Homeless EU nationals: if you are out of work

Your rights to homelessness help from the council if you're an EU or EEA national depend on your residence rights in the UK. Find out when you qualify for help even if you're not in work.

How the council can help if you're homeless

You can ask the council for help if you're homeless or at risk of losing your home within 8 weeks. This is called a homeless application.

The council decides if you meet immigration and residence conditions for homelessness help. This is called being 'eligible for assistance'.

Many EU nationals are eligible for assistance even if not in work but some don't qualify for help.

Find out about the other qualifying conditions for:

  • emergency accommodation
  • longer-term housing

You might not get housing even if you meet the residence condition. Some homeless people only qualify for advice.

Irish citizens

All Irish citizens have residence rights in the UK regardless of whether you are in work.

The council decides if you're 'habitually resident' using the same rules that apply to British citizens.

EU nationals with permanent residence

You're eligible for homelessness help if you have permanent residence in the UK. You don't need to be working.

The most common way to get permanent residence is after living and working in the UK for 5 years. You can also get permanent residence in other ways.

Find out more about homelessness rights when you have permanent residence.

EU nationals looking for work

EU nationals who are unemployed but looking for work will usually have one of the following types of residence status:

  • retained worker or self-employed status
  • jobseeker status

If you have retained worker or self-employed status you:

If your only residence rights are as a jobseeker, you won't be entitled to homelessness help or benefits in the UK until you find work.

Retained worker or self-employed status 

You usually keep your worker or self-employed status for at least 6 months if you:

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

If you worked in UK for less than 1 year before becoming unemployed, you lose your status after 6 months unless you find work. 

If you lose your worker status

You might still qualify for homelessness help if either of the following apply:

  • you have a child in education in the UK
  • you're the family member of an EU national who is working, self-employed or has permanent residence

Find out more about the homelessness rights of family members of EU nationals.

If you only have jobseeker status

You probably have jobseeker status if you've:

  • recently arrived in the UK to look for work but have not yet found a job
  • been studying or self-sufficient in the UK but are now looking for work

You might also have jobseeker status if you've worked in the UK previously but there's been a significant gap between the end of your last job and and you looking for work again.

You don't qualify for homeless help or benefits. If you find work, your rights will change.  

Find out about the homelessness rights of EU nationals who are in work.

Pregnancy, childbirth and maternity leave

You qualify for homelessness help if you're on maternity leave from your normal job. This is because you're still classed as a worker.

Sometimes you can also keep your worker status if you give up your job or have to stop looking for work because you:

  • are in the late stages of pregnancy
  • have recently given birth

In this situation, you meet the residence condition even though you are not working as long as you find another job within a reasonable time after having your baby. This usually means returning to work or work-seeking within 12 months.

EU nationals unable to work due to ill health

You're still classed as a worker or self-employed if you can't work temporarily because of illness or an accident.

This can apply if:

  • you're off sick from work
  • your employment ends due to ill health as long as you're likely to be able to work again once you've recovered

You meet the residence condition for homelessness help.

If your health condition means you can't return to work

You lose your worker or self-employed status if you stop working permanently because of ill health.

You'll probably still meet the residence condition for homelessness help in the following situations:

  • you had worker status and still have a child in education in the UK
  • you've lived and worked in the UK for at least 2 years before stopping work due to permanent ill health

The 2-year residence requirement doesn't apply if your health condition was caused by an accident at work or an occupational disease which entitles you to a pension.

If none of these apply, you're unlikely to qualify for homelessness help.

Family members of EU and EEA nationals

You may have residence rights based on being a:

  • current or former partner of an EU national
  • child or dependent relative of an EU national

This can apply even if you're from outside the EU.

Find out about homelessness rights if you're a family member of an EU national.

If the council won't help

Get independent housing advice:

Contact a Shelter adviser online or by phone

Help with a review

The council must tell you in writing if it decides you're not eligible for assistance.

You have 21 days to ask for a review if you think the decision is wrong.

You can get advice and help through legal aid if you're on a low income:

Call Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345 to see if you qualify


Last updated 15 Jan 2019 | © Shelter

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