Universal Credit if you receive a Migration Notice letter
From 16 October 2023, people who get Tax Credits and no other benefit in Northern Ireland will get a letter about the Move to Universal Credit. If you get this letter, from the Department for Communities, known as a Migration Notice letter, you must claim Universal Credit to continue receiving financial support.
This information is only for people who have received a Migration Notice letter. If you have not received a Migration Notice letter you do not need to take any action.
Who will receive a Universal Credit Migration Notice Letter
Starting from 16 October 2023, people claiming tax credits only and no other benefit, will receive a letter from the Department for Communities advising them to claim Universal Credit. The letter is known as a Migration Notice.
The Department for Communities are currently not issuing Migration Notice letters to people in receipt of:
- Income Support
- Income- Based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income - Related Employment & Support Allowance
- Housing Benefit (Rental)
If you think you should not have received a Migration Notice letter you can contact the Universal Credit Service Centre.
If you receive a Migration Notice letter
If you receive a Migration Notice letter, you have three months to make a claim to Universal Credit before your tax credit payments end.
If you do not make a claim by the deadline date on your Migration Notice letter, your tax credits entitlement will end on the day before the deadline.
You may receive text messages (SMS) from the Department for Communities (DfC) about your move to Universal Credit. They will always be clearly marked as DfC and will never ask you to give, or click a link to give, personal information or financial details by message or email.
If you need help to claim Universal Credit
If you need help to claim Universal Credit, or you can't claim by the deadline date given on your letter, you can contact the Universal Credit Helpline on:
- Freephone: 0800 012 1331
- Textphone: 0800 012 1441 (for deaf users, those with hearing loss, and users with speech and communication needs) - a UC Video Relay service is available for sign language users
You can visit your local Jobs and Benefits office
You can send an online request to the Move to Universal Credit team if you can’t use a phone due to a language, speech or hearing difficulty.
You can find more information on how to manage your claim or get help with your claim at Universal Credit.
When you move from Tax Credits to Universal Credit, if the amount you are entitled to on Tax Credits is more than you receive on Universal Credit, a top up is available - this is called 'Transitional Protection'.
If your circumstances change before you make your claim, this may affect the amount you get.
You can only get Transitional Protection if you have received a Migration Notice letter from the Department for Communities and you claim Universal Credit within the three month deadline date on your letter.
Any Transitional Protection you receive as part of your Universal Credit claim may stop if your circumstances change.
If you are a full time student and you have received a Migration Notice you can make a claim to Universal Credit and you will be allowed to complete any course you were on before you made your claim.
Tax credits customers who have received a Migration Notice and have more than £16,000 of capital or savings are eligible for Universal Credit for a maximum of 12 assessment periods.
In addition, those migrating from tax credits who are gainfully self-employed will be eligible for a 12-month start-up period before the Minimum Income Floor applies.
How to claim Universal Credit
To make a claim to Universal Credit you will need:
- your email address
- your bank or building society account you want your Universal Credit paid into
- documents to confirm your identity (for example, a UK driving licence and a household bill)
- any income from work, and any other income (for example, from an insurance policy)
- your savings, investments and assets
- information on any other benefits you get
- your housing costs (including any service charges, but not rates) and your landlord’s details, if you have one
- details of the people who live in your home
If you cannot claim online, call the Universal Credit helpline for free on 0800 012 1331.
How to claim if you live with a partner
Both you and your partner will need to claim Universal Credit if you live together in the same household and are:
- married to each other
- civil partners of each other
- living together as if you are married
To begin, both of you need to create your own Universal Credit online accounts. The first person to create their account will be given a partner code, which will be displayed on screen. This code will need to be input by your partner when they register for their Universal Credit online account. This ensures the accounts are joined together and you are correctly claiming as a couple. You must make a joint claim for your household, even if your partner is not eligible for Universal Credit.
You can claim Universal Credit online.
Your tax credits entitlement will end as soon as you make a claim to Universal Credit.
What to do after you have claimed Universal Credit
To make sure there are no delays in assessing your claim there are some things you need to do as soon as possible, such as confirming your identity and agreeing your commitment.
