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Benefits for carers

Immigration, residence and presence rules

To be eligible for Carer's Allowance, Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Attendance Allowance (AA), you must meet the immigration rules and residence rules for disability and carers' benefits.

The immigration, residence and presence rules for disability and carers' benefits are complicated, so it's a good idea to seek advice if you're affected.

Click on the bars below for more information on:

  • the immigration rules that apply to your Carer's Allowance, PIP, DLA or AA claim – these relate to your immigration status and how it affects your eligibility
  • the residence rules for Carer's Allowance, PIP, DLA and AA – these rules generally mean that to claim the benefit you must show that you have the right to live in the UK and that you have lived in the UK for a period of time
  • how going abroad can affect your eligibility for these benefits
  • how to challenge a benefits decision if you think it's wrong
  • other financial support that could be available to you if you're not eligible for carers' and disability benefits

The official online source of government information on benefits is GOV.UK.

Immigration controls

In most cases, you will not be eligible for UK benefits if you are classed as "subject to immigration control" for social security purposes.

Who is 'subject to immigration control'?

You are not a person subject to immigration control for social security purposes if:

You're classed as subject to immigration control if you're not an EEA national and:

  • you require leave to enter or remain in the UK but do not have it
  • you have leave to enter or remain in the UK that has a public funds restriction, or
  • you have leave to enter or remain and are the subject of a formal undertaking

"Leave to enter or remain", "public funds restriction" and "formal undertaking" are explained below.

Your passport or identity documents will normally have information about your immigration status. If you're not sure of your immigration status, seek advice before making a benefit claim. This is because claiming benefits may affect your right to live in the UK.

Some groups of people who are subject to immigration control can still claim carers' and disability benefits. The rules about this are very complex, so seek advice.

What is 'leave to enter or remain'?

Most people who are not British or EU or EEA nationals will fall under the UK immigration rules and will require permission to enter or stay in the UK. This permission is often referred to as "leave to enter" or "leave to remain".

There are different types of leave, including limited leave and indefinite leave. If someone is given leave to stay in the UK, there may be conditions attached to their stay in the UK, such as a public funds restriction, or a formal undertaking.

What is a 'public funds restriction'?

Some people want to come to the UK on the condition that they can support themselves and don't need public funds. This is called a "public funds restriction". If you have a public funds restriction, you won't normally be able to claim most benefits. In some circumstances, claiming benefits could affect your right to remain in the UK.

What is a 'formal undertaking'?

Sometimes, the Home Office will ask for a sponsor to give a legal undertaking that they can support a person before granting them indefinite leave. This is usually only applied to older relatives who have come to settle with their family in the UK. If you're not sure whether anyone has given a legal undertaking to support you, get advice from your local law centre or Citizens Advice Bureau.

Residence and presence rules

The general residence rule for Carer's Allowance, PIP, DLA and AA is that the person claiming must:

  • be "present" in Great Britain at the time of the claim
  • be "habitually resident" in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands
  • have been present in Great Britain for a past period of 104 out of the last 156 weeks 

However, there are some situations when you don't have to meet these rules to claim. These are explained below. You may also be able to claim carers' or disability benefits if you go abroad temporarily, or move to another country in the European Economic Area (EEA). See the Going abroad section below for more details.

What does 'present' mean?

"Present" means that you're physically present in Great Britain. However, there are some situations where you can be treated as being present in Great Britain despite actually being somewhere else. This can apply if:

  • you're abroad temporarily (see Going abroad below for more details)
  • you're a serving member of the armed forces
  • you're the family member of someone who is serving in the armed forces
  • you're a mariner or offshore worker
  • you move between Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • you're a national of a EEA nation or the family member of an EEA national and have come from, or are going to, another EEA country – this only applies if you're in one of the groups of people who can rely on European Union law, so seek advice if you think this might apply to you

What does 'habitually resident' mean?

There is no precise definition of "habitually resident" in law, but it includes factors such as:

  • reasons for coming to Great Britain
  • length of stay
  • future intentions
  • previous links with the country
  • reasons for absence (people who are returning to Great Britain)

Exceptions to the 104-week presence test

People who are claiming DLA or AA because they are terminally ill don't have to meet the 104-week presence test. If you're claiming DLA for a child who is less than six months old, the period is reduced to 13 weeks. "Presence" doesn't start until the child is born, so a child born in Great Britain must be 13 weeks old before being entitled to DLA, unless they're terminally ill.

