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What is the habitual residence test?

If you come to the UK from abroad and want to claim certain benefits, you must meet the conditions of the habitual residence test. You will be asked a series of questions to make sure that if you're planning to claim benefits, you've a legal right to be in the UK and that you're intending to settle here for the time being.

The test applies to British citizens returning to the UK after time abroad, as well as people coming to the UK from other countries.

The right to claim benefits depends on what terms you've been allowed to enter the UK. This is called your immigration status. If you have limited rights and are subject to immigration control, you may damage your chances of being allowed to stay in the UK if you try to claim benefits. If you are in any doubt about your immigration status, you should always seek specialist advice first.

This page explains what you need to know about the habitual residence test.

Getting advice

Proving your right to reside and intention to settle in the UK can be difficult. If you're unsure about anything, seek the help of an adviser.

If you need more help

What is the habitual residence test

The habitual residence test (HRT) is carried out on most people who apply for benefits.

To meet the conditions of the test you must prove:

  • you have a right to reside in the UK. This means you have a legal right to live here and claim certain benefits
  • you intend to settle in the UK, Isle of Man, Channel Islands or Ireland and make it your home for the time being. This is known as habitual residence.

You will be asked a series of questions to find out what efforts you have made to settle in the UK. If you are a work seeker, you will be asked what you are doing to actively find work and your English language skills will be assessed to make sure you speak English fluently enough to be able to find a job.

What benefits does the test apply to?

Immigration control

If you're subject to immigration control, you can't claim benefits. Making a claim may affect your right to stay in the UK.

This may be the case if you:

  • need permission to enter or remain in the UK but don't yet have it
  • have permission to enter or remain in the UK only if you don't claim benefits or use other public services
  • were given permission to enter or remain in the UK because someone formally agreed to support you.

If you are subject to immigration control

The test applies to the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Council Tax Benefit
  • access to local authority housing.

To claim Child Tax Credits and Child Benefit you have to prove you have the right to reside, but you don't have to prove you are habitually resident. Seek advice if you want to claim these benefits.

Next steps

Find out about whether you are likely to pass the test or if you are exempt from the test altogether:

Citizens Advice

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