Universal credit: Managed migration process
Until they are selected to take part in the managed migration exercise and issued with a migration notice, most existing tax credits claimants are only affected by UC if:
- They choose to make a claim for UC
- They have a change of circumstances which ends their tax credit claim, they still need to claim support
- They need to make a claim for another benefit that UC has replaced, for example, housing benefit. Making a UC claim in this situation will result in the termination of the tax credits claim.
- They fail to renew their tax credits award on time and HMRC cannot reinstate the renewal claim but the claimant still needs to claim support.
Moving to UC in any of the above situations is referred to as ‘voluntary migration’ or 'natural migration' and is characterised by the tax credit claimant taking some action (either by choice or due to a change of circumstances requiring it) to move to UC at a time that they choose.
However, some tax credit claimants may choose not to claim UC and may not have any change of circumstances that would require them to claim UC. Most of these people will eventually move across to UC through a managed migration process by DWP/HMRC, so that eventually the tax credits system will no longer exist.
The main difference between voluntary/natural migration and managed migration is transitional protection. Due to the UC rules, some people will be better off claiming UC, some about the same and others will get less on UC than they got on their legacy benefits. The Government initially committed that there would be no cash losers at the point of moving to UC (assuming no change of circumstances) for those who are part of the managed migration. In reality, the rules that have been introduced do not provide that 100% guarantee for every case but it does provide a mechanism for DWP to add a temporary additional element to the UC award to smooth the transition to the new benefit in most of the cases where someone would be worse off when they migrate. Those who start to claim UC by choice or because of a change of circumstances ( natural/voluntary) will not have access to any transitional protection - the one exception being for certain claimants entitled to a severe disability premium in their legacy benefits (income support, JSA and ESA).
Note: The DWP/HMRC operational migration process is fairly new and is still under development. Further changes may be made as it rolls-out to more people. Some of the information is only available via DWP guidance (sometimes published) but this guidance, and underlying processes, may change without any updates being published. We therefore recommend that for individual cases you check the latest position with DWP before taking or refraining from taking any action.
In Great Britain, DWP initially began by testing the managed migration process from July 2019 through a pilot. The pilot was initially expected to last for 12 months before being evaluated and the process gradually scaled up. During the 12-month test period, up to 10,000 existing legacy benefit claimants (including some tax credit claimants) were expected to be moved across to UC through the new process. However, due to the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK (March 2020 onwards) the pilot was suspended. The draft regulations for the pilot were published in January 2019 and were then formally laid before Parliament, under negative procedure, on July 2019, however they included a limit on the number of cases that could be migrated (10,000 cases).
Since then, further regulations were laid in July 2022 which make a number of amendments and remove the 10,000 restriction on the number of cases.
DWP have said that they expect to have issued migration notices to most tax credit claimants by the end of 2024. Because the migration notice gives a period of 3 months during which to claim UC and before the legacy benefits/tax credits are terminated, the schedule means the migration of most tax credit claimants is expected to be completed by the end of the 2024/2025 tax year (March 2025).
DWP restarted work on the migration process in 2022 and from May 2022 began issuing the first migration notices. They are expanding the exercise both in terms of the number of migration notices being issued and across geographic locations and expect to be covering the whole of the country by December 2023. Initially notices were sent out in 250-500 batches. In early 2023, DWP started issuing 1,000 notices a month and in August 2023 substantially increased to 30,000 notices a month with an expectation of 80,000 a month by the end of 2023.
See our migration roll-out schedule page for more information.
The Department of Communities announced a delay to managed migration of legacy benefit claimants to UC in Northern Ireland. The intention was initially to consider learning from the managed migration pilot in Great Britain from July 2019. Northern Ireland was due to begin managed migration in 2020 and aim to complete by the end of 2023. In July 2022, further regulations were published, similar to those in GB, to prepare for the resumption of the move to UC.
Starting from April 2023, the Department of Communities started to issue small batches of migration notices to those living in certain areas
Some people will not move across to UC because they are not entitled to UC - for example, where both claimants have reached state pension credit qualifying age. It is not yet clear what process will cover pensioners in this situation or anyone else who won't qualify for UC . It is also not yet clear whether people who have not yet reached but are close to reaching their state pension credit age will be issued with a migration notice.
Most mixed age couples will move to UC because they are not able to claim pension credit. However, it is not clear what the position of certain mixed age couples, who can make a claim for pension credit instead of UC due to the fact they were in receipt of pension age housing benefit on 14 May 2019 (and have not had a subsequent break in claim), will be. See our pensioners page for more information about this group.
