Skip to content

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 returning 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. (This also means for housing purposes you are not counted as being ‘subject to immigration control’.)

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 EEA 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:

Are you the family member of a British Citizen?

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

Other British nationals and Commonwealth citizens

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 by a UK immigration officer. 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?

In Scotland, if you are British or Irish citizen you are entitled to local authority housing or homelessness assistance (this is because you are not subject to immigration control). You can also apply for accommodation from a private landlord or direct from a housing association regardless of whether you have worked here.

But if you are claiming benefits (universal credit, housing benefit, council tax rebate) you must also show that you are habitually resident in the British Isles or Ireland. If you have always lived in the UK or Ireland then you meet these conditions. But the habitual residence condition may disqualify you from 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).

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 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).
  • People from Montserrat. In the case of your application for housing or homelessness assistance you do not have to be habitually resident (and are entitled) if you left the island of Montserrat due to the volcanic eruption in 1995.
  • 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.