Immigration and residence restrictions

Brexit update

From 1 January new rules affect who can get homelessness help from the council.

Read our new advice for EU citizens to find out who qualifies for help.

What to expect

The council checks you meet the conditions if you ask for help because you're homeless.

This is called being 'eligible for assistance'.

A homeless officer will ask:

  • about your immigration status

  • if you've lived abroad recently

The conditions apply to everyone who asks for homeless help including British citizens.

Even if you qualify for help, there are extra conditions for emergency housing. But the council must look into your situation and help with advice or housing if you qualify.

Who qualifies for help

You can usually get homeless help if you have:

  • British or Irish citizenship

  • settled status from the EU settlement scheme

  • indefinite leave to remain (ILR)

  • refugee status or humanitarian protection

Some other EU and Commonwealth citizens also qualify. 

In most cases you 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've:

  • returned to resettle after living here previously

  • been 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. Many returning residents can claim benefits and get some homeless help within 3 months of arrival. But you won't always qualify for emergency housing.

EU citizens

You can usually get help if you're an Irish citizen or have settled status in the UK.

You might also qualify for help if you have pre-settled status, or were already living in the UK on 31 December 2020.

You won't usually be able to get help if you moved here after that date 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:

  • refugee status

  • humanitarian protection

  • 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.

Commonwealth citizens

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

You can qualify for help if you have another type of leave to enter or remain which allows you to have 'recourse to public funds'.

Recourse to public funds means you can get help with housing and benefits in the UK.

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.

Council sometimes get things wrong, or make decisions without enough information.

Get free legal advice and help with a review:

Search for a local Shelter service

Find other ways to get free legal advice

Proof of your status

You usually need evidence of your status to get homeless help.

You should be given time to provide extra information if you don't have it with you when you first ask for help.

EU citizens can view and prove your immigration status on GOV.UK

Non-EU citizens may be asked for Home Office letters or documents.

You may be able to get help with documents through the Windrush Scheme if you moved to UK before 1989 and are settled here.

Get immigration advice if you're unsure of your immigration status.

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.

If you need to leave your home because of domestic abuse, you can ask for Home Office permission to claim benefits and get homeless help.

You should get immigration advice before completing the application form on GOV.UK

Rights of Women can provide free legal advice.

Last updated: 23 December 2020

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

Get help