Universal credit: Who is currently eligible to make a claim for Universal Credit?

The UK left the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020 and entered a transitional period, currently due to end on 31 December 2020, during which EU law continues to apply in the UK. The UK’s relationship with the EU beyond the end of the transitional period has not yet been finalised. Please note that the guidance below reflects the law as it applied before the UK’s departure from the EU, and as it will continue to apply throughout the transitional period.

Universal Credit (UC) has conditions that must be met in order to establish entitlement. We explain these in our entitlement to UC section.

However, before considering the entitlement conditions of the benefit, this page considers who is eligible to submit a claim.

Who cannot submit a claim for UC?

It is perhaps easier to start with who cannot submit a claim for UC. At present, there are two groups who cannot claim UC.

1. Those entitled to severe disability premium with another benefit

This exception was introduced from 16 January 2019.

The current regulations state that no claim may be made for universal credit by a single claimant who, or joint claimants either of whom:

The purpose of this rule is to stop individuals who are in receipt of the severe disability premium in income-based jobseeker's allowance, income support, income-related employment and support allowance or housing benefit from moving to UC before transitional protection is in place (likely mid 2020 onwards).

This follows Judicial Review proceedings on behalf of two claimants who were in receipt of the severe disability premium in IRESA and had to apply for UC when they moved to new local authority areas.

2.Frontier workers

From 1 February 2019, new rules have been introduced which mean that 'frontier workers' are not permitted to claim Universal Credit and will be expected to claim tax credits and/or other legacy benefits that UC is replacing, until further notice. 

In summary, frontier workers are people who are 'in Great Britain' (under Section 4(1)(c) Welfare Reform Act 2012) or 'in Northern Ireland' (under Article 9(1)(c) of Welfare Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2015) but do no reside in either GB or NI. Crown servants or members of HM Forces who are posted overseas (as defined under the UC Regulations 2013) are not frontier workers.

Note: Those with three or more children

Up to and including 31 January 2019, claimants who are responsible for three or more children were not able to make a claim for UC unless they:

From 1 February 2019, this rule no longer applies and claimants with more than 2 children are able to claim UC and are no longer permitted to make a new claim for tax credits (or other legacy benefits) unless one of the exceptions applies.

Who can submit a claim for UC?

Since December 2018, UC has been fully available in all areas of the UK, this means that the majority of people are able to submit a claim for UC (although that does not mean they will be entitled to UC) with the exception of those mentioned above.

Those who have reached state pension credit age

Those who have reached state pension credit qualifying age (see the GOV.UK website for a tool to check when that age will be reached) are not entitled to UC under the basic conditions of the benefit, although they are free to make a claim. The current exception to this is for 'mixed age' couples where one person is above state pension qualifying age and one is below that age - the UC entitlement conditions allow entitlement in such cases.

From 15 May 2019, mixed age couples are only able to claim UC (unless they meet one of the exceptions which allows them to claim legacy benefits) and are no longer able to claim pension credit. Until that date, mixed age couples could choose whether to claim UC or pension credit. There are a small number of exceptions to the general rule - for example, where pension credit can be backdated up to three months meaning if the couple met the conditions on 14 May 2019 and backdating applies they may still have been able to claim pension credit until 13 August 2019 - see Age UK factsheet for futher information).

From 1 February 2019, those who have reached state pension credit qualifying age can no longer make a new claim for tax credits.

We explain more about the rules for those who have reached state pension age in our 'pensioner' section.

DWP power to stop accepting UC claims

DWP have a general power to stop accepting UC claims in specific areas at any time under Regulation 4 Transitional Provision Regulations 2014. Please check our blog for the latest information.

Last reviewed/updated 2 June 2020