If you are a European Economic Area citizen (called here an 'EEA national') who is working or seeking work in the UK you have the right to 'freedom of movement'. If you are not currently working or seeking work you may also have the right to live here and access housing and social benefits if:
- you are a student
- you have been living here off your own resources (self-sufficient)
- you are the parent of an EEA child in education here and you or another parent has worked in the UK
- you are a long-term resident who has acquired a permanent right of residence.
If you were working in the UK and are temporarily out of work or unable to work due to illness or accident you may still be treated as a EEA worker although the rules are different for people from Croatia.
To prove that you are an EEA citizen you need a passport or identity card from your country of origin, but there is no specific document to show that you are studying or are self-sufficient, it is simply a matter of fact. You can apply for a residence permit if you have a right to reside in the UK, but you do not need it to prove your status.
After five years as a resident you will normally qualify for a permanent right of residence, and you can have your residence permit endorsed to show this. If you qualify you have the right to reside even if you do not have a permit to prove it.
All EEA nationals
You can apply for accommodation direct from a housing association, but you may face problems if you cannot afford the rent and have no access to housing benefit. You can also apply for accommodation from a private landlord.
If you are a jobseeker, you will not be entitled to housing benefit if you claim on or after 1 April 2014. If you are a jobseeker and were receiving housing benefit on 31 March 2014 you will continue to receive it so long as you remain entitled to JSA(IB) or until you move address to a different local authority.
You can apply for lettings in the private rented sector but from February 2016 in England all those applying for tenancies are the subject of 'right to rent' checks. Even though your right to rent is automatic if you are an EEA national, you will still be asked to prove your nationality (see above).
You can apply for housing, for assistance if you are homeless and for housing benefit, but you will only get them if:
- you are habitually resident in the British Isles or Republic of Ireland
- you fit the definition of an EEA student
- your circumstances have changed since you started the course and signed the declaration that you could support yourself
- you fit the general qualifications for the benefit or service: most students cannot claim housing benefit, for example, and you cannot get help as homeless if you have a home in another country.
To qualify as an EEA student, however, you must have comprehensive health insurance. This is either:
- a European Health Insurance Card obtained in your home country plus a letter (called a statement of intent) confirming that you do not intend to stay in the UK permanently; or
- private comprehensive sickness insurance
You must also have signed a declaration that you were able to support yourself. So if you later need to claim benefits or apply for help as homeless, you may need to show how it is that your circumstances have changed since then. This is not necessary if you are just applying to go onto the council waiting list.
In all cases, you need to be habitually resident in the British Isles or Republic of Ireland to be able to get housing benefit, apply for housing or get homelessness assistance.
You can apply for housing once you are habitually resident. But in most cases if you apply for homelessness assistance or housing benefit you are told that you are no longer self-sufficient, and so have lost your right to reside in the UK.
However, in the case of claims for housing benefit the guidance (pdf - see paragraph A4.123) suggests that if you have lived in the UK for sometime and have never claimed housing benefit before, the fact that you have previously been self-sufficient should be a factor in deciding whether you are an 'unreasonable burden,' as should the length of time you are likely to be claiming.
Similarly, with homelessness assistance: this should not be refused if the homelessness has occurred as a real emergency (a fire, for example, or domestic violence). The council may, however, limit its help to providing temporary accommodation and advice about finding your own housing.
If are the parent of a child in education and at least one parent of that child has been an EEA worker in the UK when the child was in the UK, you are eligible for a housing allocation and homelessness assistance, and for housing benefit if you are habitually resident (which as the parent of a child settled in a UK school you probably will be).
You are eligible for housing allocation, housing benefit and homelessness assistance as long as you are habitually resident in the British Isles or Republic of Ireland.
If you got your permanent right to reside as a result of working and are no longer working, or as a result of being the family member of someone who has stopped working or has died, then you do not need to be habitually resident to be eligible for a housing allocation, housing benefit and homelessness assistance.