Homelessness rights of family members

You may be eligible for assistance from the council when homeless if you are a family member of an EU or EEA national, even if you are from outside the EU or EEA.

How the council can help if you are homeless

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

First, the council assesses your immigration and residence status to decide if you're 'eligible for assistance'.

If you're classed as the family member of an EU or EEA national under EU law, your rights usually depend on the rights of the person you're related to. You may not have to be living with that person anymore.

Find out more about the qualifying conditions for:

  • emergency accommodation
  • longer-term housing

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

Who counts as a family member of an EU or EEA national

You count as a family member of an EU or EEA national if you are their:

  • husband, wife or civil partner
  • child or grandchild aged under 21
  • child or grandchild over the age of 21 and you are dependent on them
  • parent or grandparent and you are dependent on them

You also count as a family member of an EU or EEA national if UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) have issued you with a registration certificate or residence card because you:

  • live with them in a long-term relationship
  • are related to and dependent on them either financially or in practical terms
  • have serious health problems and require personal care from the EEA national you are related to, or from their husband, wife or civil partner

Partners who are not married or civil partners and relatives other than children, grandchildren or parents must have residence documentation issued by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to have the rights of a family member. Other family members do not have to apply for residence documentation but it can be a useful proof of status.

Find out more from Gov.uk about residence documentation for family members.

If you are the family member of a British citizen, you don't count as the family member of an EU or EEA national unless they were working or self-employed in a different EEA country and you lived there with them before you returned to the UK as a family.

Homelessness rights of family members

If you are homeless, you are eligible for assistance from the council in your own right if you are the family member of an EU or EEA national who is a worker or self-employed or has a permanent right to reside in the UK.

This applies even if you are a national of a country outside the EU or EEA.

It also applies even if you no longer live with the EU or EEA national as long as any of these apply:

  • are still legally married or in a civil partnership
  • are their child or grandchild aged under 21
  • have permanent residence yourself

Main carer of a child of an EU or EEA national

The child of an EU or EEA worker has a right to live and complete their education in the UK. Only one parent has to be an EU or EEA worker. As long as the child has entered education the right to live here will continue even if the EU or EEA worker parent dies, leaves the UK or stops working.

The child of an EU or EEA national who was self-employed, job-seeking, self-sufficient or a student has the right to live and complete their education in the UK only if their EU national parent has died or left the UK.

If you are the main carer of a child in either of these situations you will also have a right to live here if your child would be unable to complete their education in the UK if you had to leave. You will also be eligible for assistance from the council when homeless.

If your marriage or civil partnership ends

If you separate from your EU or EEA husband, wife or civil partner but remain legally married or in a civil partnership then you will be eligible for assistance when homeless if they are a worker or self-employed or have a permanent right to reside in the UK.

In some situations, you have a continuing right to reside and are eligible for assistance from the council when homeless even if your marriage or civil partnership with an EU or EEA national has ended through divorce or dissolution.

This applies if you are working, self-employed or self-sufficient and:

  • your marriage or civil partnership lasted for at least three years with at least one years' residence in the UK
  • you have residency of, or access to, a child of your former partner and residency or access must be in the UK
  • in certain cases only, you were a victim of domestic abuse during the marriage or civil partnership

Rights after bereavement

You are eligible for assistance from the council when homeless if you have a retained or permanent right to reside as the family member of an EU or EEA national who has died.

Retained right to reside following a bereavement

You have a retained right to reside if you are working, self-employed or self-sufficient, and you were living in the UK as a family member for at least a year before the death.

If you were the spouse, civil partner or a child aged under the age of 21, there is no requirement that you were living with them when they died.

Permanent right to reside following a bereavement

In some circumstances, you have a permanent right to reside if you were a family member of an EU national who died.

This applies if the person who died was working or self-employed and lived in the UK for at least two years immediately before they died, or died because of an accident at work or an occupational disease. You must have lived with them immediately before they died.

In these circumstances, you don't have to be working, self-employed or self-sufficient yourself to get the right to reside.

After five years' residence

You are eligible for assistance from the council when homeless if you have a permanent right to reside in the UK.

Many family members of EU and EEA nationals get a permanent right to reside after living and working in the UK for five years.

Find out more about homeless rights for people with a permanent right to reside.

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 08 Apr 2016 | © Shelter

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