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EU citizens' rights - latest developments

EU citizens' housing and benefit entitlements after 1 July 2021 depend on whether they have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme

The website has been updated with the new rules. This page summarises the most recent developments.


What you can find on this page:

The EU Settlement Scheme - pre-settled status

Look at our pages on the EU Settlement Scheme for European nationals in England & Wales and those in Scotland for more details on the scheme and ways to get help to apply.

European nationals with pre-settled status can apply to switch to settled status as soon as they are eligible, normally after five years in a row of ‘continuous residence’. Note that it is the length of their continuous residence, and not the time elapsed since the grant of pre-settled status, which makes someone eligible for settled status. To ensure they maintain their status in the UK, they need to apply for settled status or an extension of pre-settled status before their pre-settled status expires. To find out more click here.

What happens to European nationals who have not yet received settled or pre-settled status?

What happens to the housing rights of EEA and Swiss nationals who were living in the UK by 31 December 2020 but, on 1 July 2021, still did not have settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)? This depends on whether or not they have applied to the EUSS.

Those who were lawfully resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 and have applied under the EUSS or have an active appeal keep their existing residence rights in the UK until they receive a decision. In practice this covers anyone with an outstanding application. So their entitlements to housing help, benefits or right to rent from a private landlord remain as they were before 1 July. Protection of these rights was confirmed in a press release on 6 August. Proof of entitlement is provided by confirmation that they have applied to the EUSS. For more guidance see the Free Movement website.

The government will also take a similar approach with joining family members, who will have temporary protection for three months after their arrival in the UK and pending the outcome of an EUSS application made during that period (and of any appeal).

Existing tenants or benefit claimants who have not applied to the EUSS do, in theory, lose their entitlement. But landlords do not need to check tenants’ status if they had a right to rent when the tenancy started, and there also appears to be some flexibility about continuing benefit payments in these circumstances (based on clear commitments made by the immigration minister - but there is no clear written instruction on this, and it appears to directly contradict the DWPs guidance). However, people in this position should be strongly advised to make a late application to the EUSS.

From 1 July 2021, new tenants and benefit applicants who are EEA or Swiss nationals but have not applied to the EUSS (or have been refused status) have no entitlement under free movement rules and should be treated as any other non-EEA applicant until/unless they make an application and are given leave.

More detailed guidance is given by the Free Movement website. The NRPF Network also has information to help councils uphold EU citizens' rights and identify support options when people are ineligible for benefits. A summary of all EU citizens' rights from 1 July is given by the Public Interest Law Centre.

Rules and guidance that apply from 1 January 2021

Changes made on 1 January have been included in all the pages of the website. They are summarised in the next section. Here are some key links to official documents:

  • MHCLG issued new allocations guidance (pdf) as well as a new homeless code. These cover the changes in the eligibility rules for European nationals in England from 1 January 2021 and were revised to reflect an omission identified by the housing rights website.
  • Consolidated regulations on housing and benefits eligibility which have been updated with the new rules can be accessed on the pages on The law on housing eligibility for the new English and Welsh rules and on housing benefit regulations for the new rules applying across England, Wales and Scotland.
  • A gov.uk page explaining the changes in England was published in March 2021. It includes a flow chart which is republished in a form that is easier to use here (pdf, posted 25 January 2021). There is also less detailed guidance from DWP on benefits changes (pdf). The new rules are summarised below.

EEA nationals’ housing and benefits rights from 1 January 2021

From 1 January 2021, the housing and benefits rights of EEA nationals and their family members lawfully in the UK at the end of the Transition Period (on 31 December 2020) are protected and current eligibility rules for access to benefits, social housing and homelessness assistance continue to apply as they did beforehand. These rules cover:

  • Those who already have settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).
  • Frontier workers – a frontier worker is an EEA citizen who is economically active in, but not predominantly resident in the UK, by the end of the transition period. The frontier worker scheme was launched on 10 December 2020.

There are two other categories of EEA national who temporarily have such rights:

  • People who have applied under the EUSS but have pre-settled status: they retain their rights until they obtain full settled status.
  • Anyone who was lawfully resident at the end of the transition period (31 December 2020) but who has not yet applied to the EUSS, providing they applied during the ‘grace period’ (by 30 June 2021). Their entitlements remain until their application is decided, including the period during they appeal against a refusal. This group also includes a family member who, during the grace period, joins someone who was lawfully resident on 31 December.

From 1 January 2021, all EEA nationals need to provide evidence of their status if applying for housing or benefits. All those with settled status or pre-settled status retain the same eligibility they already have. Those who have applied and been granted status under the EUSS will be able to use their digital status to demonstrate their entitlement to access social housing or homelessness assistance, using the gov.uk web page.

For those who have not yet applied to the EUSS, local housing authorities will need to satisfy themselves that the applicant(s):

  • was exercising a qualifying EU right to reside immediately before the end of the transition period (or the family member has joined their sponsor EEA citizen during the grace period, and both have yet to apply); and
  • meets the relevant eligibility criteria at the time of the initial application and again when considering making an allocation to them, particularly where a substantial amount of time has elapsed since the original application.

What happens to those who failed to apply during the grace period? Late applications to the EUSS are accepted where there are reasonable grounds for missing the deadline, but those who do so will not be eligible for housing or benefits while waiting for their application to be resolved.

Guidance about the EUSS is given on the main pages of the website, but for more detailed information please subscribe to our quarterly newsletter.

