Immigration and residence restrictions
What to expect
When you make a homeless application or ask for council help, the council first checks that you are 'eligible for assistance'.
A homeless officer will ask:
about your immigration status
if you've lived abroad recently
The council will ask about this even if you're a British citizen or have lived here all your life.
You can usually get some homeless help if you meet the immigration conditions.
Proof of your status
You may need evidence of your immigration status to get homeless help.
You should be given time to provide extra information if you don't have it when you first speak to the council.
EU citizens can view and prove your immigration status on GOV.UK
Non-EU citizens might be asked for Home Office letters or documents.
Who qualifies for help
You can usually get homeless help if you have:
British or Irish citizenship
indefinite leave to remain (ILR)
refugee status or humanitarian protection
settled status under the EU settlement scheme
Some other EU and Commonwealth citizens also qualify.
In most cases you also need to be 'habitually resident'.
Habitual residence: what is it?
You must be living in the Common Travel Area - the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man - for the foreseeable future.
The council might ask you more about this if you've lived abroad in the last 2 years.
If you've lived abroad recently
If you've returned to the UK after living abroad, you could be habitually resident as soon as you arrive if either:
you return to resettle after living here previously
you're deported or removed from another country
You can show an intention to resettle by looking for work, arranging school places and registering with a GP.
The council will decide if you're habitually resident.
The DWP will also look at this if you need to claim universal credit.
Stay with friends or family on return to UK if you can.
You may not qualify for emergency housing or longer term housing.
You can usually apply for universal credit and get some homeless help within 3 months of arrival.
You can usually get help if you're an Irish citizen or have settled status in the UK.
Some EU citizens with pre-settled status also qualify but you have to meet extra conditions.
You won't usually be able to get help if you moved to the UK after 31 December 2020 unless you're an Irish citizen or have settled status.
People with indefinite leave to remain
You usually qualify for help if you've been granted indefinite leave to remain (ILR) and are habitually resident.
The only exception is if a relative sponsored you to come and live in the UK within the last 5 years. In this situation you can only get homeless help if your relative has died.
You usually qualify for homeless help if you've been granted:
discretionary leave with recourse to public funds
If you apply to extend your leave before it expires, you continue to qualify until the Home Office makes a decision.
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.
Other people with recourse to public funds
'Recourse to public funds' means you can get help with housing and benefits in the UK.
Your leave to enter or remain in the UK must allow you to have 'recourse to public funds'.
For example, if you have exceptional leave under the 'destitute domestic violence concession'.
If the council say you don't qualify
The council must give you a letter which explains their decision.
You have 21 days to ask for a review if you think their decision is wrong.
Contact a Shelter adviser if the council won't give you a letter or you're not sure of your next steps.
If you're seeking asylum
You can't get homeless help from the council but you may be able to get asylum support 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.
If you're on a spouse or partner visa
You can't get homeless 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.
Last updated: 30 June 2021