Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said other countries across Europe share the government's concerns Reuters

The government's "tough" new rules designed to make sure migrants do not take advantage of the country's benefits system will also affect British nationals returning from living and working abroad.

All EU jobseekers will have to wait three months before they can apply to claim income-based Jobseeker's Allowance from the 1 January, 2014.

The government claims the measure will make sure that only people who have a legal right to be in the UK and plan to contribute to the economy have access to the country's welfare system.

But under the new rules, British citizens who have been working or living abroad will also have to wait three months to apply for income-based JSA.

"The British public are rightly concerned that migrants should contribute to this country, and not be drawn here by the attractiveness of our benefits system," said Iain Duncan Smith, the secretary of state for work and pensions.

"I know that other countries across Europe share our concerns, so we'll continue to work with them to ensure we can protect the integrity of our benefits system."

In addition, the new measures mean that migrants and British nationals who have been living or working abroad will also have to take a "stronger, more robust" test if they want to claim income-based JSA, after the three months has elapsed.

In order to pass the improved Habitual Residence Test, potential claimants will have to answer more individually tailored questions, provide more detailed answers, and submit more evidence before they will be allowed to make a claim.

For the first time, the government said migrants and British nationals returning from working or living abroad will be asked about what efforts they have made to find work before coming to the UK and whether their English language skills will be a barrier to them finding employment.

If they pass the Habitual Residence Test, EEA jobseekers will then be able to claim JSA for six months.

After that period, only those who have "compelling evidence" that they have a genuine chance of finding work will be able to continue claiming.