EU nationals and their family members can claim benefits and social assistance, such as homelessness support.

For means-tested benefits, including Universal Credit, you need to show that you have the right to reside and that you are habitually resident in the UK (this usually involves proving that you have a right to reside and that the UK is your main home and you plan to stay here).

If you have settled status then you automatically have a right to reside. If you can prove you have been here for more than five years while exercising a treaty right, you will also satisfy this test. If you have previously had a decision from the DWP that you have a permanent right to reside then you retain that right for all means tested benefits unless you are abroad for more than two years or in other exceptional circumstances such as on grounds of public security, public policy or public health.

You can obtain permanent right to reside in less than five years if:

  • You have been working and are now a pensioner
  • You have been working and have become permanently incapacitated

Otherwise you will have to show that you are exercising treaty rights and therefore have an EU right to reside. You will be exercising treaty rights if:

  • You are working as long as your work is considered to be genuine and effective and not marginal and ancillary. This depends on hours, duration of employment, earnings and regularity of the work. This also covers self-employment.
  • You have retained your worker status when you left work. This covers people being made unemployed involuntarily for a limited period of six months or longer if you can show you have a genuine chance of being able to get another job.
  • You can retain your worker status for longer if you are temporarily unable to work (i.e. it is not permanent), if you are on maternity leave or have a pregnancy related condition, if you are undertaking a vocational training course.

You may be able to derive eligibility to benefits if you have family members who have worked in the UK or are working in the UK where they satisfy any of the conditions mentioned above. Family members include:

  • Spouses or civil partners (including separated couples but not including divorced couples)
  • Children and grandchildren under the age of 21
  • Parents or grandparents

You may also be eligible if you are the primary carer of an EEA national child. The child needs to be in education and you or the child’s parent or step-parent has worked while the child was in education.

If you have been in the UK for less than five years or have pre-settled status you may not always be eligible for benefits. If you are refused benefits don’t assume the decision is correct. Many Universal Credit decisions about right to reside are incorrect as Universal Credit decision makers are currently not applying the rules correctly. Seek advice on whether you are eligible and on how to challenge the refusal. If the benefit decision has left you without sufficient income and your case is proceeding to an appeal you should ask for the hearing to be expedited.