- What are the housing and housing benefit rights of accession state nationals?
- What happened on 1st May 2011?
- What about family members?
- What happens if an accession state national fails to register on the WRS?
- What about accession state rough sleepers?
- What about accession state nationals married or partnered to UK citizens or people with indefinite leave?
- Can accession state nationals be refused housing or given different tenancies?
- Why are the Welsh and English rules on housing and homelessness eligibility different?
This page looks at housing problems faced by accession state nationals (also known as A8 nationals) who are in the UK. As EEA citizens, accession state nationals have the same rights as other EEA nationals, although this used to be different if they started working in the UK. So if you are advising someone from an accession state you may also need to look at the pages on advising EEA workers and self-employed people or the pages on advising other EEA nationals because the rules for accession state nationals are now the same as for EEA nationals.
See accession state nationals for the basic information about who accession state nationals are and their rights and benefits.
An accession state national who was already in the UK with indefinite leave to remain on 30th April 2004 now has the permanent right to reside.
The rules on eligibility for housing and allocations are different in England and in Wales. The rules for eligibility for housing benefit are the same in both countries.
Before this date, accession state nationals who worked had to register under the Worker Registration Scheme (WRS). The WRS regulations lapsed on 30th April 2011 and accession state nationals became like any other EEA workers, who can start work or move jobs with no requirement to register. Those who failed to register before that date simply became 'ordinary' EEA workers with a right to reside as such on 1st May 2011.
The relevant regulations are 2011 No. 544 The Accession (Immigration and Worker Registration) (Revocation, Savings and Consequential Provisions) Regulations 2011.
Time spent before an accession state national was exercising EEA treaty rights to reside does not count towards the permanent right to reside (but the pending cases on discrimination against them may change this).
The AIRE Centre has a comprehensive briefing about this, which also covers some of the issues below about discrimination against accession state workers.
If you need to know how the old rules applied, go to the page on the rules for accession state nationals before 1st May 2011.
Family members (spouses/civil partners, children up to 21, other EEA dependent relatives) have a right to reside with the accession state worker. If they are not EEA nationals they have to apply for an EEA family residence permit.
Family members of accession state workers did not have to register on the WRS if they started work: they were exempt.
Work that was not compliant with the scheme did not count towards the 12 months or qualify the accession state national for benefits and housing. This applies even if the worker started off registering on the scheme but then failed to register when they changed jobs within the 12 months. In Zalewska (AP) (Appellant) v Department for Social Development (Respondents) (Northern Ireland)  UKHL 67 a victim of domestic violence was refused income support because although she had worked for 12 months she had failed to re-register when she changed jobs. This ruling was criticised by one dissenting Law Lord and by the NIHRC. However, see the page on the rules for accession state nationals before 1st May 2011 for pending legal challenges which may also affect this type of situation.
From 1st April 2011 any accession state national who started work or changed employers did not need to notify the WRS. This is because the 30-day grace period for registering or notifying changes expired on or after 1st May when the WRS lapsed.
When an accession state citizen is refused benefits, because they are not working or have not got EEA worker rights, there is obviously a risk that s/he will become destitute. Rough sleeping statistics have shown an increase in the numbers of central and eastern Europeans sleeping rough in some UK cities, which is probably a result of this. Other rough sleepers (including those who may have mental health or drink or substance abuse problems) can access services to get them off the streets because those services are underpinned by benefits to pay rent and subsistence. Eastern and central Europeans found that more difficult because the rules on accessing benefits and housing were more restrictive until 1st May 2011. As noted above, the refusal of such benefits to former workers is subject to various legal challenges at the moment.
The most reliable route out of rough sleeping for accession state nationals is work or self-employment, but while they sort that out, people need a roof over their head and food in their mouths. Since 1st May 2011, accession state nationals can register as jobseekers and claim relevant benefits if they are also habitually resident. So they can then get housing benefit to help with rent and so get into hostels, etc.
For those who are not habitually resident, various projects around the UK offer basic accommodation and support to people cut off from public funds. The No Accommodation Network links them and provides a directory of what is available: it is very limited and largely reliant on volunteers, especially from faith communities.
