Brits returning from overseas to be hit by Eastern European benefit curbs

Published:  21 Dec at 6 PM
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UK expats returning home after living or working overseas for three months or more are due to be hit by the same benefit restrictions as will apply to immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria.

In a bid to dissuade Bulgarians and Romanians from coming to the UK for work and claiming benefits, the Department of Work and Pensions has introduced new, restrictive rules which will also apply to UK nationals returning from overseas posts or time abroad. The reruenting UK expats will be affected as the government is unable to discriminate between nationals and citizens of other EU states.

A tough new residence test and a questionnaire containing 200 questions must be taken in order for UK expat returnees to qualify for work-related benefits. The questions, twice as many as in the former test, include whether returnees own property in the UK and whether their children attend UK schools.

If returning Britons, fail the test, they will be disallowed from access to Job Seekers’ Allowance, income support and other work-related benefits. MPs from the Home Affairs select committee are protesting the move, saying that it's unfair to former taxpayers who’ve been abroad for a time.

MP James Clappison believes that the government’s job is to control EU migrants’ benefit payments rather than affecting British citizens who have previously paid taxes on their salaries before moving or working overseas for a period. The new measures are likely to affect expats whose jobs abroad have finished and who don’t have UK-based positions to return to.

According to a DWP spokesperson, it has always been the case that that Britons who choose to work abroad must take a habitual residence test on their return to the UK. The reason, he added, is that no contributions to the UK economy have been made whilst the person is overseas.

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