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EU Nationals Rights to Live and Work in Scotland

If you come from a country that is a member of the EU then you will have the right to enter the UK. However, you will have to meet certain criteria if you want to live and work in the UK. This section outlines when you can expect to receive help if you become homeless.

Which countries does this apply to?

This section applies to you if you are from one the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain,Sweden, Malta, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

From 1 January 2014 this section also applies to people coming to Scotland from Bulgaria and Romania, which are sometimes referred to as A2 nationals. 

Can I get help if I'm homeless?

If a UK citizen becomes homeless in Scotland, they can make a homeless application to their local council. The council then has a duty to look into their situation and offer them help or advice.

In some situations, people who have come to live in the UK from the EU countries listed above can also make a homeless application. This will depend on how long you have been in the UK, and whether or not you are a 'qualified person' (see 'what is a qualified person' below).

If you make a homeless application, the council has to find you somewhere temporary to stay while it looks into your situation. If you pass certain tests, the council will have to find you a permanent place to live.

What if I arrived in the UK in the last three months?

When you first arrive in the UK you should automatically be classed as a qualified person. A qualified person is one that meets certain rules that makes them entitled to help and assistance, for the first three months of your stay (see 'what is a qualified person' below).

During those three months you may be eligible to receive homelessness assistance from your council. However, the council you make an application to may decide to use its discretion and suggest that you are not eligible for assistance, as you have become a 'burden on the state'. However, this should not be an automatic result of you presenting as homeless, the council should still investigate your situation before reaching a decision.

What if I have been in the UK longer than three months but less than five years?

If you have been in the UK longer than three months and are classed as a qualified person then you should be eligible for assistance if you become homeless, as long as you continue to be a qualified person (see 'what is a qualified person' below).

If you become homeless and make a homeless application to your council, they will have to investigate your individual circumstances before reaching a decision. If the council states that you are eligible for assistance it should then process your application as it would for anybody else. Have a look at the section on help from the council to find out more.

What if I have been in the UK longer than five years?

If you have been in the UK for five years or more, you will permanently be classed as a qualified person. This means you will always be eligible to claim housing benefit and housing assistance from your council. You will continue to be classed as a qualified person unless you leave the UK for a continuous period of two years or more.

The five-year period does not have to be completely continuous for you to be classed as a permanently qualified person. In some circumstances you will be able to leave the UK and return without the five-year period being interrupted.

You are allowed to leave the UK for less than six months in any year period. You can also leave the country on one occasion for a period not exceeding 12 months for an important reason such as pregnancy and childbirth, serious illness, study, vocational training or an overseas posting. The five-year period is not affected by any time spent out of the UK on military service.

What is a qualified person?

The term qualified person is a legal term for someone who is allowed to access certain benefits and assistance. There is a chance that you will be a qualified person if you are any of the following:

  • a worker
  • self-employed
  • looking for work
  • retired
  • someone that has arrived in the UK in the last three months
  • someone that has been in the UK for more than five years.

However, just because you fall into one of these categories it does not automatically mean you will be a qualified person.

Am I a qualified person?

If you came to the UK and you now work here or if you have set up your own business or you have retired after working in the UK then there is a good chance that you will be able to get homeless assistance from the council if you urgently need somewhere to stay. 

Am I a worker?

You will be classed as a worker even if you only work part-time and for a very low wage. In fact, you will still be classed as a worker if the only reason you are working is so you can claim benefits.

However, if your job is 'token' then you won't be classed as a worker. The authorities might decide that your work is 'token' if, for instance, you clean your friend's flat occasionally for a couple of pounds.

You might even be classed as a worker if you don't have a job. This will be the case if you:

  • are temporarily unable to work in the UK because you have had an accident or are ill
  • are involuntarily unemployed and have started training that is related to your career
  • have voluntarily stopped working and started training that is related to your previous job
  • are involuntarily unemployed after having been employed in the UK, providing that
    • you were employed for at least a year before becoming unemployed, and
    • you have been unemployed for no more than six months, or
    • if you have been unemployed for more than six months, you can provide evidence that you are looking for a job in the United Kingdom and have a genuine chance of finding one (see 'what if I'm looking for work' below).

