Why is this important?
Usually people who come to the UK to work can't get public funds. 'Public funds' means most welfare benefits and local authority housing. You might be able to get free NHS treatment and your children will be allowed to go to state school.
However, if you're from a country in the European Economic Area (EEA), the rules are different. EEA nationals have the right not to be treated worse than a British citizen. Here is a list of countries in the EEA:
In practice, even if you come from one of these countries, you won't automatically get benefits. For example, if you’re an EEA jobseeker who has never worked in the UK, you won't be able to claim benefits like Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's allowance, Child Benefit, Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction. But if you're an EEA worker who has been employed in the UK before becoming unemployed, you might be able to claim benefits whilst you’re looking for new work. This depends on which EEA country you're from and how long you've worked in the UK.
The rules about claiming benefits abroad are very complicated and you should get help from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
The Department for Work and Pensions website has a useful guide to benefits in the EEA. Go to www.dwp.gov.uk.
The Directgov website has useful information about certain benefits if you are coming from abroad. Go to www.direct.gov.uk.