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

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?

From 30 March 2022, the remaining restrictions on claiming UC are removed. From that date, frontier workers, who had so far been unable to claim UC, are permitted to claim UC. Consequently, from 30 March 2022, frontier workers are no longer permitted to make a new claim for tax credits (unless they already claim tax credits and are renewing or they are adding WTC to their existing CTC claim – and vice versa)

This means that there are no longer any restrictions on who can make a claim for UC. However anyone in receipt of existing legacy benefits, including tax credits, should get advice before making a claim for UC as their legacy benefits will end even if they are not entitled to UC.

In addition, certain mixed age couples are able to claim pension credit instead of UC. There is nothing stopping them claiming UC as far as we are aware, but pension credit may provide them with a higher amount of financial support. We explain more about this on our pensioners page. This is a complex area and specialist welfare rights advice should be taken before any claims are made.   

For information purposes, we have included information below on the different groups who were excluded from claiming UC at various points:

Frontier workers

On 1 February 2019, rules were introduced which mean that 'frontier workers' were not permitted to claim UC and if they wish to claim support from the UK were expected to claim tax credits and/or other legacy benefits that UC is replacing instead.

This restriction on claiming UC was removed from 30 March 2022.

Those with three or more children

Up to and including 31 January 2019, claimants who were 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 an exception applies.

Those entitled to severe disability premium with another benefit

This exception was introduced from 16 January 2019 and revoked with effect from 27 January 2021 and is often referred to as the ‘SDP Gateway’.

Between 16 January 2019 and 27 January 2021, it covered someone who

The rule was introduced following 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. The purpose of the rule was to prevent individuals in receipt of a 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. From 27 January 2021, a transitional SDP element is introduced in UC which provides that transitional protection.

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 have been able to submit a claim for UC (although that does not mean they will be entitled to UC) and, from 30 March 2022, the final restriction preventing frontier workers from claiming UC is removed and they too can claim UC.

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. This rule does not apply to '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, most mixed age couples are only able to claim UC 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 some exceptions to this rule which mean that some mixed age couples can still make a claim for pension credit– see our pensioners page for more information. They are not technically prevented from claiming UC but they may be financially better off claiming pension credit instead.

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.

Last reviewed/updated 18 May 2023