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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 or Irish citizen, you have a ‘right of abode' in the British Isles or the Irish Republic. 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 continue to have the ‘right of abode’ 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. You are not an EU citizen so you cannot acquire EU rights except as a family member (e.g. if you are the spouse of an EEA national).

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 EEA citizen who was lawfully resident in the UK before 1 January 2021 you may have EEA family member rights (e.g. if you are the spouse of an EEA national).

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 here 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 you can expect to be considered not habitually resident during your first few months but your case should be considered on its facts (for example, the length of time you have lived abroad and whether your absence was always intended to be temporary). Note that your habitual residence resumes immediately on your return if you have a single short absence (such as a holiday or visiting relatives). A British citizen returning from living abroad could have a very short period of time before he or she has habitual residence. Each case depends on its own facts.
  • 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.
  • 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, one of the out-of-work 'legacy benefits' you made a claim for 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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