There may be some people who will not be permitted to claim UC or pension credit and therefore will not be part of any migration exercise. It is expected that they will remain on tax credits until the tax credits system is closed down.
A migration notice informs a person that all awards of any existing benefits (those which UC is replacing) to which they are entitled are to terminate and that they will need to make a claim for universal credit. It also sets out the day (deadline day) by which a UC claim must be made.
The legislation states that the DWP may, at any time, issue a migration notice to a person who is entitled to an award of an existing benefit. Existing benefits are those which UC is replacing including working tax credit and child tax credit. In other words, DWP have a discretion whether to issue a notice or not to any individual.
DWP guidance suggests that some people may be excluded permanently from receiving a migration notice and some may be deferred from receiving a managed migration notice even if they live in an area where notices are being issued.
The Case Manager Guidance (Page 8) permanently excludes claimants who are:
- Currently in prison
- In receipt of tax credits with a nil award and have no other existing benefits in payment
- Within 6 months of State Pension age
- In receipt of housing benefit only and are living in specified or temporary accommodation
- A joint tax credit claimant and their partner is in prison in a member state
- Receiving a tax credit supplement
- Living abroad and receiving a DWP benefit that allows them to claim CTC
- Posted workers (work for a UK company in an EU country)
- Zambrano carers
The list of deferrals includes the following (but please note this list is likely to change frequently and updates may not be published by DWP):
- Housing benefit claimants only – until it can be identified whether they have a partner in the data that is shared with DWP
- Claimants aged 16 or 17 who are claiming in their own right or as part of a couple claim – until their 18th birthday
- Fraud/DWP compliance cases being investigated – until the investigation is complete
- HMRC and DWP special customer records – until they can be accommodated in the process
- ESA claimants in the assessment phase with no work capability assessment outcome – until a WCA outcome is applied to their legacy benefit
- ESA and JSA claimants with nil awards – until a process is designed to include them
- Claimants whose mail is returned as no longer living at their address – until the correct address can be established
- Claimants with a child in non-advanced education who are aged 19 – until the child reaches 20
- Claimants with a visual impairment – until the migration notice is designed to be issued in braille and large print
- Claimants who require a home visit – until a process is designed for home visits within the Move to UC programme
- Claimants who have an appointee – until a process is designed to include them
- There is a mismatch between data held on Track Move to UC migration data base and the data held on CIS searchlight system – until the data can be reviewed and corrected
- Terminally ill claimants – until a process is designed to include them, if that is appropriate in their circumstances
If a tax credit claimant who falls into one of the exclusion or deferral categories receives a migration notice, it may be worth asking DWP to cancel the notice.
The legislation refers to ‘issuing’ a notice but doesn’t appear to prescribe how it should be issued. DWP guidance suggests that migration notices are issued by post to those selected (Page 4, Case Manager Gudiance), although this may change.
DWP guidance also suggests that if an individual issued with a migration notice has not made a claim 7 weeks after receiving their migration notice, a reminder notice letter will be issued.
If no claim for UC has been made 10 weeks after the migration notice was issued, a second reminder notice issued. The second reminder is by SMS text if there is a mobile number held, otherwise it is by letter. (Page 5, Case Manager Guidance)
Copies of migration notices can be requested but the original deadline day still applies.
Under the legislation, if a person is entitled to an award of an existing benefit and, for the purposes of that award, is a member of a couple then then DWP must issue a migration notice to their partner as well. This also applies where someone is part of a polygamous marriage – notices will be issued to all members of the marriage. All notices should have the same deadline day.
Both members of a couple must claim UC. In polygamous marriages, only the earliest parties to the marriage claim as joint claimants, while later partners claim as single claimants. Also, in some legacy benefits such as income support, only one member of a couple was the claimant, so UC will be different for those couples.
The process for claiming UC as a couple is slightly different to other benefits. To make a joint claim, both members of the couple will need to open separate UC accounts. For that reason, DWP recommend that they take it in turns to set up their UC accounts. Whilst making the claim, the first person will be asked if they have a partner (for UC purposes) and will be prompted to ask for a linking code. When their partner opens their account they will also need to select that they have a partner who they live with and they can enter the linking code, their partners name and postcode, which will result in the claims getting linked together as a joint claim.
There is a You Tube video from DWP explaining the process here.
The migration notice must specify a day by which a UC claim must be made. This is called the deadline day.
The deadline day must not be within the period of 3 months beginning with the day on which the migration notice is issued. So people should have at least 3 months from the date the notice is issued to make their UC claim.
