Non-UK citizens and UK citizens returning from living abroad face different barriers to making a claim to universal credit to others living in the UK. They are often required to pass a habitual residence test to establish their eligibility for universal credit.

Considering the importance of the habitual residence test for those individuals affected, very little research has been conducted into how this test operates in practice and whether it is working as intended. Further, the government has released no statistics on the operation of the habitual residence test in regard to universal credit and has refused numerous requests for information from both the public and parliamentarians on costs grounds. As such, this aspect of universal credit decision-making is shrouded in secrecy.

This research was commissioned by Islington Council following concerns that local residents were experiencing issues with the habitual residence test, which resulted in them being incorrectly denied benefits or facing significant delays to their entitlements. This report intends to ‘lift the lid’ on this aspect of UC, with a focus on Islington residents and particularly EEA citizens, though findings are likely relevant for the UK as a whole.