Homeless applications: immigration and residence

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 do not 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 could 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

  • leave to remain with recourse to public funds

Some EU citizens with pre-settled status also qualify

What does 'recourse to public funds' mean?

Recourse to public funds means you can apply for help with housing or benefits if needed.

Examples of leave to remain with recourse to public funds include:

  • Ukraine family scheme visa

  • sponsorship through the Homes for Ukraine scheme

  • the Afghan relocations and assistance policy or the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme

  • destitute domestic violence concession given to some people who cannot live with their sponsor due to domestic abuse

Habitual residence

In most cases you also need to be 'habitually resident'.

You do not need to be the habitually resident if you:

  • are a refugee

  • have humanitarian protection

  • have fled the war in Ukraine or Afghanistan

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.

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 may be able to get help through the Windrush Scheme if you moved to UK before 1989 and are settled here but don't have the documents to prove it.

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

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 do not 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 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 cannot 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 cannot 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.

You can ask the Home Office for permission to claim benefits and get homeless help if you're experiencing domestic abuse.

You should get immigration advice before asking the Home Office to claim benefits and get homelessness help if you're experiencing domestic abuse.

Find specialist immigration advice through:

Your advisor might tell you to complete a form on GOV.UK.

Last updated: 22 March 2022

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