Press release

Tough new migrant benefit rules come into force tomorrow

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Tough new rules come into force to ensure that migrants don’t take advantage of the British benefits system.

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From tomorrow (1 January 2014), tough new rules come into force to ensure that migrants don’t take advantage of the British benefits system.

As part of the government’s long-term economic plan to get people off benefits and into work, a series of reforms have been put in place to make sure migrants wanting to come to this country do everything they can to find a job.

From 1 January all EU jobseekers will have to wait for 3 months before they can apply to claim income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). This will make sure that only people who have a legal right to be in the UK and plan to contribute to the economy have access to our welfare system.

After 3 months, migrants will also have to take a stronger, more robust test if they want to claim income-based JSA.

In order to pass the improved Habitual Residence Test migrants will have to answer more individually tailored questions, provide more detailed answers, and submit more evidence before they will be allowed to make a claim. For the first time, migrants will be asked about what efforts they have made to find work before coming to the UK and whether their English language skills will be a barrier to them finding employment.

If they pass the Habitual Residence Test, EEA jobseekers will then only be able to claim JSA for 6 months. After 6 months, only those who have compelling evidence that they have a genuine chance of finding work will be able to continue claiming.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith said:

The British public are rightly concerned that migrants should contribute to this country, and not be drawn here by the attractiveness of our benefits system.

That is why, as part of the government’s long-term economic plan, we have taken action. New rules are now in place to ensure we have a fair system – one which provides support for genuine workers and jobseekers, but does not allow people to come to our country and take advantage.

I know that other countries across Europe share our concerns, so we’ll continue to work with them to ensure we can protect the integrity of our benefits system.

Further planned reforms, which will be brought in over the next year, include ensuring that new EEA job seekers will be unable to access Housing Benefit, and introducing an earnings threshold to trigger a test which will check that someone isn’t claiming to have, or have had, a job, or be self-employed to access benefits.

More information

The more robust Habitual Residence Test is now being used in all Jobcentres in England, Scotland and Wales. It will apply to any migrant (including British nationals returning from a period living or working abroad) who has a face-to-face interview at the new claim stage at Jobcentre Plus.

Migrants are only entitled to claim benefits if they can prove both that they are legally allowed to be here, and that they have sufficient ties to this country to show they are ‘habitually resident’.

The improved test will see the bank of available questions increase by more than 100, whilst the intelligent IT system will ensure that the number and type of questions asked are tailored to each individual claimant and their personal circumstances.

Migrants wanting to claim benefits will have to provide more comprehensive evidence at the point of their claim. This might include what measures they have taken to establish themselves in the UK by looking at their housing and family situation or by looking at what ties they still have abroad. They will also have to provide more evidence that they are doing everything they can to find a job.

The regulations (statutory instrument) for the requirement that migrant job seekers (including UK nationals returning from a period living or working abroad) have been living in the UK (or the Common Travel Area) for 3 months were laid in parliament earlier in December. See the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Habitual Residence) Amendment Regulations 2013 No. 3196.

See the regulations (statutory instrument) for the 6 month statutory presumption for Jobseeker’s Allowance – The Immigration (European Economic Area) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2013.

Research published in August 2013 shows that as of February 2013 over 5.6 million people were claiming DWP working age benefits. Of these 397,000 (7.0%) are estimated to have been non-UK nationals when they first registered for a NINo. This is an increase of more than 100,000 since 2008 (when the figure was 288,720).

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Published 31 December 2013