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Homeless applications: immigration and residence

When you ask for council help, a homelessness officer checks you are 'eligible for assistance'.

They will ask:

  • about your immigration status

  • if you've lived abroad recently

The council will ask about this even if you're British 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 do not have it when you first speak to the council.

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

People from outside the EU might be asked for Home Office letters or documents.

Who can get homelessness help

You could get homeless help if you have:

  • British or Irish citizenship

  • EU settled status

  • indefinite leave to remain (ILR)

  • refugee status or humanitarian protection

  • leave to remain with recourse to public funds

Some EU citizens with pre-settled status also qualify

From 30 January 2023 you can also get homelessness help if you have limited leave to remain as a victim of human trafficking or slavery.

What is 'recourse to public funds'?

It means you can apply for help with housing or benefits if needed.

People with EU settled status, refugee status or humanitarian protection all have recourse to public funds.

Other examples include:

What is 'habitual residence'?

It usually means you have lived in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man for at least a month and will be living here for the foreseeable future.

Most people need to be habitually resident to get homeless help. This includes British and Irish citizens.

You do not need to be habitually resident if you:

  • have refugee status or humanitarian protection

  • are deported or removed from another country to the UK

  • were living in Ukraine before 1 January 2022 and left because of the war

Escaping war

You can ask for homeless help on arrival in UK if you have either:

  • British or Irish citizenship

  • an immigration status that gives you recourse to public funds

and you lived in:

  • Sudan before 15 April 2023

  • Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, Lebanon or Israel before 7 October 2023

If you have lived here before

You could be habitually resident as soon as you arrive if you return to resettle.

You can show an intention to resettle by:

  • looking for work

  • registering with a GP

  • arranging school places for your children

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 get emergency housing.

You can usually get universal credit and some homeless help within 3 months of arrival.

EU citizens

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 will not 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:

  • 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.

You could get help through the Windrush Scheme if you moved to the UK before 1989 and are settled here but do not have the documents to prove it.

If the council say you do not qualify

The council must give you a letter which explains their decision.

You have 3 weeks to ask for a review if you think the decision is wrong.

Contact a Shelter adviser if the council will not give you a letter or you're not sure of your next steps.

If the council put the decision in writing

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

If you're seeking asylum

You could 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 came to the UK as someone's partner

You cannot usually get homeless help if you're on a spouse or partner visa.

The Home Office expects you to live in your partner's home for your first 5 years in the UK.

If you experience domestic abuse

You can sometimes get Home Office permission to claim benefits if your relationship ends because of domestic abuse.

Get immigration advice before you contact the Home Office.

Find specialist advice through:

Some refuges have spaces for women who cannot get benefits.

Last updated: 25 April 2024

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