Homelessness, housing and benefits rights for EU and EEA citizens
This content applies to England only.
Housing laws vary between England and Scotland. Get advice relating to Scotland
Many European citizens living and working in the UK are allowed to apply for social housing, claim social security benefits and get help when homeless or when at risk of becoming homeless, but some have restricted rights.
Restricted rights for EU nationals for 3 months after arriving
All European nationals with citizenship of an EU or EEA country have an automatic right to live in the UK for three months after arriving in the UK.
But, if you are not working during these three months, you will not be eligible to:
- get emergency or settled housing from the council if you become homeless
- apply to go on the council's waiting list for social housing
- claim UK social security benefits.
However, if you are working during your first three months in the UK, rules for EU and EEA workers apply instead.
Help with housing and benefits for EU workers
Workers from most EU and EEA countries are entitled to apply for help with housing and benefits, but there are restrictions if you are from Bulgaria or Romania (known as the A2 countries).
Workers and their family members have the right to:
- apply for social housing
- get help from a local council if they become homeless
- claim welfare benefits, including housing benefit.
This applies even if you are:
- a worker who is no longer living in the UK, but your children are under the age of 18 and still at school in the UK, or
- the partner/spouse or former partner/spouse of the worker, if you are responsible for those children.
When is an EU national classed as a 'worker'?
If you are a citizen of any EEA/EU country apart from the two A2 countries of Bulgaria and Romania, you will have rights as a 'worker' if you:
- are currently employed
- are temporarily unable to work because of sickness or an accident
- were working for at least one year and are now registered as a jobseeker
- were in work but are now in vocational training (although if you have voluntarily given up your job to do vocational training, the course must be related to your former job for you to qualify).
If you are a worker but have lost your job, and you have worked for less than one year, you will remain 'a worker' for six months after losing your job, as long as you are registered as a jobseeker.
Restricted rights for workers from A2 countries
If you are a Bulgarian or Romanian national, you will normally only have rights as a 'worker' if you are currently employed. If you lose your job (or stop working for other reasons) within the first 12 months of working in the UK, you will stop being eligible for homelessness help from a local council, the right to apply for social housing or UK benefits.
This will be the case even if:
- you are looking for a job
- you have lost your job through no fault of your own
- you lost your job because you are ill.
There are some exceptions to this rule, however, so it's always best to talk to a housing adviser if you stop working within the first 12 months of arriving in the UK. Use our directory to find a local housing advice centre.
Family members of EU nationals
Close family members who live with an EU national have the same rights. The following relatives should be accepted as family members:
- A husband, wife or registered civil partner.
- Children (your own or your spouse/partner's) who are under 21 years old.
- Children (your own or your spouse/partner's) who are over 21 years old and still dependent on you.
- Other dependent relatives (which could include a long-term partner you are not married to, parents or grandparents).
Former partners, regardless of their immigration status, will retain these rights if they are responsible for children who are under 18 and remain in education in the UK.
You might be asked to provide proof of a relationship. If you are making a homelessness application or claiming housing benefit you should take along any documents that prove your relationship. This might include passports, birth, adoption or marriage certificates.
EU nationals who are looking for work
EU nationals who are jobseekers, and their family members:
- do not have the right to apply for social housing
- are not entitled to help from the council if they become homeless
- in some circumstances, may be able to claim some benefits if they are also 'habitually resident' (which means they normally live in the UK).
Students from the EU
Students who are 'habitually resident' may, in some circumstances:
- have the right to right to apply for social housing
- be entitled to help if they become homeless, and/or
- be able to claim benefits in some circumstances.
Your rights if you are self-employed
If you are self-employed, the rules are the same for all EEA and EU citizens, including A2 nationals (from Bulgaria or Romania). You can:
- apply for social housing,
- make a homelessness application
- apply for welfare benefits.
You continue to have the same rights if you are temporarily unable to work because of sickness or an accident.
EU nationals who are supporting themselves
EU nationals who are supporting themselves financially and are 'habitually resident' are unlikely to be eligible for help from a local council if they become homeless (except in exceptional emergencies), but can apply to go on the council's waiting list for social housing.
When an EU citizen becomes a permanent resident
EU citizens who have permanent residence are eligible to apply for social housing and can get help from a local council if homeless or threatened with homelessness.
EU and EEA citizens who have had a right to reside (of any type) in the UK for five years automatically get the right to permanent residence.
You will get a right of permanent residence before five years if you:
- had to stop working because of an accident or illness that means you can no longer work - the five-year qualifying period drops to two years.
- had to stop working because of an accident or illness that was work-related - you get a right of permanent residence immediately.
- reach retirement age (or take early retirement) while you are in the UK - you can become a permanent resident if you have worked or been self-employed for at least 12 months before reaching pension age, and you have lived in the UK for at least three years.
Accessing emergency accommodation if you are homeless
if you are homelessness or will become homeless in the next 28 days, contact your local council immediately to make a homeless application.
Housing Rights Information (run by the Chartered Institute of Housing and the Housing Associations Charitable Trust) has more information about your housing rights.