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Claiming benefits in Europe

Your rights to claim benefits, tax credits or other financial support are protected by social security arrangements between the UK and other countries in the European Economic Area (EEA). This means you may be able to get UK benefits while living abroad in certain countries.

Who can claim benefits in the EEA?

You may be able to get benefits and other financial support if any of the following apply:

  • you've lived, worked or studied (a recognised career qualification) in an EEA country
  • you're a stateless person or refugee and you live in an EEA country
  • you're a dependant or the widow or widower of anyone who was covered by the regulations (your nationality doesn't matter)
  • you're the widow, widower or child of someone who worked in an EEA country and was not an EEA national or a stateless person or refugee (but you must be a national of that country)
  • you're not an EEA or Swiss national but legally resident in the UK
  • you've lived in the EEA country long enough to qualify

What are EEA countries?

These are countries that have benefits arrangements or reciprocal agreements with the UK. (The UK is Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales, but not the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.)

This means you may be able to get benefits in the following countries:

Austria Liechtenstein
Belgium Lithuania
Bulgaria Luxembourg
CroatiaMalta
CyprusNetherlands
Czech Republic Norway
Denmark Poland
Estonia Portugal
FinlandRomania
FranceSlovakia
GermanySlovenia
HungarySpain
Iceland Sweden
Ireland
Italy
Latvia

Other countries

Countries that follow social security arrangements with the UK but have special conditions are:

  • Switzerland
  • Gibraltar

Claiming UK benefits in other EEA countries

You may be able to get benefits while living, working or studying a career qualification abroad.

But it's important you tell your benefits office if you plan to live permanently or temporarily in another country.

Jobseeker's Allowance

If you're of working age but unemployed and actively seeking work, you may be able to get Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA).

There are two types of JSA, contribution-based and income-based. Which one you get depends on whether or not you've paid enough National Insurance contributions in the past.

Expecting or bringing up children benefits

Statutory Maternity Pay

To help you to take time off work when you have a baby, you may be able to get Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) if the following apply:

  • you've been employed by a UK employer continuously for at least 26 weeks into the 15th week before the week your baby is due
  • you're earning an average of at least £102 a week (before tax)

Maternity Allowance

If you're unable to get Statutory Maternity Pay, you may be able to get Maternity Allowance (MA) to help you take time off work when you're pregnant or have a new baby.

To qualify for MA you must have been:

  • employed or self-employed for at least 26 of the 66 weeks before the week your baby is due
  • have earned an average of £30 in any 13 weeks in the 66 weeks before the week your baby is due
  • Statutory Maternity Pay
  • Maternity Allowance

Child Benefit

You'll be able to get Child Benefit if you're bringing up a child or young person who is:

  • aged under 16
  • a young person under 19 (under 20 in some cases) who is either studying in full-time, non-advanced education (A level or equivalent) or on a government-funded training programme
  • 16 or 17 years old and has recently left school and registered for work or training with the Careers or Connexions Service or similar

Child Tax Credit

You can claim Child Tax Credit if you have at least one child and your household income is up to £41,300 a year. The amount you get depends on various things, including your annual income. You may still be entitled if your income is more than £41,300 - for example if you have a large family or your child has a disability.

The payment is made up of two elements:

  • a family element paid to any family with at least one child and worth up to £545 (2011-2012 tax year)
  • a child element paid for each child in the family and worth up to £2,555 (2011-2012 tax year)

You may get more if you care for a disabled child.

Working Tax Credit

Working Tax Credit is designed to help people on low incomes whether they are employed or self-employed. It can include support for qualifying childcare, but you don't have to have children to claim.

You may be able to get extra help if you're working 30 or more hours per week, are disabled or aged 50 or over and returning to work after a period on benefit.

Guardian's Allowance

If you're bringing up a child or children for whom you're getting Child Benefit, you may be able to claim Guardian's Allowance if both the child's parents have died.

Sometimes you can get Guardian's Allowance if only one parent has died, for example, if:

  • you don't know where the surviving parent is
  • their parents were divorced or their civil partnership has been dissolved (certain conditions apply)
  • the parents weren't married and the mother has died but it isn't known who the father is
  • the surviving parent is in prison with a minimum two years left to serve, or is detained in a hospital by order of the court (certain regulations apply)

Ill or injured benefits

Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance

Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA(C)) will be paid to people within the European Economic Area and Switzerland, provided you satisfy the National Insurance contributions in Great Britain and meet the other conditions for entitlement to benefit. You should claim in the usual way and your claim will be referred to the International Pension Centre.

Severe Disablement Allowance

You can't make a new claim for Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA).

But if you're already getting the allowance, you may be able to claim it in another EEA country if before 6 April 2001 you were unable to work for at least 28 weeks in a row because of illness or disability.

Work accidents, diseases and deafness

You may be able to claim Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit for accidents at or in connection with work if any of the following apply:

  • you were employed when the accident or event happened
  • the work accident or event that caused your illness or disability happened in the UK (there are some exceptions you can ask Industrial Injuries Branch about)

Or you may be able to claim Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit for diseases and deafness caused by certain types of work.

Disability benefits

If you're a disabled person or carer and you leave Great Britain to live in another European Economic Area state or Switzerland you may be able to receive your disability benefit abroad.

Your entitlement to Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and the amount is based on the information you told the Disability and Carers Service in the UK. If there are any changes to the information it is your responsibility to tell them.

Bereavement benefits

If your partner or civil partner died because of an accident, industrial disease or at a time of war, you may be able to get bereavement benefits.

Bereavement Payment

You may qualify for Bereavement Payment if your husband, wife or civil partner had paid their National Insurance contributions or their death was caused by their job and either:

  • you were under State Pension age when they died
  • your husband, wife or civil partner was not entitled to Category A state Retirement Benefit when they died

State Pension

You may be entitled to State Pension if:

  • you've reached State Pension age
  • you (or your husband, wife or civil partner) have enough qualifying years based on your National Insurance contributions (NICs)

To find out about your rights in another EEA country, you'll need to contact the authorities who run the pension scheme in that country.

Winter Fuel Payments

You might be able to get Winter Fuel Payments (WFP) to help pay for keeping warm in winter.  The benefit is normally paid annually by Christmas.

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