If you haven’t already, you should check you’re eligible for Universal Credit.

If you’re already on benefits, you should check if you need to move on to Universal Credit.

You’ll usually have to apply for Universal Credit online. The first thing you need to do is set up an online account – you’ll use this to apply and manage your claim. You might be able to apply by phone in special circumstances. Find out more about starting your claim and setting up an online account.

Then you’ll need to complete 4 more steps before you can get Universal Credit. You’ll need to:

  1. answer questions about your situation – this is called your ‘to-do list’

  2. confirm your identity – you can do this online or in person

  3. book an appointment with your work coach – you’ll meet them regularly as part of your Universal Credit claim

  4. speak to your work coach at the Jobcentre or on the phone – they’ll check your details and agree what tasks you’ll do regularly to get Universal Credit

Make sure you complete all of these steps – you’ll need to do them all before you can get your Universal Credit payment.

Before you complete your ‘to-do list’

In your account, you’ll be asked questions about your situation, any income you get and your housing costs. This is so the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) can decide how much Universal Credit you should get.

It’s best to gather any details or documents about these things in advance – this will make it faster to answer all the questions.

Gather details of your:

  • rent and housing situation – it’s best to have your tenancy agreement with you, if you have one
  • income and savings
  • childcare provider, if you have one – for example, their registration number and contact details
  • bank account  – like your sort code, the last 4 digits of your account number and how much money is in each account

If you don’t have a bank account

If you’re making a claim with a partner, only one of you needs a bank account. If you don’t have a partner with a bank account, you can use a friend or family member’s bank account for your first payment. You’ll need to get their permission first. You’ll need to get your own bank account before your second payment. When you have a bank account, you can update your bank details in your online Universal Credit account. If you can’t use someone else’s account, you’ll need to open one before you can claim Universal Credit. You have to give details of a bank, building society or credit union account before you can submit your claim.

Find out more about getting a bank account.

You can also read about picking the right kind of bank account on the Money Advice Service website.

If you’ve tried to open an account and your application was refused, you’ll need to use the Payment Exception Service. You’ll need to explain why you can’t open a bank account. Find out how it works on GOV.UK.

Contact us to get more help with opening a bank account.

Completing your ‘to-do list’

You can log into your Universal Credit account on GOV.UK.

When you log in, you’ll see a ‘to-do list’ with different questions you need to answer. You’ll need to answer them all before you can submit your claim.

It’s best to finish your to-do list as soon as you can – if you don’t, it might delay your first Universal Credit payment. You don’t have to complete the whole application in one sitting.

You’ll be signed out of your account if you don’t do anything for 30 minutes. The account will remember any details you’ve saved so far – it might not remember any details you haven’t submitted or saved yet.

If you’re making a claim with your partner, you might not be able to answer some of the questions until your accounts are linked. Find out more about making a joint claim.

Answering questions on your situation

You’ll have different sections in your to-do list with questions on your:

  • nationality
  • housing situation and who lives with you
  • work situation
  • income and any savings you have
  • education and training
  • health
  • children and anyone you care for
  • bank account

Make sure all the names and numbers are correct. When you enter details about any money you pay, you’ll need to write down how many pennies you paid – for example if your rent is £750, write down ‘£750.00’.

If you’re not sure of something, check any documents or emails you have.

Once you’ve completed all the questions in a section, you can’t edit your answers until you’ve finished all of the other sections

If you put in the wrong details, you might be paid the wrong amount or there might be a delay to your payment. If you’re paid too much, you’ll have to pay it back.

Your housing situation

You’ll be asked for details of:

  • your address and when you moved there
  • your living situation and if you rent your home – for example, from a private landlord, the council or a housing association
  • how much rent you pay and any service charges – these are called ‘your housing costs’
  • how many bedrooms you have – make sure this is the same as the number on your tenancy or rent agreement
  • who’s on the tenancy agreement and how much you all pay – if it’s a joint tenancy
  • your landlord’s address and phone number if you rent

It’s best to check your tenancy agreement if you’re not sure about any details. If you don’t have one, look for any documents or emails that confirm details about your tenancy – for example, a rent statement.