If you are unable to verify your identity online you can contact the Universal Credit Service Centre to make an appointment at your local Jobs and Benefits office. You will be told what documents you need to bring to confirm your identity.
If you are self-employed, you will be asked to go to a self-employed interview with a Work Coach in your local Jobs and Benefits office. If you do not come to this interview, you may not be able to get Universal Credit. You can find more information about Claiming Universal Credit when you're self-employed including the reporting of business income and expenses.
You can find more information on what to do after you have claimed Universal Credit.
Your Universal Credit payments
You will get your first Universal Credit payment about five weeks after you claim, so it is important that you claim as soon as possible.
Universal Credit is normally paid to a household twice a month into your bank, building society or Credit Union account, but you can ask for payments to be made monthly.
If you get money to help pay your housing costs this is normally paid directly to your landlord each month.
Finance Support while waiting for a Universal Credit Payment
If you are entitled to Universal Credit you may be able to claim extra financial support to help while waiting on your payment to help with essential costs. You will get your first Universal Credit payment about five weeks after you claim.
- you can apply for a Universal Credit Contingency Fund grant payment if you do not have enough money to live on until you get full payment of your first Universal Credit award and need additional financial support - you will not have to pay this back
- if you have applied for Universal Credit and do not have enough money to live on, you can apply for an Advance loan - you will have to pay this back from your Universal Credit payments
- Discretionary Support is short-term financial support paid into your bank account as either an interest-free loan or a grant which you do not have to pay back
- you may get help with childcare costs
You can find more information on help while waiting for a Universal Credit payment.
If you are entitled to Universal Credit you may be eligible to claim extra support to help with essential costs. You can find more information on financial help if you get Universal Credit.
More financial help
If you are entitled to Universal Credit you may be eligible to claim extra support to help with essential costs, such as free school meals and school uniform assistance and transport, rate rebate and help with health costs.
You can find more information on financial help if you get Universal Credit.
The eligibility rules for Universal Credit may be different from your existing benefits or tax credits. You may lose access to some benefits if you don’t claim Universal Credit.
How work affects your Universal Credit payments
Your Universal Credit payments are based on your circumstances, including your income and how many children you have.
Your Universal Credit payments will reduce as you earn more, and once you earn too much your claim will close.
How often you are paid can also affect your payments. You can find more information on how work affects your Universal Credit payments.
Debt and deductions
Money can be taken from your Universal Credit payments to pay back money that you owe, for example:
- Tax Credits over-payments
- court fines
- rent arrears
- benefit debt (including advances)
- money owed to third-party suppliers (for example your gas or electricity suppliers or last resort deduction)
Normally the most that can be taken from your payment is 25 per cent of your Universal Credit Standard Allowance (the basic amount of Universal Credit you are entitled to before extra money for things like childcare and housing costs is added) - unless last resort deductions are being taken. If last resort deductions are being taken, deductions may be more than 25 per cent of your Standard Allowance.
If you don’t have enough money to live on because of deductions from your Universal Credit payments, you can contact the Department for Communities to ask for a ‘financial hardship decision’ to reduce your deductions.
You can find out more information on money taken from your Universal Credit payments or on who to talk to about deductions from your Universal Credit.
In exceptional circumstances the Department for Communities has the discretion to waive recovery of all or part of an over-payment and Recoverable Hardship Payments. For more information see over-payments of benefits and financial support.
Help and support
To find out if you are entitled to other benefits or financial support, you can contact the Make the Call Service.
If you would like independent help and advice on Universal Credit, or any of the other welfare changes, you can visit any independent advice office or contact:
If you have not received a Migration Notice letter
If you have not received a Migration Notice letter you do not need to take any action.
You will get a Migration Notice letter when it is your time to move.
If you are thinking about making a claim to Universal Credit before you receive a Migration Notice letter, you should seek independent advice.
The AdviceNI website and helpline provides free, confidential, independent advice.
You can also use a benefit calculator to check how much Universal Credit you may get. This calculator does not include:
- any transitional protection that you may receive
- any deductions for a debt
You can also check with a local benefits adviser to find out what you could be entitled to.
Migration Notice Letter information videos
What to do if you receive a Migration Notice Letter
If you receive a Migration Notice Letter: Get advice and take action