UK Benefits: What financial aid can EU immigrants get in the UK?

UKIP campaign against EU migrants
UKIP campaign against EU migrants

After several years of crises and conservative government in the UK, immigration has been a main focus of both David Cameron’s government and UKIP, the anti-immigration party. In particular, Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, has been constantly pestering non-British citizens living in the UK, especially with regards to immigrants claiming benefits: saying that they are taking advantage of the British system, that they are not adapting, that Romania and Hungary are sending waves of people over…blah blah blah.

Doesn’t this remind you of a common complaint you heard in the 90s and 00s in Spain about Latin American immigration?

There are thousands of Spaniards who come every year to the UK seeking job opportunities. Some, shortly after arriving, ask about how to get the financial aid that the British public system offers. Every case is personal and I will not get into individual assessments.

But I thought I could write another post about what is true (and not so true) about the “Benefits” system that an EU immigrant can apply for during his or her residence in the UK. First, I recommend you read the post I wrote in 2013 about benefits.
These are the most common questions about the famous benefits:

Can EU immigrants request benefits as soon as they arrive to another country?

The answer is NO. Each financial aid block depends on each of the 28 EU countries.
In the UK (and other countries) you can stay for three months in the country. After that period, you must be able to show that you have a job, that you are actively seeking work (controlled by the JobCentre) or that you have the resources to not need the support of the public services. In the case of benefits fraud, you may be excluded or expelled from the country.

If the immigrant has permission to stay, can they claim benefits as soon as they get there?

Not automatically. You must pass the “habitual residence” test, according to EU legislation.
The test takes into account factors such as the period of stay up to that point, activity, household income if they’re students, family situation and housing situation. The applicant must demonstrate attachment to the country – not only the length of the stay counts.
If a jobseeker meets the requirements of the test in the UK, he or she could claim unemployment benefits of up to £72.40 per week for one person, or £113.70 for a couple.
If a EU immigrant working in the UK or as self-employed in the UK passes the test, they can claim the housing benefit and the council tax reduction. The amounts vary, depending on the local authority.

Does an EU immigrant get the same benefits as a citizen of the host country?

Yes, the same. It doesn’t matter if the applicant or his or her family is employed or self-employed, or his or her family. However, the access to certain benefits may depend on the amount of time a worker has been paying contributions. Thus, a native of the host country may have more rights.
Unemployed immigrants aren’t entitled to the same range of benefits, especially those funded with salary contributions. Workers pay social security contributions to cover sickness, unemployment, maternity or paternity leave, disability, or occupational injury.

This graph shows jobseekers (JSA – Jobseeker’s Allowance)

Is UK financial aid more generous than other countries in the EU?

Definitely NOT. But it’s hard to compare due to the system of remuneration or the economic status of the country. If we compare the figures of expense per year per capita (EU 2010 data), the UK spends about 8,000€, or £6,660/inhabitant. In contrast other countries this expense is higher, like in Germany or France (about 9,000€ per capita), or in Denmark or the Netherlands (over 10,000€ per capita). Romania and Hungary spend the least, at 2,000€ per capita.

What about healthcare?

The UK has a universal free healthcare service, funded by taxpayers, including EU immigrants. Under EU law, EU citizens visiting (for short periods) can receive basic and emergency care with the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

Once you get the NIN and reside “permanently” in the country, you won’t have any problem registering for a GP (general practitioner) and using the NHS (National Health Service) free of charge. Even if you don’t have an NIN or an EHIC, you won’t have a problem getting assistance in a hospital.

What were the last changes in the benefits application?

As of 1 January 2014, before you can claim Jobseekers Allowance (JSA), you must have been living in the UK for three months immediately preceding the date of the application for unemployment benefits.
As of 1 April 2014, EU jobseekers cannot claim the housing benefit if they are already receiving the JSA.

What kind of financial aid is the in the UK?

The benefits are divided into four groups:

  • Benefits for people of working age.
  • Benefits for people who have retired or are planning to retire.
  • Benefits for families and children.
  • Benefits for people with disabilities and their caregivers.

I’m not going to explain all of them in detail, as this is just an overview.

Finally, here is the website that has ALL the answers about how to claim allowances in the UK:

On the website you will find the steps, data, requirements and links for processing everything. If there is anything you don’t understand, your friend Google will translate it pretty well for you. 😉

That’s it for now!

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