If you rent from the council or a housing association, you can also contact their customer service department. They’ll be able to tell you details of your rent and housing situation.

Your ‘housing costs’ and living situation

You’ll need to mention any ‘housing costs’ you pay – this includes any rent or ‘service charges’.

‘Service charges’ are any money you pay for maintenance work in shared spaces around your home or garden. For example if you live in a flat block with shared corridors, you might pay for someone to clean these. Check your tenancy agreement to find out if you pay service charges.

If you get any help with your rent, you’ll need to put down how much your total rent is – this includes any money you get to help with your rent. For example if you get £200 of Housing Benefit a month and you pay £400 rent a month, you’ll need to put down your total rent as £600.

You’ll also need to mention if you have any rent-free weeks. You might get rent-free weeks if you rent from the council or a housing association.

You’ll be asked if anyone else is named on the tenancy agreement. If they are, you’ll need to know how much your total rent is – this is the combined rent you pay for the home.

Your landlord’s details

You’ll be asked for your landlord’s details. If you rent from the council or a housing association, these might appear automatically.

You don’t have to put in your landlord’s email address if you put in their address and phone number.

If you’re not sure of your landlord’s details, write ‘Care of’ and put in your own address. You should update this as soon as possible – if you don’t update it, you could end up having to pay some money as a penalty.

The DWP might contact your landlord to confirm what you’ve told them. If you have a private landlord, the DWP will ask your permission before contacting them.

Council tax

You’ll be asked if:

  • your name is on the Council Tax bill
  • you’ve applied for Council Tax Reduction

If you mention that you already get Council Tax Reduction or you’re planning to apply, the DWP can let your council know that you’re applying for Universal Credit.

You’ll still have to make the claim for Council Tax Reduction.


Your health

You’ll be asked if you have a ‘disability, illness or ongoing health condition’ that makes it difficult for you to work, or look for work. You should include both physical and mental health conditions, like depression or anxiety.

You’ll also be asked:

  • when you last worked, if you don’t work anymore – ask a family member or friend if you’re not sure
  • if you’ve been in hospital recently or you’re having medical treatment

You might have to get a form from your doctor confirming your health condition. This is called a ‘fit note’ – you might know this as a doctor’s note.

When you need a fit note

You need to provide a fit note if:

  • you’re ill for more than 7 days
  • you have a long-term health condition
If your doctor doesn’t confirm your condition with a fit note, you’ll need to remove the condition from your Universal Credit account.

Getting a fit note

You should see your GP as soon as you can and ask them for a fit note. You can also get a fit note at a hospital if you’re being treated there. A fit note will need to have a start and end date, and must be stamped and signed by a doctor.

You don’t need to pay for a sick note if you’re off for more than 7 days.

It’s a good idea to take a picture of the fit note and upload it to your online account in the ‘To-do list’ section. You should also take your fit note with you when you meet your work coach for the first time.

If you’re struggling to make an appointment with your GP, tell your work coach when you speak to them for the first time. They might agree you don’t need to work or look for work until you see your GP.

If you can’t get a fit note

Include as much as evidence as you can in your application. You could include:

  • a hospital letter

  • letters from specialists

  • an occupational therapist’s care plan

  • a list from your GP of any medication you’re on

Your work, income and savings

You’ll be asked if you work and if you’re self-employed. You’ll be asked extra questions about your work situation when you have your first appointment with your work coach.

Your income and earnings

Write down if you have any income. This includes money you’re getting from:

  • work

  • a pension

  • other benefits

  • an insurance plan

You do need to include any pay you get from your employer for any leave you’ve taken or are taking – for example:

  • sick pay

  • holiday pay

  • maternity pay

Check your bank statements or contact your employer to find out how much you get.