Going abroad

Going abroad can affect carers' and disability benefit claims. However, there are some situations when you can continue claiming while abroad.

Carer's Allowance

You can continue to get Carer's Allowance if:

  • you go abroad for four weeks or less, or 
  • you go abroad with the specific purpose of caring for someone who gets DLA, PIP or AA – in this case, you'll continue to get Carer's Allowance for as long as the person you're caring for continues to get AA or DLA: in most cases this will be for a maximum of 13 weeks, but in some circumstances this can be longer

Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance

It's possible for someone to continue getting DLA, PIP or AA if:

  • they go abroad for 13 weeks or less, or 
  • they go abroad temporarily to get treatment for their incapacity or disability – they must get agreement from the Department for Work and Pensions before they go abroad

Moving to another country in the European Economic Area

In some situations, it's possible to take carers' or disability benefits with you if you move to another EEA country or Switzerland. For details, see GOV.UK: claiming disability benefits if you live in another European country.

If you're going to live in another EEA country or Switzerland, or have already moved, you will need to contact the Exportability Team at the Pension, Disability and Carers Service to see if you can continue to receive the benefit or claim the benefits for the first time. Only the care component of DLA and the daily living component of PIP can be paid in another EEA country or Switzerland. The rules are complex, so it's a good idea to seek advice if you think they apply to you.

You may get these benefits while abroad if you or a family member:

  • work in the UK or pay National Insurance in the UK because of work, but live in another EEA state or Switzerland and are a frontier or posted worker
  • have paid enough National Insurance contributions to be able to claim a UK contribution-based sickness benefit
  • receive a "relevant benefit", including State Pension, Industrial Injuries Benefit, Incapacity Benefit, contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance, bereavement benefits

Help and advice with immigration, residence, presence and benefits

Immigration and residence rules can be complex, so it's a good idea to seek advice. To find help in your area, search our online directory or speak to one of our advisers. You may be able to find help from the sources listed below:

  • Most areas have a Citizens Advice Bureau and advice is free. Find your local Citizens Advice Bureau online.
  • Local advice centres. Some advice agencies can give detailed advice about entitlements and represent you at a tribunal if necessary.
  • Many areas have law centres that can provide free advice on immigration and benefits issues. You can find your nearest law centre at the Law Centres Network website.
  • Specialist organisations, such as the Refugee Council, Asylum Aid or the Family Rights Group.
  • Solicitors can give free legal advice to people on low incomes under the legal help scheme. You can find out more about legal aid at GOV.UK.
  • The Member of Parliament (MP) of the person claiming benefit may be able to help. Most MPs have a local surgery where you can get advice. You can get information about this from an advice centre or the local authority.

Challenging a decision

If you make a claim for a benefit, you must be given a written decision telling you whether or not you're entitled to that benefit. If English is not your first language, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should provide adequate interpretation facilities to explain their decision. Also, if you have a sensory disability, the explanation must be provided in a way that's accessible to you.

Sometimes people are told by staff at a benefits office that they're not entitled to benefits and can't make a claim. They should not do this. A person must be allowed to make a claim if they wish and to get a considered decision on their claim.

If you disagree with a decision about your benefit claim, you may want to challenge it. You can also make a complaint if you're not happy with the way your claim was dealt with. You can find information about how to do this by reading the pages on Challenging Carer's Allowance decisions or DLA, PIP and AA challenges.

There are deadlines for challenging decisions, so it's important to do this as soon as possible.

Sources of support

If someone isn't eligible for benefits because they don't meet the immigration or residence rules, they may be able to get help from other sources.

Alternative support is very limited and is always difficult to access. It's best to get advice on other support that may be available to you and to check that the decision not to award you benefits is correct. The type of support available will depend on your circumstances, as follows:

  • Asylum support, administered by the UK Border Agency, is paid to people who have claimed asylum. It's paid at a lower rate than benefits such as Income Support. It's also subject to certain conditions, such as a requirement to live in a particular area. It's possible to get additional amounts of asylum support for disability needs.
  • Payments under the Children Act are administered by the social services department of your local authority. Local authorities have duties towards families and people affected by disability.
  • Help under the National Assistance Act 1948 is also administered by local authority social services departments. It offers help to people in extreme circumstances.

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Page last reviewed: 30/03/2012

Next review due: 30/03/2014

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