If you are involuntarily unemployed, it's best if you register as a jobseeker with your local employment office, as this would show that you are actively looking for work.

For information on how to register as a jobseeker pop into your local Citizens Advice or Jobcentre Plus office. Your local council will also have benefits officers that wil be able to tell you about your rights.

What if I'm self-employed?

If you have set up your own business in the UK then you will probably be classed as a qualified person. This means that you will be able to claim homelessness assistance from the council and some benefits, including housing benefit. You should be able to start claiming all this assistance as soon as you have taken steps to set up your business.

What if I'm retired?

If you are retired there is a chance that you might still be classed as a qualified person. If you are classed as a qualified person then you will be able to get homelessness assistance from your council and possibly claim some benefits from the government.

This will only be the case, however, if you have been in the UK for at least three years and were a worker for at least one of those years.

If you have become unable to work as the result of an accident at work or an illness that entitles you to an occupational pension, there will be no condition placed on the length of your residence in the UK. This means that for as long as you stay in the UK you will be a qualified person and entitled to homelessness assistance from the council.

If you are retired but you don't fit into any of the categories above then you won't be classed as a qualified person. Instead you will be classed as economically inactive. If you are in this category you will have to satisfy certain tests before you are allowed to access homelessness assistance and housing benefit. Talk to an adviser at a Citizens Advice for further help.

What if I'm looking for work?

In some cases you will be classed as a qualified person even though you don't have a job. This will be the case if you are looking for a job and can show that there is a good chance that you might find one.

If you are classed as a qualified person then you will be eligible to get homeless assistance from your council and you might be able to claim benefits to help you cover the cost of your home and your living expenses.

Before you will be classed as a qualified person you must be able to show that there is a link between you and the job market. This might involve showing that you have applied for jobs, been to interviews and that you are claiming jobseekers' allowance. For more information you should visit your local Jobcentre Plus office.

If, after six months, you still haven't found a job then the authorities might stop classing you as a jobseeker. If you still want to be classed as a jobseeker after six months then you will have to show two things:

  • that you are making an effort to find work
  • that you have a reasonable chance of finding a job.

To show that you are looking for work you should again provide proof that you have been applying for jobs and going for interviews. This might involve bringing letters from places you have applied for work along with you.

When it is deciding whether or not you have a reasonable chance of finding work, the benefits office will look at what work experience you have and why you have not been successful in getting jobs you have applied for in the past. If you think you have just been unlucky or that there is a good reason for the fact you haven't found a job yet then you should try to make this clear.

What if I am not a qualified person?

If you do not have a job and you don't fall into any of the other categories of qualified persons then it is likely that you will be unable to get help from the council if you are looking for somewhere to stay.

You might, however, be able to claim some benefits from the government. Benefits are payments made to you by the government to help you cover the cost of living and running your home. For more details check the Benefits calculator from Gov.UK.

Family members and children

Family members who live with you will have the same rights as you. The following should be accepted as family members:

  • a husband, wife or registered civil partner
  • children (yours or your spouse or partner's) who are under 21 years old
  • children (yours or your spouse or partner's) who are over 21 years old and still dependent on you
  • other dependent relatives (which could include a long-term partner you are not married to, parents or grandparents, but only if they are dependent on you).

If your former partner was a EU national, then regardless of your immigration status, you will retain these rights if you are responsible for children who are under 18 and remain in education.

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
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The important points

  • You have to be a qualified person to be eligible for homelessness assistance.
  • If you are a worker, self employed, looking for work or retired you may be classed as a qualified person.
  • If you are not a qualified person then it is unlikely you will be helped. 

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