Skip to navigation Skip to content Skip to footer

Check if you're eligible for ESA

This advice applies to England

Have you got:

  • an illness
  • a health condition, or
  • a disability

that means you find it difficult or impossible to work?

If you have, you might be able to get money from the government to help you.

ESA is a payment you could get every 2 weeks to help with your living costs.

Can you get ESA?

If you have a visa that says “no recourse to public funds” or you’re subject to immigration control, your immigration status could be at risk if you apply for benefits. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice to get advice.

There are 2 types of ESA - called ‘contribution-based’ and ‘income-related’. You can be eligible for either, or both at the same time. Universal Credit has replaced income-related ESA for most people.

Contribution-based or 'new style' ESA

You may be able to get contribution-based ESA if:

  • you have a health condition that makes it difficult or impossible to work
  • you’re not getting Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from an employer (but you can apply up to 3 months before your SSP ends - if you get ESA, it will be paid as soon as your SSP ends)
  • you’re not old enough to get the State Pension
  • you don’t work, are going to stop work or the work you do will be ‘permitted work’ when you claim ESA
  • you live in the UK. If you live in the EEA or Switzerland you may get ESA if you have previously lived in the UK - the rules are complicated so it might be best to get advice if this applies to you

You’ll also need to meet National Insurance conditions for the last 2 complete tax years before you claim - in 2019 these years were 2016/17 and 2017/18.

To meet the National Insurance conditions, you’ll need to have either paid enough National Insurance:

  • in both of the last 2 tax years

  • in 1 of the last 2 tax years and been credited with enough National Insurance contributions in the other tax year

If you’re not sure if you’ve paid or been credited with enough National Insurance contributions, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

You can’t get contribution-based ESA at the same time as Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or contributory Jobseeker’s Allowance. If you get these benefits and want to claim contribution-based ESA instead, you can do, but you’ll need to stop your current claim to claim contribution-based ESA instead.

If you have a partner who is getting one of these benefits, you may still be able to get contribution-based ESA at the same time.

If you were self-employed for the tax year 2017 to 2018 and are making an ESA claim in January 2019, you must pay your 2017-18 class 2 NI contributions before you can get contribution-based ESA. You can pay your NI contributions before submitting the rest of your self-assessment tax return if you need to.

If you’re getting a pension, this might reduce the amount of contribution-based ESA you can get - or you might get nothing at all. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice to find out how a pension could affect your ESA.

If you haven’t paid enough NI contributions to get contribution-based ESA, you may be able to get income-related ESA. 

Universal Credit has replaced income-related ESA for most people. You can make a new claim for income-related ESA if you’re getting, or recently stopped getting, a benefit with a severe disability premium (SDP).

You might be getting an SDP with:

  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit

Check your award letter to see if you’re getting an SDP.

If you’re not getting an SDP you can check if you’re eligible for an SDP on GOV.UK

If you recently stopped getting a benefit with an SDP, and you’re still eligible for an SDP, you can make a new claim for income-related ESA. You must claim within a month of your old benefit stopping.

If you’re eligible for an SDP but it’s not included in your current benefit, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you can’t make a new claim for income-related ESA, you should check if you can apply for Universal Credit.

If you get the severe disability premium

You can make a new claim for income-related ESA if:

  • you don’t work, are going to stop work or the work you do will be ‘permitted work’ when you claim ESA
  • you live in the UK
  • you have savings or investments worth less than £16,000
  • your partner works less than 24 hours per week
  • you’re either a British citizen, you're from the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland and you have 'settled status', or the 'right to reside', or you’re not ‘subject to immigration control

You or your partner can’t receive income-related ESA at the same time as Income Support, income-based JSA or Pension Credit. If you or your partner receives Income Support or income-based JSA you’ll have to stop the claim and claim income-related ESA instead.

If you’re from the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein

To apply for ESA you need to show:

  • you have a right to claim benefits in the UK - this is called a ‘right to reside’ and depends on things like your work, family and personal situation

  • the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man is your main home and you plan to stay - this is known as being ‘habitually resident’

If you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years or more

You should apply for ‘settled status’. If you have settled status, you automatically have a right to reside.

Check how to apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Your ESA might stop if you don’t have settled status by 31 December 2020.

If you’ve lived in the UK for less than 5 years

You should apply for ‘pre-settled status’ - if you have it, you might be able to get ESA. You’ll still need to show:

Check how to apply for pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

The government has said that after 31 December 2020 people from the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein and their families with pre-settled status will have the same entitlement to benefits as they do now. There’s no legal basis for this at the moment. We’ll update our advice as changes happen.

Find out more about staying in the UK after Brexit.

If you're a returning UK resident

You’ll need to give evidence to show the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man is your main home and you plan to stay. This is known as being ‘habitually resident’.

Check how to prove you’re habitually resident.

If you’re not eligible

Find out what benefits and extra help you could get using our simple and quick online tool. You may be eligible for Attendance Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.  
Did this advice help?
Why wasn't this advice helpful?
Did this advice help?

Thank you, your feedback has been submitted.