3. Eligibility

The earliest you can get the basic State Pension is when you reach State Pension age.

Your basic State Pension depends on the number of years you’ve paid National Insurance or got National Insurance credits, eg while unemployed or claiming certain benefits.

To qualify for a basic State Pension at least 1 of the following must apply:

  • you were working and paying National Insurance
  • you were getting certain benefits, eg for unemployment, sickness
  • you were a parent or carer and claiming certain benefits or credits
  • you have a spouse or civil partner whose National Insurance contributions cover you
  • you were paying voluntary National Insurance contributions

You need 30 years worth of contributions or credits to get the full basic State Pension. These are your ‘qualifying years’.

If you have fewer than 30 years, your State Pension will be less than £113.10 per week but you might be able to top up by paying voluntary National Insurance contributions.

Use the State Pension calculator to find out how many qualifying years you already have and what your State Pension would be now.

You’re working

When you’re working you pay National Insurance and get qualifying years if:

  • you’re employed and earning over £5,772
  • you’re self-employed and paying National Insurance contributions

You’re not working

In some circumstances the government will give you ‘National Insurance credits’ that count towards your basic State Pension.

Since April 2010 - you get credits if any of the following apply:

  • you care for a child under 12
  • you care for someone sick or disabled
  • you are a registered foster carer
  • you get Carer’s Allowance

Before April 2010 - you got credits under Home Responsibilities Protection if any of the following applied:

  • you claimed Child Benefit for a child under 16
  • you cared for someone sick or disabled
  • you worked as a registered carer

You also got credits if you were on Carer’s Allowance or you might get Specified Adult Childcare credits.

Married or in a civil partnership

If you’re not eligible for a basic State Pension or not getting the full amount, you might be able to qualify or ‘top up’ to £67.80 through your spouse’s or civil partner’s National Insurance contributions if:

  • you have both reached State Pension age
  • your spouse or civil partner qualifies for some basic State Pension (even if they haven’t claimed it)
  • your wife or civil partner was born after 6 April 1950 (married men and civil partners only)

You do this through claiming your State Pension.

You can no longer get the Adult Dependency Increase for someone who is looking after children or financially dependent on you. If you got it on or before 5 April 2010 you’ll keep it until 5 April 2020 provided you’re eligible until then.

You don’t qualify for a State Pension

If you’re not covered by any of these groups but want a State Pension you might be able to pay voluntary National Insurance contributions.

Men born before 1945 and women born before 1950

You need more qualifying years to get a full State Pension and a certain minimum number of years to get any State Pension at all.

Who Number of years needed for a full State Pension Number of years needed for any State Pension
Men born before 6 April 1945 44 11
Women born before 6 April 1950 39 10

Transsexual people

Your State Pension might be affected if you’re transsexual and you:

  • were born between 24 December 1919 and 3 April 1945
  • were claiming State Pension before 4 April 2005
  • can provide evidence that your gender reassignment surgery took place before 4 April 2005

Find out more and contact the GR Team.

You don’t need to do anything if you legally changed your gender and started claiming State Pension on or after 4 April - you’ll already be claiming based on your legally-recognised gender.

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