Universal credit: Claim conditions

To be entitled to Universal Credit, you must meet certain basic and financial conditions. This section gives a brief overview of these requirements. 

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 (although there are some exceptions to this explained below).


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.

What is a couple?

For UC, a couple is defined as:

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.

Member of a couple – single claims

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:

  1. Where one partner is not yet 18 and cannot get UC as a person under the age of 18
  2. Where one partner is not treated as ‘in Great Britain’
  3. Where one partner is a prisoner
  4. 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. 

Couples who don’t need to meet the basic conditions

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:

Basic conditions

To meet the basic conditions a person must:

Age requirement

There are limited exceptions to the minimum age rule which mean that people aged 16 and 17 can claim UC in some situations. Broadly: -

In Great Britain requirement

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’.

Normally 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’.

There are exceptions to the requirement for people who are in  - or arriving in - GB (or NI) under certain Home Office rules, for example people from Ukraine and people from Afghanistan.  

More detailed information can be found in the ADM Chapter C1 which covers the ‘in Great Britain’ requirement.
Financial conditions

Single claimants

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).

Joint claimants

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.

Last reviewed/updated 27 June 2024