Migration and Welfare Benefits

Highlights from a summary of the facts on migrants’ access to benefits by Madeleine Sumption and William Allen of the Migration Observatory in collaboration with Full Fact.

Most non-EEA nationals who are subject to immigration control are not allowed access to “public funds” (such as jobseekers’ allowance or tax credits), although they can use public services like the NHS and education.

    • Most citizens of non-EEA countries who come to live in the UK have “no recourse to public funds” in the initial years after they arrive, when there are still time limits or other conditions on their authorization to remain in the UK. This means that they are not eligible for benefits such as jobseekers’ allowance, disability allowance, tax credits, or housing benefit.
    • An EEA citizen who arrives without a job and is still looking for work cannot receive means-tested jobseekers’ allowance, child tax credit or child benefit within the first three months, under new regulations that came into force during 2014. These jobseekers must also pass the “habitual residence test” in order to claim. This test considers various factors including the measures they have taken to establish themselves in the UK and find work here. An EEA citizen who moves to the UK and is determined to be a “worker” is immediately eligible for in-work benefits like tax credits and housing benefit. However, their work must be considered “genuine and effective”.

Foreign-born people are less likely to be receiving key DWP out-of-work benefits than the UK born.

    • In February 2014, 7.7% of working-age individuals receiving ‘key out-of-work benefits’ were non-UK nationals at the time that they registered for a national insurance number (NiNo). The largest categories were jobseekers’ allowance and incapacity benefits. The DWP figures do not include housing benefit, which is paid to working people as well as those out of work.
    • Both EU and non-EU migrants are underrepresented among the key out-of-work benefits recipients when compared to the share of the population born abroad. Claimants from new EU member states have increased in recent years but remain a small share of the total, rising from 0.5% of claimants in February 2011 to 1.3% in February 2014.

People born abroad are more likely to receive tax credits than people born in the UK

  • Tax credits are designed primarily to supplement the incomes of people who are working but are on low incomes.
  • In the first quarter of 2014, foreign born people of working age were more likely to report receiving tax credits (15%) than the UK born (11%), according to Migration Observatory analysis of the Labour Force Survey. Similar shares of EU born and non-EU born people reported receiving tax credits (14% and 15% respectively).

There is no direct evidence on whether welfare has acted as a “magnet” encouraging migrants to come to the UK, and such evidence would be hard to gather.

The full summary is available here.

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