Immigration and residence restrictions

How immigration and residence restrictions affect help with housing if you are homeless or threatened with homelessness.

Overview

Your immigration and residence status in the UK affects whether you can get help from the council if you apply as homeless. The council call this being 'eligible for assistance'.

The council must arrange emergency accommodation if it thinks you might be homeless, have a priority need and meet any immigration and residence conditions.

You may qualify for longer-term housing if the council decides no immigration or residence restrictions affect you.

You won't be entitled to help with housing if the council decides that immigration or residence restrictions apply to you.

British and Irish citizens

British citizens and Irish citizens who have not lived abroad in the past 2 years are automatically eligible for assistance.

If you are a British or Irish citizen, you have to meet a residence condition to qualify for help with housing when homeless. You need to be 'habitually resident in the UK or Ireland.

You are automatically habitually resident if you've been living in the UK or Ireland for at least the past 2 years.

Time spent living in the Channel Islands or Isle of Man also counts.

Returning from living abroad

If you have returned from living abroad within the last 2 years, the council decides if you're habitually resident.

You might be habitually resident immediately if you:

  • were habitually resident before you moved abroad
  • have returned to resettle

You could show your intention to resettle by looking for work, arranging school places for your children and registering with a GP.

Most British citizens are accepted as habitually resident within 3 months of arrival or return.

EU and EEA nationals living in the UK for 5 years

You meet residence conditions for homelessness help if you are an EU or EEA national with a permanent right to reside.

You could have a permanent right to reside if you have lived in the UK continuously for at least 5 years. You must have worked, looked for work, studied or supported yourself during this time.

You may have a permanent right to reside if you worked in the UK and have retired or stopped work permanently due to sickness or an accident at work.

EU and EEA nationals working or self-employed

You meet residence conditions for homelessness help if you are an EU or EEA worker or self-employed EU or EEA national.

The council decides if you count as worker or self employed by looking at:

  • how much you earn
  • how long you've been working
  • how many hours you work and your work pattern

The council should accept that you count as a worker or self-employed if you earn at least £155 a week. You could qualify if you earn less than this.

Unable to work

You count as a worker or self-employed if you've been working, but can't temporarily because of illness or an accident.

Looking for work

You won't count as a worker if you are an EU or EEA national looking for work, but you have never worked in the UK.

If you have been working but lose your job through no fault of your own, you continue to count as a worker for at least 6 months. You must register with Jobcentre Plus and prove you are looking for another job.

Pregnant or recently given birth

You count as a worker if you are on maternity leave from your job.

You also continue to count as a worker if you stop working in the late stages of pregnancy or after having a baby, providing you return to work (or start looking for work) within 12 months.

You don't count as a worker if you stop being self-employed to have a baby.

Training

You may count as a worker if you stop working to do vocational training.

Family members of EU and EEA citizens

You may be entitled to help with housing when homeless if you are a family member of an EU or EEA national who meets the residence conditions to apply as homeless.

You can apply even if you no longer live together or you are not an EU or EEA national yourself.

You may be entitled to help if your child is attending school in the UK, providing at least one parent is an EU or EEA national who has worked in the UK.

Settled status or indefinite leave to remain

You usually qualify for homelessness help if you've been granted indefinite leave to remain (ILR). This is also known as settled status.

You won't qualify for homelessness help if you were sponsored by a relative and you were granted indefinite leave within the last 5 years. Your relative is expected to provide you with a home for your first 5 years in the UK. This doesn't apply if your sponsor has died.

Limited leave to remain

You usually qualify for homelessness help if you've been granted limited leave to remain and your permission to stay says you are allowed recourse to public funds.

Refugees

You usually qualify for homelessness help from the council if you have been granted:

  • refugee status
  • humanitarian protection

If you applied to extend your leave before it expired, you can qualify for homelessness help until the Home Office makes a decision.

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

Asylum seekers

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

You can apply to the Home Office for asylum support if you have nowhere to live while your asylum claim is being decided.

If you're under 18 and on your own, social services will provide you with somewhere to live until you turn 18 or get a final decision on your asylum claim.

Spouse or partner visas

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

Homeless due to domestic violence

If you need to leave your home because of domestic violence, you will need to apply to the Home Office for permission to stay in your own right. You'll qualify for homelessness help if the Home Office grants permission.

No recourse to public funds

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

This restriction affects foreign students, work-permit holders, visitors and others with limited leave to remain. It doesn't affect EU or EEA nationals - different restrictions apply.

If the council says you don't qualify for help

The council doesn't have to offer you housing if it decides you're not 'eligible for assistance'. This means you don't qualify for help because you are affected by immigration or residence restrictions.

The council should give you a decision letter. This should include its reasons for deciding you're not eligible for assistance.

You can ask the council to review the decision within 21 days of getting the letter.

Get help from a housing adviser

A housing adviser could help you with advice about your situation, a review request and your next steps.

Get help from a housing adviser

Check if you qualify for legal aid

You may qualify for free or reduced cost legal help if you're on a low income and have been refused homelessness help.

Check if you qualify for legal aid

Contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345

Get advice from an immigration adviser

If you need help with your immigration status, get advice from a registered immigration adviser.

Find out more on GOV.UK about how to find an immigration adviser.

Still need help?

Get help if the council won’t house you.

Contact our expert housing advisers online, by telephone or in person


Last updated - 31 Aug 2017

If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help

Get help

Tell us what you think of this page

Email a link to this article

Thank you - your message has been sent.

Sorry! - your message has not been sent this time.

Please contact #########

Was this advice helpful?

Thank you - your feedback has been submitted to the team.

Sorry! - your message has not been sent this time.

Please contact website@shelter.org.uk