Immigration and residence restrictions

Immigration and residence conditions can affect the help you get from the council when homeless or facing homelessness.

Help from the council

Anyone can ask the council for help when homeless or facing homelessness.

You must meet immigration and residence conditions to get any help. This is sometimes called being 'eligible for assistance'. 

Not everyone who qualifies for help gets housing when homeless - you may just get personal advice to help you find or keep your home.

If the council decide you don't qualify for help

The council must give you a letter explaining why they think you don't qualify.

You can ask for a review within 21 days if you think the decision's wrong. You may qualify for free legal advice to help challenge the council. 

The council must provide some general advice and information even if you don't meet immigration and residence conditions.

British and Irish citizens

You qualify for council help when homeless if you've lived in the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man for the last 2 years.

If you've returned from abroad within the last 2 years

The council decide if you're 'habitually resident'. This means you're settled in the UK for the foreseeable future.

You can be habitually resident as soon as you arrive if:

  • you were previously resident and have returned to resettle
  • you've been deported back to the UK from another country

You can show an intention to resettle by, for example, looking for work, arranging school places and registering with a GP.

Most British citizens are accepted as habitually resident within 3 months of arrival. Not everyone qualifies for emergency or longer-term housing.

EU citizens

You may qualify for council help when homeless. It depends on your residence status.

The rules for EU nationals also apply to:

Permanent residence

You qualify for help if you have permanent residence in the UK.

You could have permanent residence if you've:

  • lived here continuously for at least 5 years
  • retired after working here for at least 1 year and living here for at least 3 years
  • stopped work permanently due to illness or disability after living here for at least 2 years

Working or self-employed

You qualify for help if you have 'worker or self-employed status' in the UK.

The council usually accept that you have this status if you earn at least £162 a week before tax.

You can still qualify if you earn less than this. The council looks at how much you earn and the number of hours you work.

Looking for work

You won't usually qualify for help if you've never worked in the UK.

You should qualify for help for at least 6 months if you stop work or self-employment providing you:

  • register with Jobcentre Plus as soon as you can
  • look for work and have a genuine chance of finding it

If you worked for at least a year before becoming unemployed, you can keep your worker or self-employed status for longer than 6 months.

Pregnant or recently given birth

You qualify for help if you're on maternity leave from your job or self-employment.

You usually qualify for help if you stop work in the late stages of pregnancy or after the birth, as long as you return to work (or start looking for work) within 12 months.

You might not qualify if you don't intend to return to work by the end of this period.

Can't work due to illness or accident

You usually qualify for help if you've worked in the UK but can't work temporarily because of illness or an accident.

Children in school

You might qualify for help if a child who lives with you is in school in the UK.

Your child must have lived in the UK while you or their other parent was an EU worker. You don't need to be working now.

People from outside the EU

You may qualify for council help when homeless. Your leave to remain must allow 'recourse to public funds'.

Commonwealth citizens

You qualify for help if you're habitually resident and have right of abode.

Many other long-term residents from the Commonwealth also have the right to live, work, claim benefits and apply as homeless in the UK.

You usually need to provide documentary evidence of your status to qualify for homeless help.

Get immigration advice if you're unsure of your immigration status or don't have documents to prove it.

Indefinite leave to remain

You usually qualify for help if you've been granted indefinite leave to remain (ILR). 

You won't qualify if you got ILR because a relative agreed to provide you with somewhere to live unless either:

  • 5 years have passed
  • your relative has died


You usually qualify for help if you've been granted:

  • refugee status
  • humanitarian protection

You won't qualify for help if your leave to remain in the UK has ended.

If you apply to extend your leave before it expires, you continue to qualify for help until the Home Office makes a decision.

Asylum seekers

You won't qualify for homeless help from the council if you're seeking asylum.

You can apply for asylum support if you're an adult and have nowhere to live while the Home Office looks at your asylum claim.

If you're under 18 and have no family in the UK, you can get help from the council's social services department.

Get help from the Refugee Council children's section if you're under 18

Spouse or partner visas

You won't usually qualify for help if you're in the UK on a spouse or partner visa. Your partner is expected to provide you with a home for your first 5 years in the UK.

If you need to leave your home because of domestic violence you can ask the Home Office for permission to claim benefits and get homeless help for a 3-month period.

The application form is on GOV.UK but you should get immigration advice before you complete it.

Rights of Women can provide free legal advice.

No recourse to public funds

You can't get help with housing or benefits in the UK if your immigration status means you have 'no recourse to public funds'.

This restriction affects foreign students, work-permit holders, visitors and some other types of limited leave to remain.

Last updated - 22 Jan 2019

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