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Advising other European nationals

This page is for housing advisers. If you are a new arrival please click here to go to sections more relevant for you.

This section looks at housing problems faced by other EEA nationals. These may be people who are in the UK as students or self-sufficient people or with a permanent right to reside or people who seem to have no rights to reside at all.

What are the housing and housing benefit rights of other European nationals?

These rights are described in the page on other European nationals.

EEA nationals are often asked to provide proof of their entitlement to benefits and housing and this can prove difficult or impossible. In most cases, there is no requirement for EEA nationals to get residence permits proving that they have a right to reside, although these can be requested from the Home Office. Such applications can take a long time and the Home Office charges a fee of £65. It is important to note that, in almost all cases, the status of an EEA national is a matter of fact, not documentation. Only extended family members (not the spouse, children, parents or grandparents) such as cohabitees and relatives needing care are required to get a permit. Non-EEA family members of EEA nationals are advised to get the relevant permits or cards to make it easier for them to prove their rights to reside.

Accession state nationals often applied for a residence permit once their 12 months on the Worker Authorisation Scheme (or previous Worker Registration Scheme) had been completed, because it made getting employment and exercising rights easier, if they had proof that they were ‘full’ EEA workers.

From 1st April 2014, housing benefit is no longer available to EEA nationals whose only right to reside is as a jobseeker. EEA nationals who are workers, including those who have ‘retained worker status’, or who are self-employed continue to be entitled to housing benefit under the usual rules. EEA nationals who are jobseekers and who were receiving housing benefit on 31st March 2014 will continue to receive housing benefit under the ‘transitional protection’ rules unless they move to a new address or cease to claim JSA.

Problems with the permanent right to reside

Because there is no requirement for any residence permit to prove the permanent right to reside it is simply a matter of fact that the person has been in the UK for the relevant time.

There are several legal issues currently under consideration in UK and European courts about the right to reside. The main issue is that the UK regulations interpret the EU regulations as establishing the basic permanent right to reside after five years in the UK with the right to reside. The EU regulations refer only to 'residing legally' for the relevant period. Thus, an EEA national who had simply stayed in the UK exercising their right to freedom of movement but not having a specific right to reside for the whole period would automatically have the permanent right to reside after five years.

One issue has been resolved: the contention by the UK government that no time before the current UK regulations came into force in 2006 could count towards the permanent right to reside. The European courts have confirmed that time spent in the UK before 2006 does count towards the permanent right to reside. Time spent when the applicant was not an EEA national does not.  However, where a country has joined (acceded to) the EU, time spent before the accession can count if the person was legally doing something that would give them the right to reside if they were an EU citizen (e.g. working, self-employed). 

The five years required for permanent residence should be continuous under a right to reside, except that absences from the UK for up to six months in one year or longer for certain important reasons (e.g. military service, child birth, overseas posting) do not affect the continuity of residence (EEA Regulation 3(2)(c)). Periods of no more than 6 months in which there is no absence but the person has no right to reside may also not affect the continuity of residence, but the case law on this is less certain.

Problems with students

The requirement for students is that the person

  • be enrolled at a course of study
  • has comprehensive medical insurance which is provided by
    • a European Health Insurance Card obtained in the home country plus a letter (called a statement of intent) confirming that s/he does do not intend to stay in the UK permanently or
    • private comprehensive sickness insurance
  • has signed a declaration that s/he is able to meet their living costs while studying and that declaration is true at the time of signing.

Problems occur when the student is no longer able to support him/herself. As long as the declaration was true at the time of signing and the student continues to study s/he continues to be regarded as a student, with the right to reside as such. In order to be eligible for housing and benefits s/he must also be habitually resident and this can be a problem for students on short courses or who only stay temporarily in the UK to study. Other problems occur with access to HB (as for all students) and with whether a student (who may have a home elsewhere in Europe) is actually homeless.

Problems with self-sufficient people

EU nationals who are self-supporting have the right to reside in the UK. However they are unlikely to be eligible for homelessness assistance as any request for support of this kind would suggest that they are not in fact self-supporting.

