Who should receive a Citizen’s Basic Income?

To suggest that a Citizen’s Basic Income should be paid to ‘citizens’ is to begin a discussion, not to complete it. A discussion of citizenship will not on its own answer the question ‘Who should receive a Citizen’s Basic Income?’ Whichever country we live in, we experience a wide variety of different citizenships in relation to territory ( – for instance, we might be English, British, and European), and we experience different kinds of citizenship to differing degrees (political citizenship – involvement in political processes; economic citizenship – involvement in the economy at levels; social citizenship – involvement in society and its institutions; and so on). Citizenship is a rather complex concept on which to base a view as to who should receive a Citizen’s Basic Income. [1] And in the UK, regulations on British citizenship are complex, to say the least, thus complicating the matter even further. Simply saying that a Citizen’s Basic Income would be paid to British citizens is therefore not necessarily the best place to start a discussion as to who should receive a Citizen’s Basic Income.

A working group established by the Citizen’s Basic Income Trust in 2016 to discuss who should receive a Citizen’s Basic Income took a pragmatic approach based on current tax and benefits legislation. It made the following suggestions:

The following should receive Citizen’s Basic Incomes

  1. All those with the right to reside in the UK indefinitely. While we are still in the European Union, this includes EU nationals. [2]
  2. Refugees with a defined number of years of legal residence (usually five years extendable)

in both cases, on condition that a) they would be defined as resident in the UK by HMRC, [3] and b) they have been resident in the UK for two or three years. [4]

A national of another country which had implemented a Citizen’s Basic Income would be entitled to receive a Citizen’s Basic Income on their arrival in the UK on condition that their country gave the same right to UK nationals. (This mirrors Child Benefit provisions.)

The following should not receive Citizen’s Incomes

  1. Students and foreign workers resident on the basis of visas.
  2. Asylum seekers (that is, people who are seeking refugee status but do not have it yet).
  3. Convicted prisoners. (Prisoners on remand would continue to receive their Citizen’s Basic Incomes; and Citizen’s Basic Incomes would be paid to ex-prisoners immediately on release.)

Brexit: If the UK leaves the EU in such a way that freedom of movement of EU nationals no longer applies to the UK, then EU nationals who have accrued the right to be resident in the UK would receive Citizen’s Basic Incomes, but EU students and workers here on visas would not be so entitled.


The Trust is grateful to the members of the working group that produced this report for their hard work on this important issue.

We would be pleased to receive comment on this article.



[1] For a discussion on citizenship, and on its relationship to Citizen’s Basic Income, see Malcolm Torry, Money for Everyone (Bristol: Policy Press, 2013), pp. 187-209.

[2] There is little evidence that in-work and out-of-work means-tested benefits function as a ‘magnet’ for European Union migrants: Rebecca Ehata and Martin Seeleib-Kaiser, ‘Benefit tourism and EU migrant citizens: real-world experiences’, pp. 181-197 in John Hudson, Catherine Needham and Elke Heins (eds) Social Policy Review 29: Analysis and debate in social policy, 2017 (Bristol: Policy Press, 2017); Philip Martin, Lisa Scullion and Philip Brown, ‘“We don’t rely on benefits”: challenging mainstream narratives towards Roma migrants in the UK’, pp. 199-217 in Hudson, Needham and Heins (eds) Social Policy Review 29.

[3] As far as HMRC is concerned, someone is regarded as having been resident in the UK for tax purposes if either they spent 183 or more days in the UK in the tax year, or their only home was in the UK and they owned, rented or lived in it for at least 91 days in total and they spent at least 30 days there in the tax year. Someone is automatically non-resident if either they spent fewer than 16 days in the UK (or 46 days if they hadn’t been classed as UK resident for the 3 previous tax years), or they worked abroad full-time (averaging at least 35 hours a week) and spent fewer than 91 days in the UK, of which no more than 30 were spent working (https://www.gov.uk/tax-foreign-income/residence).

[4] The Runnymede Trust defines ‘settled here’ as living in the UK for five years (Omar Khan and Debbie Weekes-Bernard, This is still about us (London: Runnymede Trust, 2015), p. 9). 61% of the UK’s population thinks that nationals of other European Union countries should live in the UK for three years before they can receive benefits (Alison Parke, Caroline Bryson and John Curtice (eds), British Social Attitudes 31 (London: NatCen Social Research, 2014), p. iv). The maximum length of time that a legally resident family that has moved to the UK has to wait before they can receive Child Benefit is three months (https://www.gov.uk/child-benefit-move-to-uk).