Your savings and investments

You’ll be asked about any savings and other investments or capital you have – for example, any shares you have or if you own a property you don’t live in. This could also include any large one-off payments you’ve received, like redundancy pay.

If you have over £16,000 in savings, you won’t be able to claim Universal Credit. Check who’s eligible for Universal Credit.

Your childcare costs

You can claim up to 85% of your childcare costs if you:

  • are working
  • have worked in the last two months
  • are going to start working in the next two months

You can only claim childcare costs that you’ve already paid – you won’t get any money for future costs.

Your childcare provider

You’ll need to mention details of your provider and costs. This should include:

  • their address and phone number
  • their registration number
  • how much you paid and when
  • which dates the payments cover
  • which child or children this provider looks after

You’ll need to provide evidence such as receipts or invoices from your childcare provider. This evidence must say ‘paid’ and be on headed paper – this is paper that has the person or organisation’s name at the top.

You can upload evidence of how much you’ve paid into your account. This can be a photo, scan or screenshot of your paid invoice. You can also take it to your Jobcentre appointment.

If you don’t give proof then you won’t get any money towards your childcare costs.

Contact your childcare provider if you need any documents.

After you complete your ‘to-do list’

You’ll need to agree that all the information you’ve given is correct – you’ll need to tick ‘yes’ for each different section. This is all part of your ‘declaration’. If you tick ‘no’, you’ll be able to update the information before you submit your claim.

Check through what you’ve written and make sure all the details are correct.

If your situation changes, you should update the information on your account as soon as you can. Your Universal Credit might be stopped or reduced if your details aren’t correct.

You might need to answer extra questions after you’ve submitted your claim – depending on your situation. For example if you have a health condition and you haven’t got a fit note from your doctor yet, you’ll need to put in the details once you have it.

Confirming your identity

You’ll need to confirm who you are using the government’s online system.

You can only use it if you have certain kinds of identification – like a UK passport or a valid UK driving licence or provisional licence.

If it doesn’t work, you can confirm your identity in person at the Jobcentre or on the phone. Find out more about confirming your identity at an appointment.

Next steps

You still need to complete a few more steps before you’ve finished your claim.

You need to:

  1. book your appointment with your work coach
  2. complete any new tasks in your ‘to-do list’ – you’ll need to do these before you go the Jobcentre
  3. go to your interview at the Jobcentre

Coronavirus – interviews

You might be asked to go to a face-to-face interview at the Jobcentre Plus.

Call the Universal Credit helpline if you’re worried about going to an interview in person.

Universal Credit helpline Telephone: 0800 328 5644 Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 328 1744 Textphone: 0800 328 1344 Relay UK – if you can’t hear or speak on the phone, you can type what you want to say: 18001 then 0800 328 5644 You can use Relay UK with an app or a textphone. There’s no extra charge to use it. Find out how to use Relay UK on the Relay UK website. Video relay – if you use British Sign Language (BSL). You can find out how to use video relay on YouTube. Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

You haven’t finished your application until you’ve had an interview with your work coach – either at the Jobcentre or over the phone. You’ll need to gather evidence and answer a few questions at your interview, so it’s best to prepare. Find out more about preparing for your Universal Credit interview.

If you need help with your Universal Credit application, you can talk to an adviser.

Other benefits and money you can get

It will take 5 weeks to get your first Universal Credit payment, but you can ask to have some money paid sooner. Find out more about advance payments of Universal Credit.

If you pay Council Tax, you might be able to get help with it – check if you can get Council Tax Reduction. Most people who get Universal Credit can claim this too.

You might also be able to get money from other benefits too – for example, if you’re a carer or have a long-term health condition.

You can use the free Turn2us or Entitledto benefit calculators to check which benefits you can get. You’ll need to be a British or Irish citizen to use the calculator.