Immigration and residence restrictions

Immigration and residence restrictions can affect the help you get from the council if you're homeless or facing homelessness.

Help from the council

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

If you meet immigration and residence conditions, the council classes you as 'eligible for help'. You may get housing or personal advice to help you find or keep your home.

If the council decide you don't qualify

The council only has to provide general advice and information if you don't meet immigration and residence conditions.

The council must give you a letter with reasons if they decide you don't qualify for any other help when homeless.

You can ask for a review within 21 days if you think the decision is wrong.

Get legal help or advice

You may qualify for free legal help to challenge the council's decision if you're on a low income:

Contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345

If you need immigration advice:  Find a registered immigration adviser on GOV.UK

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 but not everyone qualifies for emergency or longer-term housing.

EU citizens with permanent residence

You could have permanent residence if you've:

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

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

EU citizens who are working or self-employed

You usually qualify for help if you are working or self-employed in the UK.

The council looks at:

  • how much you earn
  • the number of hours you work

The council should accept that you count as a worker or self-employed if you earn at least £155 a week. You might not qualify for help if you earn less than this.

EU citizens who aren't working

Many EU citizens qualify for council help when homeless even if not in work but it depends on your situation.    

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 having a baby, providing you return to work (or start looking for work) within 12 months.

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
  • look for a new job  

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 you have a child who lives with you and is in school in the UK. Your child must have lived in the UK while you or their other parent was an EU worker. Only one of you needs to have been an EU worker.

Find out more about qualifying for homeless help if you're not working

People from outside the EU

Some people from outside the EU qualify for council help when homeless or facing homelessness. Your leave to remain must allow you to have 'recourse to public funds'.

Settled status or indefinite leave to remain

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

You won't usually qualify for help if you were granted ILR within the last 5 years because a relative sponsored you. The Home Office expects your relative to provide you with a home for your first 5 years in the UK unless they have 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 - 14 May 2018

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