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EEA nationals: the ‘right to reside’ requirement for benefits

Published Monday, December 5, 2011

To access most social security benefits and tax credits, a EEA national has to have a 'right to reside' in the UK. Broadly speaking, this means they must be economically active. The European Commission has stared infingement proceedings agains the UK on the basis that the test discriminates against non-UK nationals from other Member States, but the UK Government has pedged to fight any challenge.

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People coming to the United Kingdom from European Economic Area (EEA) countries do not have unrestricted access to UK social security benefits and tax credits. Since 2004, access to most benefits for EEA nationals has depended on whether they have a ‘right to reside’ here. Having a ‘right to reside’ does not simply mean that a person can live in a particular country. Broadly speaking, a person who moves from one EEA country to another has a right to reside if they are economically active, or are able to support themselves.

The European Commission has concluded that the right to reside test is discriminatory on the basis of nationality, contrary to EU law, and on 29 September 2011 issued a ‘reasoned opinion’ under EU infringement procedure. The UK has two months to inform the Commission how it intends to bring UK law into line with EU law. Failure to do so could result in the UK being referred to the European Court of Justice. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has described the Commission's move as a 'fundamental challenge to the UK's social contract' and said the Government would fight it.

Commons Briefing papers SN05972

Author: Steven Kennedy

Topics: Benefits policy, Family benefits, Housing benefits, Immigration, Working age benefits

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