For example if a migration notice is issued on 15th June we would expect the notice to show a deadline of 16th September if the minimum 3 month period is used. This is because the deadline day must not be within 3 months beginning on the day it was issued.
The legislation allows DWP to change the deadline day (by which a UC claim has to be made) to a later date either:
- On the DWP’s own initiative; or
- Following a request to change it from the individual (as long as it is requested before the deadline day)
In both cases the legislation requires a ‘good reason to do so’.
The DWP must then notify the person of their new deadline day.
The legislation says DWP ‘may’ change the deadline day following a request from an individual, this means they do not have to if they do not agree there is a good reason.
DWP guidance gives the following examples of good reasons:
- The individual did not engage with the process until their claim by date was already very close
- They need more time to get documentation or information together to make the claim
- They need more time to get support with the claim
- They have planned hospital treatment which means they cannot make their claim by the date.
DWP guidance says that a maximum of 4 weeks can be applied for at a time, and that further extensions should be requested at least 1 week before the claim date to allow time to discuss options. There is no limit on the number of times an extension can be requested or allowed. Extensions must be requested before the deadline date as once that has passed, extensions can no longer be applied.
DWP guidance also suggests that they may extend the deadline date in certain cases where the deadline for making a claim is close. However, claimants should not rely on DWP as the power is discretionary. Claimants and adviser should therefore should assume legacy benefits will terminate on the date in the original notice.
Where a migration notice has been issued, the DWP can cancel it if:
- It was issued in error
- The DWP considers it necessary to do so in the interests of the person, or any class of person, or to safeguard the efficient administration of universal credit.
As explained above, in cases where a tax credit claimant has been issued with a notice but falls into one of the categories of people that DWP guidance suggests should be permanently excluded or deferred, it may be possible to argue that DWP should cancel it as it has been issued in error if that is beneficial for the claimant. However, the legislation gives DWP discretion as to whether to cancel any migration notice.
The legislation does not cover anything about changes of circumstances after the migration notice is issued. However DWP guidance suggests that if someone who has received a migration notice has a change of circumstances before the deadline day that moves them into an exclusion or deferral category, they may be issued with a cancellation notice.
If their circumstances change again, assuming the change does not end legacy benefits, then they may issued with a new migration notice. If they are no longer entitled to legacy benefit as a result of the change, they would need to claim UC to continue financial support but that would not be a managed migrated claim.
Claimants who move address to an area that has not yet started to be sent migration notices will continue their migration journey.
Where a claim for UC is not made on or before the deadline day set out in the migration notice, all existing benefits to which the person is entitled will terminate. The benefits will terminate are those that UC is replacing – income-related ESA, income-based JSA, income support, housing benefit, working tax credit and child tax credit.
DWP guidance suggests that in some cases DWP may suspend, rather than terminate, legacy benefits and extend the deadline day to allow the claim to be made. Where a claimant contacts DWP after a suspension letter is sent out, the legacy benefits can be reinstated. However, none of this is set out in legislation and it is not clear when DWP are using this suspension/extension process, therefore claimants and advisers should work on the basis that legacy benefits will terminate on the dates set out above.
Working tax credit and child tax credit will terminate the day before the deadline day.
Income-related ESA, income-based JSA, income support, housing benefit awards will terminate on the last day of the period of 2 weeks beginning with the deadline day. This effectively gives a 2 week run-on of these benefits. These extra payments will not be deducted from future UC payments.
The only exception to the termination rule is where there is an award of housing benefit which is based on entitlement in respect of specified accommodation or temporary accommodation. Such awards will not terminate if no claim is made before the deadline in the migration notice.
If a tax credit claimant receives a migration notice, there is no requirement of them to inform HMRC that they have made a claim for UC.
According to DWP guidance, any transitional element will only be calculated once the individual proves their identity and is eligible for UC. Once a UC claim has been made, usual UC processes around verifying information and evidence apply – such as claimant identity and checking details of any rent payments. If information is not provided within a month of it being requested, the claim will be closed.
Tax credit claimants may receive a renewal pack during the migration process. This should be completed if sent, as should any in-year finalisation forms sent after the UC claim has been made.
If a tax credit claimant receives a migration notice and does not make a claim for UC on or before the deadline day, as explained above their tax credit award (and any other legacy benefit) will be terminated.
However, if they make a claim for UC after the deadline day but on or before the final deadline day, their UC award will start on the deadline day and the person will be entitled to transitional protection.
The final deadline is the day that would be the last of the first assessment period in relation to an award commencing on the deadline day.
Last reviewed/updated 2 October 2023