‌How do I apply for Universal Credit?

There are two steps to claiming Universal Credit: the online application and the interview. On this page we talk you through how to fill in the online form, and what to expect when you go to the Jobcentre.

There is a three-step process to getting your payments:

Step 1: Submit your claim

The quickest way to claim Universal Credit is online.

To start a claim online, you'll need to set up an account. Once this is done, you'll be given a 'to do list' to complete, to submit your claim – this will include tasks such as providing information about where you live, if you're working, and whether you have any caring responsibilities.

If you are part of a couple and living in the same household, you'll make a joint claim for Universal Credit, but you'll both need to set up online accounts first. When one of you has set up an account, you'll be given a code – called a 'linking code' – which can be used by the second person to connect your accounts together. 

If you have no access to digital services or have alternative access needs, you can call the free Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644. You can also call the helpline if you run into difficulties, or if you need to make a claim in an alternative format such as Braille, large print or audio CD. For Welsh language applications, call 0800 328 1744.

Need help? Citizens Advice also assists Universal Credit applicants. You can call its help-to-claim service on 0800 144 8 444. 

What information will I need?

You'll need to provide a range of personal information as part of your claim, so it's helpful to have the following to hand before you start. At the very least, you'll need your:

  • Contact details
  • Bank account details
  • National insurance number

Depending on what's relevant to you, you may also need details of your:

  • Current employment
  • Monthly earnings (have a copy of your payslip to hand)
  • Housing costs
  • Tenancy agreement
  • Other income, savings and any other benefits you or your partner receive

Although it goes without saying, make sure you only give correct information as you'll have to provide proof of anything you say in your application.

Once you've entered all the information, you'll be shown an estimate of the amount of Universal Credit you'll get each month. You'll also have to complete a declaration confirming that all the information you've provided is correct.

Step 2: Attend an interview

After a successful online claim, you'll have to visit the Jobcentre and have an interview with your work coach if you want to claim Universal Credit.

You'll be told what information you need to take to the interview, but it'll definitely include physical evidence of details you provided in your claim (for example, your address, how much rent you pay, and how much you earn at work).

Citizens Advice has a comprehensive guide on how to prepare for your interview and examples of documents you may need to take with you.

At this interview you'll have to sign a 'claimant commitment'. This lays out the things you're required to do – such as looking for work or trying to increase your hours – to get your Universal Credit payment. If you don't do something set out in your claimant commitment, your Universal Credit payment can be reduced.

Step 3: Await the outcome

Your payment date is based on the date you applied, usually five weeks after. For example, Sarah applies for Universal Credit on 1 September. Her first assessment period will last until 30 September. She's paid on 7 October and will then be paid on the 7th of every month after that.

  • England and Wales: You'll be paid once a month.

  • Scotland: The extra flexibility that comes with what's known as the 'Scottish choices' means you can choose to be paid monthly or fortnightly, and if you get an extra housing payment you can choose to get it in your bank account or paid directly to your landlord.

  • Northern Ireland: It's a slightly different system and it's normally paid twice a month, though you can choose to be paid monthly. Find out more on the NIdirect website.

Struggling to wait five weeks until your first payment?

You won't get your first payment until about five weeks after making your claim. If you don't have enough money to live on while you wait for your first payment, you can request an advance payment. 

Here's how it works:

  • You need to make the request via your online Universal Credit account, or through your work coach.
  • You can ask to receive all or part of your first payment.
  • It's interest-free but works like a loan, and you'll repay it through your regular Universal Credit payments, which will be lower until you pay it back.
  • You can choose the number of months you want to pay it back over, but it must be fully repaid within 24 months.
  • You'll usually be told the same day whether or not you'll get an advance, and you'll typically have the money within three working days.

If you're worried that money going into an account you share with your partner may be misused, talk to Citizens Advice before applying. It will be able to advise on whether you may be able to get Universal Credit via an alternative payment arrangement.

For more on this, read Martin's financial abuse blog.

Quick questions

  • Help! I can't verify my ID online. What do I do?

    Don't panic. We are hearing this is happening to many frustrated would-be claimants. It will take time; the Department for Work and Pensions is overloaded. But it's told us that Universal Credit staff will see that your form is incomplete and call you. Expect a 'withheld number' or 0800 number.

    You can also call the helpline (0800 328 5644) – it is VERY busy but persevere. You can also make a note in your online Universal Credit journal.

  • I need to contact the Department for Work and Pensions but I'm deaf or have hearing loss. What are my options?

    British Sign Language (BSL) users can now access Universal Credit using the video relay service on the Gov.uk website. This allows BSL users to contact the Department for Work and Pensions via an interpreter, from a smartphone (excluding Blackberry or Windows phones), computer or tablet.

    The service is available 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday, and you don't need to book in advance. Simply go to the SignVideo service webpage, turn on your microphone and front-facing camera and you'll be connected to a BSL interpreter via video. Explain what you'd like to discuss and the interpreter will telephone the service you require and relay the conversation between you and the other person.

    SignVideo has full instructions on how to use its service. You can access it via the Gov.uk link above or download the free SignVideo app on desktop or smartphone (iOS and Android).

  • What do I do if my Universal Credit payment is wrong?

    Mistakes with your Universal Credit can mean you end up getting the wrong amount of money each month. If something looks wrong, act quickly to get it fixed.

    Whether you think your initial entitlement is wrong, or if your entitlement is changed after you start claiming, the first thing you should do is contact the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644. If a mistake has been made, it should be rectified while you're on the phone.

    If this isn't the case, you can appeal against the decision by asking for a 'mandatory reconsideration'. You must do this within one month of the date of your initial entitlement decision. Read more on making a mandatory reconsideration. If you do decide to appeal, make sure you gather supporting evidence before you do so.

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