Homeless applications by EEA nationals

When someone from the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland can get homelessness help from a local authority.

Published June 2021

Homelessness rights of EEA nationals

When a homeless person approaches a local authority for help, the local authority must assess their circumstances. One of the first things it checks is whether they are eligible based on their immigration and residence status.

Whether someone from the European Economic Area (EEA) is eligible often depends on whether they have status under the EU Settlement Scheme. The EEA is the EU, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Similar rules apply to Switzerland.

The EU settlement scheme

The EU Settlement Scheme grants two types of status: 

  • settled status 

  • pre-settled status 

The deadline for applications to the EU Settlement Scheme passed on 30 June 2021. Some family members might be able to apply to the Scheme after this date. A person can be eligible for homelessness help if they are waiting for a decision from the scheme.

Someone with questions about applying to the EU Settlement Scheme should get advice from a certified immigration advisor.

People who arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020

Most EEA nationals who arrive in the UK after 31 December 2020 are unlikely to be entitled to homelessness help. For example, people who came under a worker or student visa. This is because the rules changed on that date for new arrivals after Brexit.

There is an exception for Irish citizens who are treated the same as British citizens. Irish citizens are eligible for homelessness help if they are habitually resident in the Common Travel Area. Find out more on Shelter Legal about habitual residence rules.

Different rules apply to some family members of EEA nationals who arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020.

People with settled status

Settled status means the person has been granted the right to stay in the UK long term. Settled status is equivalent to indefinite leave to remain.

A person with settled status is eligible for homelessness assistance if they are habitually resident in the Common Travel Area. This means that the person usually lives in the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.  

EEA nationals who have been living in the UK for five years can get settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. Sometimes it is possible to get it sooner. 

A person from a non-EEA country might be able to get settled status if they are the family member of an EEA national. Their rights are the same once they have settled status.

People with pre-settled status

Pre-settled status is granted to people who do not yet qualify for settled status under the scheme.

EEA nationals with pre-settled status are not automatically eligible for homelessness assistance. They can only get help if they meet additional conditions. 

An EEA national with pre-settled status is eligible for homelessness assistance if they are a: 

  • worker  

  • self-employed person 

  • family member of an EEA worker or a self-employed person  

  • parent or main carer of a child in education if one of the parents is or was an EEA worker or self employed

Someone who has temporarily stopped working

EEA nationals who have temporarily stopped working might still be able to get help. This applies if a person stops working because of: 

  • illness 

  • vocational training 

  • late stages of pregnancy and childbirth 

  • loss of employment or self-employment 

Sometimes eligibility lasts for a limited time. 

Someone who has lived in the UK for five years

A person with pre-settled status who subsequently acquired a permanent right to reside can get homelessness assistance. Permanent right to reside usually means that a person lived in the UK in accordance with EU rules for five years. This could help EEA nationals with pre-settled status who become homeless before receiving settled status.

Family members of EEA nationals

A non-EEA family member of an EEA national might have pre-settled status in their own right.

The family member might be eligible for homelessness help based on the EEA national's status or if other conditions are met.

Read our explainer on homelessness rights of family members of EEA nationals.

Prove someone's status under the Settlement Scheme

The EU Settlement Scheme is a digital-only service. This means no paper proof of immigration status is issued. There are no stamps in the person’s passport. An EEA national can access the Home Office digital portal. They need access to their ID document, phone number and email address.  

This might make it difficult for some EEA nationals with settled status to prove it to a housing officer. For example, if they had to leave their accommodation in a hurry and cannot access their belongings. 

Where an EEA national cannot access their digital data, a letter or an email from the Home Office should be enough to show there is a reason to believe that the person might be eligible for homelessness assistance.

Low evidence threshold for emergency accommodation

A local authority must offer emergency accommodation to anyone who is homeless, if it has reason to believe that the person might be eligible and have a priority need. Priority need includes where someone has children or is vulnerable.

Reason to believe is a low threshold. Local authorities must not delay offering emergency help until extensive enquiries are carried out.  

For example, in the case of a homeless EEA national with pre-settled status, a payslip or a bank statement showing that they are employed would likely be enough. 

People who do not yet have settled or pre-settled status

Some EEA nationals might be eligible for homelessness assistance even if they have not applied to the EU Settlement Scheme yet or might be still waiting for a decision when they become homeless. This is known as temporary protection. They must meet two conditions.

The first condition is that the EEA national was lawfully resident in the UK on 31 December 2020. Being lawfully resident means living in the UK in line with the EU free movement rules as they applied before 31 December 2020. This includes working, looking for a job, being a student or even coming on holiday, as long as it was for less than three months. 

The second condition is that the EEA national currently meets the same extra conditions required or someone with pre-settled status. For example, they are a worker or a self-employed person. 

EEA nationals had until 30 June 2021 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. In some circumstances a person can still apply after that date. A person who meets the conditions can be eligible for homelessness assistance while waiting for a decision on their application.

EEA nationals whose EU Settlement Scheme application was rejected

An EEA national should get immigration advice if their application to the scheme was rejected.

Whether they are eligible for homelessness assistance depends on what other immigration or residence status they have. A person might have more than one status that gives them rights to be in the UK.

Further resources

Shelter Legal

Homeless rights checker - use this interactive tool for a quick answer on whether someone might be eligible for homelessness help

People with EU pre-settled status – detailed information on when someone with pre-settled status is eligible for homelessness help

People with EU temporary protection – detailed information on when someone without status under the scheme might be eligible for homelessness help

Homeless application process – how people can make a homeless application to a local authority and what duties are owed to them.

About the authors

Ewa Brem is a content designer at Shelter, writing housing advice for the public. She has worked as a housing adviser and trainer.

Alona Kiriak was a legal editor at Shelter.