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New Arrivals

British and Irish citizens

This page is for new arrivals. If you are a housing adviser please click here for information more relevant to you.

Are you a British or Irish Citizen?

If you are a British citizen (or, in some cases, a Commonwealth citizen with long residence) you have a ‘right of abode' in the UK. The ‘right of abode’ is a term used in the law about your status. It means you are free from all immigration controls and have the right to live and work in the UK without any restrictions.

Irish citizens (unlike other foreign nationals) enjoy a unique status in UK law and do not require leave to enter or remain in the UK even though the UK has left the EU.

If you were an Irish citizen who arrived in the UK before 1 January 2021, you may have had EU rights created by working, studying, self-employment, etc. In certain circumstances you and your family members can continue to use your EU rights after 31 December 2020 to live, work, to access housing and claim benefits. For example, these rights can help you pass the habitual residence test. See the relevant pages for how this works:

  1. European workers and self-employed people
  2. Other EEA nationals (students, self-sufficient persons, long-term residents etc)
  3. EEA family members.

Are you the family member of a British or Irish citizen?

Different rules apply regarding your rights to housing and/or benefits if you are the family member of a British or Irish citizen.

Are you another British national or Commonwealth citizen?

If you have a form of British nationality which is not British citizenship (e.g. if you are from a UK overseas territory) your rights to housing and benefits are the same as any other non-European foreign national and depend on whether you have been granted indefinite leave or limited leave to be in the UK. If you are a British National (Overseas) from Hong Kong you can apply to have your 'no public funds' condition lifted if you are destitute. If your application is successful you can apply for housing, help if you homeless and for universal credit or housing benefit to help pay your rent.

If you are a Commonwealth citizen with a ‘right of abode’ your rights to housing and benefits are the same as a British citizen.

If you are the family member of an Irish citizen or person who was born in Northern Ireland who was lawfully resident in the UK before 1 January 2021 you may have EEA family member rights.

How does this affect your rights to housing and benefits?

Everyone who applies for a housing allocation or homelessness help, or for benefits, no matter what their nationality is, has to show that:

  • they have a legal right to live in the UK; and
  • they are habitually resident in the British Isles or the Republic of Ireland or are exempted from the habitual residence test. 

If you are a British or Irish citizen who has always lived in the UK or Ireland, then you meet these conditions. But the habitual residence condition may disqualify you from housing or benefits if you have lived abroad (i.e. you were habitually resident there) and are returning to the UK, or if you are entering the UK for the first time (for example, if you acquired your citizenship through your parents).

You can apply for accommodation from a private landlord. You also have the right to apply for accommodation direct from a housing association regardless of whether you have worked here. In England you must show your landlord or housing association that you have a 'right to rent'. Even though your right to rent is automatic if you are a British or Irish citizen, you should still be asked to prove your nationality, for example by showing your passport.

How do you meet the habitual residence test if you are British or Irish?

If you are returning to the UK after having lived abroad, you can satisfy the habitual residence test and qualify for housing and/or benefits in the following ways:

  • Through actual habitual residence. This requires more than just physical presence: you must be actually resident in the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands and there must be a degree of permanence about it. The word ‘habitual’ implies an intention to settle and make your home here. If you have recently entered the UK for the first time or after a period of residence in another country, you may be treated as not habitually resident and disqualified from housing or benefits. However, the decisions about whether you are habitually resident and/or any period of disqualification depend on the facts in your case. Note that your habitual residence resumes immediately on your return if you have a single short absence (such as a holiday or visiting relatives). 
  • You are an Irish citizen who entered the UK before 1 January 2021. You are exempt from the test if you qualify as an EEA worker or self-employed person until 30 June 2021 (or after then if you apply to the EU Settlement Scheme no later than that date).
  • Deported from another country. If you have been deported to the UK from another country, you do not have to be habitually resident (and are entitled) if you claim universal credit/housing benefit and council tax rebate to help you pay your rent or council tax or apply for housing or homelessness assistance.
  • You were resident in Sudan before 15 April 2023 and left due to the escalating violence.
  • You were resident in Ukraine before 1 January 2022 and left due to the Russian invasion.
  • You left Afghanistan on or after 15 August 2021 due to the collapse of the Afghan government.
  • For CTR only, if you receive one of the out-of-work 'legacy benefits' because you made a claim for it before 1 February 2019.
  • For HB only, if you receive state pension credit, or one of the out-of-work 'legacy benefits,' if you claimed it before 1 February 2019.

If you have not been living in the UK/Ireland for the past three months you are likely to be disqualified from homelessness assistance, but this should not affect your claim for universal credit and council tax rebate provided you can show you are actually habitually resident.


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