An application for an allocation of housing is no indication whatsoever of an inability to support oneself and should not cause any problems. An application as homeless, however, might indicate a loss of self-sufficiency in some circumstances (inability to pay rent or find a deposit if accommodation is lost) but not in others (fire, domestic violence, illegal eviction). In these latter circumstances, homelessness assistance should not be refused.

The definition of 'self-sufficient' is that the person has enough resources to avoid becoming an 'unreasonable burden' on the social assistance system of the state (EU Citizenship Directive 2004/38/EC art 7(1)(b). If a self-sufficient person becomes a burden on the social assistance system of the state (which is simply a way of describing means-tested benefits), they may lose the right to reside. UK benefit rules, however, prevent anyone becoming an 'unreasonable burden on the social assistance system', because they generally do not allow a claim for benefit in these circumstances. Generally, therefore, an EEA national who is not covered by the rules on other rights to reside can be regarded as a self-sufficient person, who thus has a right to reside. This is particularly important in relation to rough sleepers from EEA countries, including the accession countries, who have sometimes been threatened with expulsion from the UK on the grounds that they do not have or have lost the right to reside. A detailed briefing on this issue has been prepared by the AIRE Centre.

Effects of the EU settlement scheme

All EEA nationals living in the UK and all people with EU rights to reside (including family members of EEA nationals and ‘Zambrano carers’ can now apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, and can do so until 30 June 2021 (or 31 December 2020 if the UK leaves the EU with no deal). 

Successful applicants who can prove they have lived continuously in the UK for five years get ‘EU settled status’.  Those who can prove residence for shorter periods get ‘EU Pre-Settled Status’ and can later apply to convert this into EU Settled Status.  These are statuses granted under the Immigration Rules, so that people with them may have both an EU right to reside and a UK immigration status.

EU Settled Status is indefinite leave granted with no conditions attached and so people with this leave are eligible for housing and benefits.  For housing and homelessness services they are in eligible class C. 

EU Pre-Settled Status is limited leave, and does not fit into any eligible classes for housing and homelessness services, and is excluded as a qualifying right for benefits and help with rent.  So generally people with EU Pre-Settled Status have to rely on their EU rights to reside for eligibility. 

There are three exceptions to this:

  1. In England, people who
    • have a non-qualifying right to reside (i.e. a right to reside in the first three months after arriving in the UK, a right to reside as a workseeker or as a ‘Zambrano carer’)
    • got EU Pre-Settled Status before 7 May 2019, and
    • applied for housing or for homelessness help before 7 May 2019

have transitional protection, which means that they continue to be eligible for housing and for homelessness assistance.  They are not eligible for universal credit or housing benefit.

  1. In Wales people who
    • have a non-qualifying right to reside (i.e. a right to reside in the first three months after arriving in the UK, a right to reside as a workseeker or as a ‘Zambrano carer’) and
    • have EU Pre Settled Status

are eligible for housing and homelessness help if they can pass the habitual residence test. But they are not eligible for universal credit or housing benefit.

  1. In England and Wales, people are entitled to help with council tax. 

Why is this the case?

  1. The housing eligibility regulations in both England and Wales describe people with non-qualifying rights to reside as people whose only right to reside is that non-qualifying right to reside. These exclusions are replicated in the universal credit and housing benefit regulations (which apply to England, Scotland and Wales).
  2. Once people have pre-settled status they have another right to reside so that would make them eligible. 
  3. But the English housing and homelessness eligibility regulations have been amended, by SI 2019 No. 861, which came into effect on 7 May 2019.  These discount rights to reside from the EU settlement scheme in these cases. A similar change has been made to the universal credit and housing benefit regulations by SI 2019 No. 872.
  4. So from 7 May 2019 people with non-qualifying rights to reside who have EU Pre-Settled Status will not be eligible.  But they were eligible before 7 May 2019  and if they applied in time have transitional protection.
  5. In Wales the eligibility regulations have not been amended.  So people whose only right to reside is non-qualifying are ineligible.  But if they get EU Pre-Settled Status they have an additional right to reside, and so are eligible if they can pass the habitual residence test.
  6. For the time being, no changes have been made to the council tax reduction regulations in either England or Wales so pre-settled status is not listed as a non-qualifying right to reside (although it is expected this will change at some point). 
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Background Topics

How can we improve housing for new migrants in the UK?

Chartered Institute of Housing