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Measures to limit migrants’ access to benefits

Published Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Following an article by the Prime Minister’s in the Financial Times on 27 November 2013 in which he said he shared concerns about the impact of lifting transitional restrictions on the right of Romanian and Bulgarian right to work in the UK from 1 January 2014, the Government has introduced a raft of measures “to tighten up our EEA migration rules to ensure our welfare system is not taken advantage of.”

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Following an article by the Prime Minister’s in the Financial Times on 27 November 2013 in which he said he shared concerns about the impact of lifting transitional restrictions on the rights of Romanian and Bulgarian nationals to work in the UK from 1 January 2014, the Government has introduced a raft of measures “to tighten up our EEA migration rules to ensure our welfare system is not taken advantage of.”  They include:

  • From December 2013, a “stronger, more robust” Habitual Residence Test for those claiming means-tested benefits.
  • From 1 January 2014, people coming to the UK must have been living in the UK for three months before they can claim income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance.
  • EEA jobseekers or former workers would have to show that they had a “genuine prospect of finding work” to continue to get JSA after six months (and if applicable, Housing Benefit, Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit). For those with a right to reside as a jobseeker the test is now applied after three months on JSA.
  • From 1 March 2014, a new minimum earnings threshold to help determine whether an EEA national is or was in “genuine and effective” work, and so has a “right to reside” as a worker or self-employed person (and with it, entitlement to benefits).
  • From 1 April 2014 new EEA jobseekers have been prevented from accessing Housing Benefits even if they are in receipt of JSA.
  • From 1 July 2014, new jobseekers arriving in the UK would need to have lived here for three months in order to claim Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit.
  • From 10 June 2015, EEA jobseekers have been prevented from claiming Universal Credit.

This note looks at the background to the changes, and at their likely impact. 

In his keynote speech on immigration on 28 November 2014, the Prime Minister set out plans to secure agreement on changes to European law on free movement of persons in order to allow the UK to, among other things, deny EEA migrants in-work benefits for four years and prevent Child Benefit being paid for children living abroad. These, and other proposals set out by Labour and by the Liberal Democrats, are covered in a separate Library briefing, Further proposals to restrict migrants’ access to benefits.

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