for example, following a divorce or the death of the EEA national
  • The right to reside as the primary carer of a child, who is in education and whose parent is an EEA national who has worked in the UK 

A person who has the right to reside as a jobseeker, a self-sufficient person, a student or their family member, or as the primary carer of a self-sufficient child will only be able to claim Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit (which is now only available in very limited circumstances).

The benefit regulations do not allow pre-settled status to count as a qualifying right to reside. This means that a person with pre-settled status who is not exercising a right to reside, or who only has an initial right of residence or the right to reside as a jobseeker or Zambrano carer, will be ineligible for benefits. However, the Court of Appeal recently ruled that the Universal Credit eligibility regulations unlawfully prevent people from being able to rely on their pre-settled status as a qualifying right to reside. This judgment significantly changes the position for many people with pre-settled status who have been unable to demonstrate that they are exercising a qualifying right to reside. The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), who acted for the claimants in the legal challenge, provide a summary of the case as well as a helpful guidance note for benefit advisers. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) does not have to implement the Court's ruling before 26 February 2021 and may appeal the decision, but CPAG advise that anyone with pre-settled status who has recently been refused benefits, or who has not yet applied, should seek advice about challenging the refusal or make an application as soon as possible.

Entitled to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme 

EEA nationals and their family members who were living in the UK by the end of the transition period (11pm on 31 December 2020), qualify to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme and have until 30 June 2021 to make their application.

A person who has not yet applied to the EU Settlement Scheme, or who has not yet been granted settled or pre-settled status, will only be eligible for benefits if they can show that they have both of the following:

  • A right to reside (including as a jobseeker or an initial right to reside), or a permanent right of residence, on 31 December 2020.
  • A qualifying right to reside at the time when they apply for benefits. (See the section on pre-settled status for examples of what counts as a 'qualifying right to reside'.)

Once a person is granted settled status or pre-settled status then their benefit claim will be considered in line with the corresponding rules that are outlined in this section. 

Arrived in the UK on or after 1 January 2021

An EEA national who arrived in the UK on or after 1 January 2021 as a visitor or a student, or with a work visa granted under the new points-based system, will be subject to the ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) condition. They will be subject to immigration control under section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 and will be excluded from claiming public funds (benefits and housing assistance). 

Does not have leave when they are required to have this (unlawfully present)

An EEA national who does not have leave to enter or remain in the UK when they are required to have this will be subject to immigration control under section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 and will be excluded from claiming public funds (benefits and housing assistance).

In practice, there are very limited circumstances in which an EEA national would become unlawfully present before 1 July 2021. An EEA national may become unlawfully present if they are entitled to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme but fail to submit an application by the deadline of 30 June 2021, or if they entered the UK on or after 1 January 2021 and remain in the UK after the expiry of their six-months visitor leave without making an application for further leave. 

 

Terms

Zambrano carer

Person who is required to be resident in the UK as the primary carer of a British child or dependent adult in order to enable that child/adult to live in the UK.

Habitually resident

Resident in a country/ area for an ‘appreciable period’ (usually of one to three months but can be shorter), with the intention to settle.