When you need to apply for Universal Credit

You’ll receive a letter in the post from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) 

It is important that you do not do anything until you receive your letter. This is called a Universal Credit Migration Notice and it tells you when you need to move to Universal Credit.

You will not be moved automatically and you must claim Universal Credit by the deadline date given in your letter. The deadline date for applying is 3 months from the date the letter is sent out. Look out for your letter as ignoring it could even stop your payments. If you have a question about claiming Universal Credit or have a problem getting online, call the number in your Universal Credit Migration Notice letter.  

If you currently receive tax credits, you’ll still need to claim by the date in your letter even if you’ve just renewed your tax credits. 

Many people will be eligible for at least the same amount on Universal Credit as their previous benefit.  

If your Universal Credit entitlement is less than your previous tax credits or benefits then you may be eligible for financial protection when you move to Universal Credit. This additional amount is known as ‘transitional protection’. To help show how transitional protection works, here is an example. 


Sarah is entitled to £700 on her existing benefits or tax credits. 

Her Universal Credit entitlement is £600. 

This mean’s Sarah’s transitional protection will be £100. 

Her total Universal Credit entitlement is now £700. 

To be eligible for ‘transitional protection’: 

  • you must only apply for Universal Credit once you have received your Universal Credit Migration Notice letter 
  • you must apply before the deadline date in your Universal Credit Migration Notice letter 
  • there must be no changes in your circumstances 

Find out more about how your payments are protected.

When you’re likely to get your letter

Look out for your Migration Notice letter in the post at some point this year. The table below will give you a rough idea of when you’re likely to receive your letter. This is just a guide so don’t worry if you don’t receive a letter by the date given below.  

If you are unsure if you need to move, you should seek independent advice.    

Your current benefitWhen you may get your letter
Tax credits onlyBetween now and the end of March 2024
Tax credits (pension age)From July 2024
Tax credits with Housing BenefitFrom April 2024
Income Support
– Income Support only
– Income Support with Housing Benefit
– Income Support with Tax credits
– Income Support with Housing Benefit and Tax credits
From April 2024
Housing Benefits onlyFrom June 2024
Income-related Employment Support Allowance with Child Tax creditsFrom July 2024
Income-based Jobseekers AllowanceFrom September 2024
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) only From Autumn 2024 (TBC) 
Employment and Support Allowance with Housing Benefit From Autumn 2024 (TBC) 


If you claim within the deadline date on your letter, then some normal Universal Credit eligibility rules do not apply to you.  

If you receive tax credits, you can make a Universal Credit claim even if you have money, savings and investments of more than £16,000. After 12 monthly assessment periods, normal eligibility rules will apply and you will not be eligible for Universal Credit if you still have more than £16,000 in money, savings and investments. 

You can claim Universal Credit if you or your partner are in full-time advanced education (such as university) for the duration of your course. Find out more about Universal Credit and students.

Find out more about eligibility for Universal Credit.

Some people will not move to Universal Credit 

You will not move to Universal Credit if you only receive Housing Benefit and you, or you and your partner:

  • are of state pension age (66 years old or over) 
  • live in temporary accommodation provided by a council because you were homeless 
  • live in supported accommodation including refuges, hostels, extra care housing and some sheltered housing  

Instead, you will continue to receive support with housing costs through Housing Benefit. 

If you only receive new style benefits, either  New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA (C) or New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA (C), then you will not be asked to move to Universal Credit. 

If you’re not sure which benefits you’re on, you can speak to an independent adviser.

Tax Credits and Pension Age 

If you are claiming tax credits and are of State Pension Age, or are part of a Mixed Aged Couple (where one of you is under and the other is above State Pension Age) DWP will write to ask you to apply for Universal Credit or Pension Credit, depending on your circumstances.    

If you are asked to claim Pension Credit, or are already in receipt of Pension Credit, you will receive a letter called a Tax Credit Closure Notice. 

If you are of state pension age and are asked to apply for Universal Credit, you can choose to claim Pension Credit instead, if you meet the eligibility criteria for Pension Credit. However, if you choose to claim Pension Credit instead, when asked to apply for Universal Credit, you will not be entitled to transitional protection and will not be able to move to Universal Credit later.  

For more information visit Pension Credit Eligibility. 

When you move to Universal Credit you may be notified, where applicable, of overpaid tax credits with a letter from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). 

If you are worried about your finances, you can find information about payment plans and how DWP Debt Management can help. Visit GOV.UK for more information. 

Mixed Aged Couples on tax credits and Housing Benefits 

If you are part of a Mixed Aged Couple and are receiving tax credits and Housing Benefit, when you get your letter to move to Universal Credit it is important you make a claim as directed. If you do not, then both your tax credit and Housing Benefit claims will be closed immediately after the deadline date. Visit GOV.UK for more information.  

If you do not make a claim for Universal Credit when invited to, you can reclaim Housing Benefit, so long as there have been no changes to your circumstances. You must reclaim within 3 months of your Housing Benefit claim ending or you will no longer be entitled to claim Housing Benefit as a Mixed Age Couple.    

You should seek advice from your Local Authority about backdating your claim for Housing Benefit.