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EEA nationals - claiming benefits as a student

This advice applies to England

To claim certain benefits like Jobseeker's Allowance, Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit, you'll have to pass the habitual residence test. This means that you:

  • have a legal right to live in the UK and claim benefits - this is called right to reside
  • intend to make your home for the time being in the UK, Isle of Man, Channel Islands or the Republic of Ireland - this is known as habitual residence

European Economic Area (EEA) countries include all those in the EU plus Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Check which countries are members of the European Union.

If you're from Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia (known as the A8 countries) you have exactly the same rights to claim benefits as other EEA nationals. You don't have to get your work in the UK registered.

Getting advice

Showing your right to reside and intention to settle in the UK can be difficult. If you're unsure about anything get help from your local Citizens Advice.

You are a student

Many full-time students, whether they are UK or EEA nationals, are not entitled to claim certain benefits. For example, if you're a full-time student with no children and no disabilities you can’t claim:

  • income-related employment and support allowance
  • income-based jobseeker's allowance
  • income support
  • housing benefit.

For child tax credit and child benefit, you need to be 'ordinarily resident' in the UK and have the right to reside.

Find out more about eligibility for child benefit and child tax credits.

The right to reside

If you're a student in the UK and an EEA national you will have a right to reside if you:

  • have comprehensive sickness insurance. This may be private health insurance. Or the country you're from must have an agreement to reimburse the UK for the cost of treatment. An EHIC card may be sufficient if you intend to return home at the end of your course.
  • are enrolled at a government-recognised college in the UK. Your main purpose should be to study (including a vocational training course). This includes any student in further or higher education
  • make a formal statement, known as a declaration, that you're able to support yourself and your family members without any social assistance. Social assistance includes claiming benefits.

Comprehensive sickness insurance

This is usually private health insurance. If you get ill in the UK, your insurance company will pay for you to have private treatment, instead of you using NHS health services.

Your health insurance must cover you for most of the treatment you'd be likely to get in the UK. If your policy has lots of exclusions or exemptions, it may not be accepted.

However even if you can support yourself you may still be able to claim benefits in certain circumstances. Your right to reside depends on you not being an unreasonable burden on the UK benefits system. For example, you may be able to claim benefits for a short period of time because money from your family has been temporarily stopped due to illness.

If the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decides that you're an unreasonable burden on the UK benefits system and you make claim for benefits, you could lose your right to reside as a student. If you lose your right to reside as a student you will lose entitlement to benefits.

Next steps

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