Immigration and residence restrictions

Find out about immigration and residence conditions that affect who qualifies for homeless help from the council.

Help from the council

Anyone facing homelessness can ask the council for help but you must meet immigration or residence conditions to get any help. 

This is sometimes called being 'eligible for assistance'.

There are different conditions for: 

  • British and Irish citizens
  • other EU citizens    
  • people from outside the EU

You might not qualify for housing when homeless even if you're eligible for help. But the council must assess your situation and give you advice.

If the council decide you don't qualify for help

The council must give you a letter explaining why they think you don't qualify.

You should ask for a review within 21 days if you think the decision is wrong. 

You can usually get free legal help with a review if you have a low income. 

The council must provide some general advice and information even if you don't meet immigration and residence conditions.

British and Irish citizens

You qualify for council help when homeless if you're classed as 'habitually resident' in the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man.

Habitual residence means you're settled here for the foreseeable future.

If you've lived abroad in the last 2 years

The council will decide if you're habitually resident. 

You can be habitually resident as soon as you arrive if:

  • you lived here before and have returned to resettle
  • you've been deported back to the UK from another country

You can show an intention to resettle by looking for work, arranging school places and registering with a GP.

Most people are accepted as habitually resident within 3 months of arrival. But you still might not qualify for emergency or longer-term housing.

Irish citizens will still qualify for homeless help when the UK leaves the EU as long as you're habitually resident.

Other EU citizens

You may qualify for council help when homeless. It depends on your residence status.

The rules for EU nationals also apply to:

After Brexit

The rules continue to apply until 31 December 2020.

After that date, you may need settled status in the UK to qualify for homeless help. 

Find out more about staying in the UK after Brexit from Citizens Advice

Settled status

You qualify for help if you have settled status through the EU settlement scheme.

Use GOV.UK to find local advice services that can help you apply to the EU settlement scheme if you're homeless.

Until 31 December 2020, you can still qualify for homeless help without having settled status if you're an EU national in any of the situations below.   

Permanent residence

You qualify for help if you have permanent residence in the UK.

You usually get permanent residence if you:

  • live here continuously for 5 years with a right to reside under EU law
  • retire after working here for at least 1 year and living here for at least 3 years
  • stop work permanently due to illness or disability after living here for at least 2 years

You don't have to apply for permanent residence. You have it automatically if you meet the conditions.

Find out more about permanent residence from Housing Rights Information

Working or self employed

You qualify for help if you have 'worker or self employed status' in the UK.

The council usually accept that you have this status if you earn at least £166 a week before tax.

You can still qualify if you earn less than this. The council looks at how much you earn and the number of hours you work.

Looking for work

You should qualify for help for at least 6 months if you stop work or self employment in the UK providing you:

  • register with Jobcentre Plus as soon as you can
  • look for work and have a genuine chance of finding it

If you worked for at least a year before becoming unemployed, you can keep your worker or self employed status for longer than 6 months.

You won't usually qualify for help if you've never worked in the UK.

Pregnant or recently given birth

You qualify for help if you're on maternity leave from your job or self employment.

You can also qualify for help if you stop work in the late stages of pregnancy or after the birth. 

You must usually intend to return to work or jobseeking within 12 months and might not qualify if you don't.

Can't work due to illness or accident

You usually qualify for help if you've worked in the UK but can't work temporarily because of illness or an accident.

Children in school

You might qualify for help if a child who lives with you is in school in the UK.

Your child must have lived in the UK while you or their other parent was an EU worker. You don't need to be working now.

People from outside the EU who qualify for help

You may qualify for council help when homeless if you're settled here and your immigration status allows for 'recourse to public funds'.

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

You usually need evidence of your immigration status to qualify for homeless help.

Get immigration advice if you're unsure of your immigration status or don't have documents to prove it.

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.

Indefinite leave to remain

You usually qualify for help if you've been granted indefinite leave to remain (ILR). 

You won't qualify if you got ILR because a relative agreed to provide you with somewhere to live unless either:

  • 5 years have passed
  • your relative has died


You usually qualify for help if you've been granted:

  • refugee status
  • humanitarian protection

You won't qualify for help if your leave to remain in the UK has ended.

If you apply to extend your leave before it expires, you continue to qualify for help until the Home Office makes a decision.

People with no recourse to public funds

You can't get homeless help from the council or claim benefits in the UK if your immigration status means you have no recourse to public funds.

This restriction affects asylum seekers, overseas students, work permit holders, visitors and some other types of limited leave to remain.

Asylum seekers

You can apply for asylum support if you're an adult and have nowhere to live 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.

Spouse or partner visas

You won't qualify for 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 - 28 January 2020

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