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What do I need to know? 

When you’re claiming a particular welfare benefit, it’s important to note that as part of the process, you’ll need to meet certain residence and presence conditions. We clarify what this means below. 


What are the rules? 

In order to claim certain benefits, there are certain residence and presence tests. Although these vary depending on the benefit, in general you’ll need to prove the following:  

  • You have been present in Great Britain (which for this purpose also includes Northern Ireland) for two out of the last three years (104 out of 156 weeks).* 

    *There are some exceptions to these rules - see below.

  • You must be habitually resident. This means that the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man is your main place of residence and you plan to stay. 
  • You have a right to reside in Great Britain.  
  • If you came to the UK after 31 December 2020 or are not a Non-European Economic Area (EEA) National, there are certain immigration conditions to meet in addition to the residence and presence rules in order to claim benefits. Read more. 

What else do I need to know?

Rather than taking a test to prove you meet the conditions of residence and presence, you would be expected to gather evidence. This is the case if you’re applying for certain benefits such as 
Carer’s AllowancePersonal Independence Payment (PIP)Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or  Attendance Allowance.

Turn2us has a web section that enables you to see which tests apply to the benefit you’re claiming. Check here. 

‘Present’ means physically present in Great Britain, although some people may be treated as being in Great Britain while abroad. The past presence test does not apply to people recognised as refugees and their families. 

The rules in this area can be complicated. You can get guidance and specialist help from your local Citizens AdviceThe AIRE Centre can also provide advice on individual rights in Europe and can be contacted on 020 7831 4276 or by email at  

The habitual residence test is a test to see if you normally live in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, the Republic of Ireland or the Isle of Man. The test will be applied if you have been living abroad. There is no precise legal definition of ‘habitual residence’. Key considerations are: 

  • where you normally live 
  • where you expect to live in future  
  • your reasons for coming to this country  
  • the length of time spent abroad before you came here 
  • any ties you still have with the country where you have come from.

There are exceptions to these rules if you are terminally ill – see our page on ‘Benefits if you’re terminally ill’. 

You are also exempt if you have refugee leave or humanitarian protection or you are the dependant of someone who has this. 

In certain circumstances you are allowed to take carers' or disability benefits with you if you move to another European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland. For details, see  GOV.UK: claiming disability benefits if you live in another European country. 

Special rules also apply to countries in the EEA and several others that Britain has agreements with. If you think this applies to you, you should seek advice.  

The website also has more information about how to apply for the settled status scheme (including applying for your child) and an online enquiry form. You can use the government website to search for agencies that can help you to apply. The charity  Settled  can provide further information and guidance. 


If you’re applying for DLA for a child who is an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen and does not have indefinite leave to remain, in order to claim, they must have pre-settled or settled status  or, have had a right to reside on 31 December 2020.

If you think that you are affected, you should act quickly and contact a local advice service for help. The Advicelocal website has details of services local you. 

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