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Claiming Disability Benefits if You Live in Another European Country

Disability benefits are available to British citizens living in Europe.

The interconnected global village becomes more real on a constant basis. As a citizen of the UK, you're entitled to work in any country in the European Economic Area (EEA). Because disability benefits are almost always designed to compensate for a disadvantage, a large number of them remain applicable as long as you're still in the EEA or Switzerland.

Qualification Criteria

The countries in which this agreement is effective are Switzerland and the EEA - the 27 European Union (EU) states together with Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. In addition to living in one of these countries, there are other preconditions that you must meet.

In this legislation, you're given the title of frontier or posted worker if your UK-based company sends you to work in one these countries. This means that you'd be paying National Insurance in the UK because of your work. You can also be a family member – by which the rules mean a spouse or civil partner, or a dependant child – to tick this box for eligibility.

In addition, you'll probably qualify if you've been paying National Insurance for long enough to have claimed a sickness benefit if you were in the UK, based on your level of contributions. If you're currently receiving certain benefits, you also have an excellent chance of being able to claim from abroad. The benefits referred to are State Pension, Industrial Injuries Benefit, a contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance or a Bereavement Benefit from the UK.

If you can pass any of these eligibility tests, you may claim the care component of a Disability Living Allowance, an Attendance Allowance or a Carer's Allowance without having to meet the standard rules of being normally resident in the UK or present in the UK. Unless you're a posted worker or claiming a Disability living Allowance or Attendance Allowance under the special rules for terminally ill people, you'll need to have spent 6 months (more correctly 26 weeks) out of the last year (52 weeks) in the UK.

Since the rules for posted workers allow for you to receive benefits from your host country, it's not surprising that your UK benefits will most likely be affected if you claim a sickness benefit from another EEA state or Switzerland. Similarly, if you're the beneficiary of another EEA country's pension or an invalidity benefit from one – your acceptance of that payment will be instead of receiving your entitlement from the UK. While living in another country, you also can't receive a Carer's Allowance if you're still able to receive other benefits to the same or greater value. This rule would include your State Pension as one of these benefits to be considered.

Duration of the Benefit

After qualifying to receive your benefit while living in another EEA country, your continued receipt of the benefit will depend on your particular circumstances. If these circumstances change, the effect on your benefits will need to be assessed. As a rule of thumb, as long as you qualify for one of the relevant benefits we discussed under qualification criteria your disability benefit should also be paid to you. If the disability payment has an expiry date, the shorter period of time will naturally apply.

If you're receiving payments because you're claiming as a family member of someone deemed to be working in the UK, your benefits will last as long as that status remains true. If you're doing so on the basis of being a family member of someone whose National Insurance contributions have been paid for long enough for them to claim a sickness benefit based on those contributions; once again you'll be paid for as long as that remains true (unless your award expires before then). In much the same way, as family of someone who's on the assessment-phase rate of an Employment and Support Allowance, or on a short-term Incapacity Benefit your benefit will last as long as theirs is valid.

To ascertain your status, or in fact to find out anything to do with this specific aspect of receiving disability grants, the correct people to contact are the Pension, Disability and Carers Service section called the Exportability Team.