Work with all rough sleepers includes a focus on 'reconnection': offering the rough sleeper the chance to return 'home' if they are far away and exploring with them whether they would be better off doing so, especially if they have problems that are likely to result in a return to rough sleeping if not tackled. Thames Reach Housing Association and others offer such services to central and eastern European rough sleepers and their website includes information about how reconnection can work and who can help.
Barka UK is the UK arm of a Polish foundation that works with the socially excluded and has various programmes to provide severely excluded eastern European migrants with the opportunity for reconnection and social reintegration.
UKBA has been working with some local authorities to remove central and eastern European rough sleepers who refuse other offers of help. This a fiercely contested area of law, since central and eastern Europeans have the right to freedom of movement, and cannot, under UK rules, become a burden on social assistance benefits since they are prevented from claiming them in these situations. If you have a client in this situation it is important to get expert legal advice quickly; contact the AIRE Centre. A factsheet (and another which covers the legal and practical issues of rough sleeping among accession state and Bulgarian and Romanian nationals) is available from Migrants' Rights Network.
What about accession state nationals married or partnered to UK citizens or people with indefinite leave?
If a person from outside the EU marries or partners a UK national or person with indefinite leave to remain in the UK, s/he is usually granted two years limited leave to remain, with permission to work, and then can apply for indefinite leave to remain. If the relationship breaks down, there are options to apply for indefinite leave as well. But EEA nationals married to a UK national or person with indefinite leave to remain in the UK do not have any specific rights to reside in the UK. If their partner is supporting them they are self-sufficient, and they can, of course, work or go into self-employment or study and get rights to reside through those activities, and eventually get the permanent right to reside. If the relationship breaks down, if s/he wishes to stay in the UK with rights to claim benefits and housing, the EEA citizen must then rely on any other rights to reside s/he may have, or make an application to stay in the UK outside the immigration rules. A possible option is also to rely on the rights of any children with British citizenship as a result of the ECJ judgement in Ruiz Zambrano. Pursuing these options will need specialist legal advice.
From 1st May 2011, the same rules apply to accession state nationals.
For earlier cases, see the page on the rules for accession state nationals before 1st May 2011.
The rules on allocation and homelessness are different in England and Wales.
In England, an accession state national who was working in compliance with the WRS is eligible for housing allocation, homelessness assistance and housing benefits (see the law on housing eligibility and the law on housing benefit). From 1st May 2011, an accession state national who is working has the same rights as any other EEA worker. An accession state national who is self-employed, has the permanent right to reside or is studying is eligible on the same terms as any other EEA citizen.
In Wales, accession state nationals who are habitually resident in the UK are eligible for housing allocation and homelessness services. People working and the self-employed are eligible with no habitual residence test. However, those who are not eligible for housing benefit may face problems paying the rent.
As an eligible person they are entitled to be treated the same as any other applicant and offered services on the same terms. Anything else is discrimination. Housing associations and local authorities must not offer them temporary accommodation only or shorthold tenancies if they would offer other eligible applicants in the same situation more secure tenancies. In Wales, it is possible that a small number of accession state nationals will be eligible for housing but not for housing benefit. If they are of working age, then they can sign on as available for work from 1st May 2011 and get income-based jobseeker's allowance which will entitle them to housing benefit.
Why are the Welsh and English rules on housing and homelessness eligibility different?
In Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government passes the housing regulations. Current regulations in force are:
- The Allocation of Housing (Wales) Regulations 2003 SI 239
- The Allocation of Housing (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2006
- The Homelessness (Wales) Regulations 2006 SI 2646
These regulations mean that in Wales, unlike England:
- Anyone receiving income support or income-based jobseeker's allowance is eligible for homelessness assistance.
- All EEA nationals are eligible for homelessness and allocation if they are habitually resident (because they are also nationals of states that have ratified the European Convention on Social and Medical Assistance or the Council of Europe Social Charter): this includes accession state nationals and Bulgarian and Romanian nationals.
- All EEA nationals who have a right to reside are eligible (including those with the three-month right to reside and the jobseeker's right to reside).