Right to rent - effects on EU nationals in England

From 1 July 2021, most EEA citizens have to prove their right to rent using the Home Office online checking service. Those who have made a successful application to the EU Settlement Scheme will have been provided with digital evidence of their immigration status which can only be accessed in this way. Those with settled status have a continuing right to rent, for those with pre-settled status the right to rent is time limited and the landlord will have to make further checks.

EEA citizens with indefinite leave to enter or remain are not required to make an application to the EU Settlement Scheme and can prove their right to rent in same way as other foreign nationals who do not have digital status.

There were no changes to the right to rent for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and their family members living in England until 30 June 2021. They could prove their right to rent using their passport or an identity card from their home country. Landlords are not required to undertake 'retrospective checks' on these tenants after June 2021.

The landlord guidance (p.55) shows how to check the right to rent of those who applied to the EUSS before 1 July but do not yet have a decision. In particular, it emphasises that 'landlords must provide prospective tenants every opportunity to prove their right to rent and should not discriminate against those with an outstanding in-time application.'

A prospective tenant who is an EEA citizen and did not apply to the EUSS by 30 June 2021, and does not have any other form of UK immigration leave, does not have lawful status in the UK or the right to rent. The landlord guidance says (p.58) that they should be advised to make a late application to the EUSS.

Irish nationals continue to be able to prove their right to rent via their passport and are not affected by the 30 June deadline.

Zambrano carers

A high court judgment has found that people with underlying Zambrano rights can apply under the EUSS, even if they have leave under Appendix FM or have not had their rights recognised by the Home Office. Free Movement explains the decision here and there is guidance from Hackney Community Law Centre here.

Problems with housing and benefits eligibility for those with settled status

Our July 2020 newsletter featured an article from Praxis about a London borough trying to argue that people with EU settled status but no other qualifying right to reside were not eligible for housing assistance.  This is particularly relevant to those working with street homeless people who often have long gaps in work history but can show residence for five years and so apply for settled status.  CIH has issued a letter (pdf) giving its interpretation of the rules which may be useful to advisers. Recent newsletters have examples of help available to EU nationals to resolve universal credit claims and other issues.

Problems with housing and benefits for those with pre-settled status

A court case ('Fratila') challenged the DWP on the issue of whether all those with pre-settled status are entitled to benfits. This case and another case in Northern Ireland were ultimately unsuccessful although provided some scope for arguing for benefits to be available in particular circumstances. The cases and their outcomes are covered in the housing rights newsletters, concluding with the January 2022 edition.

Requirement for some EU citizens to have Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (CSI)

A very significant decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) (C-247/20) in March 2022 confirmed that access to the NHS meets the requirement for CSI. CSI and the rights of EU citizens in the UK has been a long-running issue and this judgment provides welcome clarity that separate insurance is not required if people have access to the NHS.

An upper tribunal (WH v Powys County Council [2022] UKUT 203 (AAC)) has confirmed that the ECJ decision applies to claims for housing benefit.

EU Settlement Scheme and domestic abuse victims

Immigration rules changes widened access to the EU Settlement Scheme to victims of domestic violence or abuse. If a family member’s relationship with an EEA citizen breaks down permanently as a result of domestic violence or abuse, this, coupled with their own continuous residence in the UK, will be recognised as part of their application.

Frontier workers and claims for universal credit

From 20 March 2022 frontier workers can claim universal credit. Before that date frontier workers who were temporarily out of work had to claim one of the legacy benefits (income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance or income support) instead. All new claims from 20 March 2022 by frontier workers aged under 66 must be for universal credit (and no new claims for legacy benefits can be made). The rule change is in SI 2022 No 302.

More rules changes affect European nationals from 3 May 2022

The right to claim certain benefits for European nationals with limited leave ends on 3 May 2022. Up to that date, nationals from states that are members of the European Convention on Social and Medical Assistance (ECSMA) or the European Social Charter (ESC) could claim pension credit, housing benefit and/or council tax rebate without it affecting their immigration status even if their leave has a ‘no public funds’ condition. The ECSMA/ESC member states are North Macedonia, Turkey, and most of the EU/European Economic Area member states

The benefits affected are state pension credit (SPC) and housing benefit (HB). The right to claim council tax rebate (CTR) in England and Wales also ends but this is postponed until 1 April 2023. The concession was already fairly limited in scope because new claims for SPC/HB can only be made by people aged 66 or over.

However, claims for SPC/HB made before 3 May 2022 can continue for as long as the person is entitled. New claims for CTR can also be made up to and including 31 March 2023, and can continue thereafter while the person remains entitled. 

EU right to reside and benefit entitlements

A recent case (May 4 2022) established that a person who has the right to reside as an EEA jobseeker is not excluded from the right reside as the sole carer of an EEA worker’s child in education, and is therefore entitled to UC/HB on the basis of being a sole carer.

More information on the EU Settlement Scheme - and how to get help

Free Movement has the answers to six frequently asked questions about the EUSS.

Migrant Info Hub links to the government's translated factsheet in 26 different languages.

Any EEA national having difficulty in accessing housing or benefits can send a complaint to the Independent Monitoring Authority for Citizens' Rights, set up under the EU Withdrawal Agreement. They don't promise to resolve individual complaints - rather they say you should complain to the public authority concerned - but are gathering information which may lead to investigations and legal action if necessary. 


We welcome suggestions for updating the guidance on the Housing Rights website and for including links to relevant new sources of guidance or information.

Please email policyandpractice@cih.org with any suggestions, making clear your message refers to this website.

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