Residence rules

The residence rules specific to universal credit are set out in the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 (SI.No.376/2013).

NB: See below for equivalent legislation in Northern Ireland.

Basic condition for entitlement to universal credit

Section 4 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012

Sets out the basic conditions for entitlement to universal credit including that the claimant is in Great Britain, and regulation making powers in relation to the circumstances in which a person is to be treated as in Great Britain, including the disregard of temporary absence.

Person treated as not being in Great Britain

Regulation 9 of SI.No.376/2013 as amended by regulation 8 of SI.No.683/2020.

Provides that a person will not be treated as being in Great Britain unless they are habitually resident, that a person will not be treated as being habitually resident unless they have a right to reside (other than the categories of right to reside specified in paragraph 3 and 3A, that include being a jobseeker), and sets out the categories of right to reside that will lead to the claimant being treated as being in Great Britain.

Crown servants and members of the armed forces who are posted overseas

Regulation 10 of SI.No.376/2013

Excludes crown servants and members of the armed forces who are posted overseas from the requirement to be in Great Britain.

Temporary absence from Great Britain

Regulation 11 of SI.No.376/2013

Sets out the circumstances in which periods of absence are disregarded and the periods for which absence in each of the specified circumstances is disregarded.

In Northern Ireland, the Welfare Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2015 together with SR.No.216/2016 make provision relating to residence that is equivalent to that made in Great Britain.

Further explanation of the legislation is set out in guidance. Please note, however, guidance is not binding and cannot override the legislation.

Advice for decision making

Chapter C1

Sets out detailed guidance for decision makers on the presence condition and other residence issues.

DWP guidance from

Going abroad

Sets out guidance on temporary absences abroad, circumstances where the one month period can be extended, and holidays.

DWP guidance from

Refugees and asylum seekers

Provides definitions of ‘refugee’ and ‘asylum seeker’, sets out guidance on what support is given, and provides information on people arriving under a resettlement scheme, identifying a refugee, and method of payment.

DWP guidance from

Habitual Residence Test

​Provides guidance on the habitual residence test, differences between legacy benefits and universal credit, and the genuine prospect of work test.

DWP guidance from

Supporting citizens arriving from Afghanistan

​Provides guidance on the scheme to support locally employed staff who have worked for British Forces in Afghanistan.

DWP guidance from


​Provides guidance on the Homes for Ukraine scheme and residence requirements for Ukrainians and their family members.

DWP guidance from

European Union settlement scheme

Provides guidance on how to provide evidence of settled status.

Case law​ provides further interpretation of the legislation and establishes legal precedent.

Court of Appeal

[2023] EWCA 1307 (Civ)

Court of Appeal rules that DWP must carry out individualised assessments of whether refusal to award universal credit to claimants with pre-settled status would breach their right to live in dignity

NI Commissioners

[2023] NICom 31

Whether a third country national granted entry clearance under the EU Family Permit route to join partner in Northern Ireland could establish a right to reside for universal credit purposes

Upper Tribunal

[2023] UKUT 112 (AAC)

Claimant can rely on social assistance benefits paid to a partner in order to demonstrate self-sufficiency where their presence did not increase entitlement

Upper Tribunal

[2023] UKUT 44 (AAC)

Universal credit child element is not a social security family benefit for the purposes of Regulation (EC) 883/2004

Upper Tribunal

[2022] UKUT 330 (AAC)

Before refusing universal credit on a right to reside ground to a claimant with pre-settled status, Secretary of State must be satisfied that refusal would not prevent them living in dignity

Upper Tribunal

[2022] UKUT 77 (AAC)

Guidance to representatives, tribunals and the DWP on the approach to obtaining information from an abusive partner to support a claim from the person fleeing abuse when a non-molestation injunction is in place - information needed in connection with a right to reside issue

Supreme Court

[2021] UKSC 53

Supreme Court unanimously allows DWP’s appeal against Court of Appeal ruling that government acted unlawfully in barring EU citizens from relying on pre-settled status to access universal credit


[2021] C- 709 (20)

CJEU rules that, while legislation excluding EU citizens with pre-settled status from universal credit is not contrary to EU law, competent authority must check that refusal of assistance does not infringe individual’s right to human dignity

Court of Appeal

[2020] EWCA Civ 1741

Court of Appeal rules that government acted unlawfully in barring EU citizens from relying on ‘pre-settled status’ to access universal credit

High Court

[2020] EWHC 998 (Admin)

High Court rules that precluding pre-settled status from conferring a right to reside is not unlawful discrimination

Upper Tribunal

[2019] UKUT 219 (AAC)

Where a person has become involuntarily unemployed after less than a year, self-employed status can be retained

Upper Tribunal

[2019] UKUT 192 (AAC)

Effect of CJEU judgment in Lounes - dependent EEA family members of dual nationals can derive right to reside where dual national exercised Treaty rights prior to acquiring citizenship of host state.

Upper Tribunal

[2019] UKUT 184 (AAC)

Basic condition of being in Great Britain can be met with a right to reside that falls outside situations in regulation 9(4) of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

Upper Tribunal

[2017] UKUT 130 (AAC)

Analysis of proportionality is not relevant to refusal of right to reside for Greek claimant in the UK for 30 years.