Transition to universal credit: Who can claim?
Not everyone can claim Universal Credit. This section gives a brief overview of the rules governing who can claim UC.
NOTE: Currently, only eligible claimants in a limited geographical area (Pathfinder and further roll-out areas) can make a claim for UC. See our timetable section for further detail.
A single claimant is entitled to UC if they meet the basic conditions and the financial conditions for single claimants. A couple (joint claimants) are entitled to UC if each of them meets the basic conditions and they meet the financial conditions for joint claimants.
The legislation is very specific about when two people are treated as part of a couple. However there are exceptions to this general rule that mean sometimes a member of a couple may have to make a single claim.
For UC, a couple is defined as:
- A man and woman who are married to each other and members of the same household
- A man and woman who are not married to each other but are living together as husband and wife
- Two people of the same sex who are civil partners of each other and members of the same household
- Two people of the same sex who are not civil partners of each other but are living together as civil partners.
There are some differences to the current tax credits definition of a couple, namely that married couples must be part of the same household and the separated tests have been removed.
See Chapter E4 of the Advice for Decision Makers guidance (AMD) for more detailed information on what constitutes a couple for UC.
There are some circumstances where a person can make a single claim even though based on the criteria above they are part of a couple. In brief these are:
- Where one partner is not yet 18 and cannot get UC as a person under the age of 18
- Where one partner is not treated as ‘in Great Britain’
- Where one partner is a prisoner
- Where one partner is part of a religious order and is fully maintained by that order or is serving a sentence of imprisonment whilst detained in hospital.
Even if both members of a couple do not meet the basic conditions (set out below), they must still claim UC jointly. This will be the case where:
- One member of the couple is over the age to qualify for state pension credit and the other is under it (previously in this situation the couple could have claimed pension credit based on the age of the older claimant).
- One member of the couple is counted as ‘receiving education’
To meet the basic conditions a person must:
- Be at least 18 years of age (see below for the exceptions to this)
- Not have reached the qualifying age for state pension credit (but see above for an exception)
- Be in Great Britain
- Not be receiving education
- Have accepted the claimant commitment
There are limited exceptions to the minimum age rule which mean that people aged 16 and 17 who can claim Universal Credit are -
- those who have limited capability for work or are awaiting assessment to determine whether they have limited capability for work and a registered medical practitioner has given a statement that supports the person is not fit for work.
- those responsible for a child (including where a 16 or 17 year old is part of a couple where the other member is responsible for a child providing the other member meets the conditions).
- those with regular and substantial caring responsibilities for a severely disabled person
- young women who are pregnant between 11 weeks before and 15 weeks after the expected date of confinement;
- young people who are without parental support.
The test for whether someone is ‘in Great Britain’ is different to the current test for tax credits that requires someone to be ‘in the UK’.
A person will not be in GB unless they are habitually resident in the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man or Republic of Ireland. And a person cannot be treated as habitually resident unless they also have a right to reside in one of those places.
In effect this means that to claim UC you must be both habitually resident and have a right to reside. As with tax credits there are specific rules about who has a right to reside, temporary absences from GB or are Crown Servants. The rules are different to tax credits.
You cannot claim UC if you are a person ‘subject to immigration control’.
To meet the financial conditions a single claim must not have capital above a certain level (see further our capital limits section) and their income must be low enough so that the amount of UC payable is not below the set minimum amount, currently one penny (see Advice for decision makers, E1153).
To meet the financial conditions a couple must not have combined capital that is above a certain level (see further our capital limits section) and their combined income must be low enough so that the amount of UC payable is not below the set minimum amount.
Updated 10 July 2013