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Eligibility for housing assistance if you're homeless

Some people from abroad may not be eligible for housing assistance from the council. This page explains what the council has to consider in deciding whether a person making a homeless application is eligible, why it might decide that you are not eligible and what you can do if it makes this decision.

What does being eligible for housing assistance mean?

Some people from abroad are not entitled to help from the council if they are homeless. If the council decides that your household is not eligible for housing assistance, it has no further duty to help you, regardless of the rest of your circumstances. If the council has already provided you with temporary accommodation, you can be asked to leave.

The council has to look at the eligibility of all the people who are included in a homeless application. It is possible that some members of a homeless household are eligible for housing assistance while others are not (see below).

How does the council decide who is eligible?

Most people are eligible for housing assistance. You will almost certainly be eligible for assistance if:

  • you live in the UK, and
  • you are a British or Irish citizen.

The main group of people who may not be eligible for assistance are people from abroad who are not British or Irish citizens and/or don't have full rights to live here because of their immigration status.

EU citizens

You may qualify for council help when homeless. It depends on your residence status.

The rules for EU nationals also apply to:

After Brexit

These rules continue to apply after Brexit until 31 December 2020.

After 31 December 2020, you will need settled status in the UK to qualify for homeless help.

Find out more about staying in the UK after Brexit from Citizens Advice

Use GOV.UK to find local advice services who can help you apply to the EU settlement scheme if you're homeless.

Settled status

You qualify for help if you have settled status through the EU settlement scheme.

You won't automatically qualify for help if you're granted pre-settled status.

Until 31 December 2020, you can still qualify for homeless help without having settled status if you're an EU national in any of the situations below.

Permanent residence

You qualify for help if you have permanent residence in the UK.

You could have permanent residence if you've:

  • lived here continuously for at least 5 years
  • retired after working here for at least 1 year and living here for at least 3 years
  • stopped work permanently due to illness or disability after living here for at least 2 years

Working or self employed

You qualify for help if you have 'worker or self employed status' in the UK.

The council usually accept that you have this status if you earn at least £166 a week before tax.

You can still qualify if you earn less than this. The council looks at how much you earn and the number of hours you work.

Looking for work

You should qualify for help for at least 6 months if you stop work or self employment in the UK providing you:

  • register with Jobcentre Plus as soon as you can
  • look for work and have a genuine chance of finding it

If you worked for at least a year before becoming unemployed, you can keep your worker or self employed status for longer than 6 months.

You won't usually qualify for help if you've never worked in the UK.

Pregnant or recently given birth

You qualify for help if you're on maternity leave from your job or self employment.

You can also qualify for help if you stop work in the late stages of pregnancy or after the birth.

You must usually intend to return to work or job seeking within 12 months and might not qualify if you don't.

Can't work due to illness or accident

You usually qualify for help if you've worked in the UK but can't work temporarily because of illness or an accident.

Children in school

You might qualify for help if a child who lives with you is in school in the UK.

Your child must have lived in the UK while you or their other parent was an EU worker. You don't need to be working now.

People from outside the EU

You may qualify for council help when homeless if you're settled here and your immigration status allows for 'recourse to public funds'.

Recourse to public funds means you can get help with housing and benefits in the UK.

You usually need evidence of your immigration status to qualify for homeless help.

Get immigration advice if you're unsure of your immigration status or don't have documents to prove it.

Commonwealth citizens

You qualify for help if you're habitually resident and have right of abode.

Many other long term residents from the Commonwealth also have the right to live, work, claim benefits and apply as homeless in the UK.

Indefinite leave to remain

You usually qualify for help if you've been granted indefinite leave to remain.

You won't qualify if you got indefinite leave to remain because a relative agreed to provide you with somewhere to live unless either:

  • 5 years have passed
  • your relative has died

Refugees

You usually qualify for help if you've been granted:

  • refugee status
  • humanitarian protection

You won't qualify for help if your leave to remain in the UK has ended.

If you apply to extend your leave before it expires, you continue to qualify for help until the Home Office makes a decision.

Asylum seekers

If you are an asylum seeker you can get advice from the Scottish Refugee Council.

What if the council needs time to look into my situation?

In this case, you should be offered temporary accommodation until the council has found out whether or not you are eligible.

What can I do if the council says I'm not eligible?

If the council considers that you are not eligible for assistance it has to inform you in writing. The letter must explain the reasons why the council has come to that decision. It must also inform you of your right to request a review of the decision within 21 days.

If this happens, you should get advice immediately to see if you can challenge the council's decision. If you are unable to request a review, or if your review is unsuccessful, a housing adviser can help you consider your alternative housing options.

Where can I get help and advice?

If you have applied to the council for help because you are homeless and the council has informed you that you are not eligible for help, get advice immediately. The rules about eligibility for assistance are complicated and this page only gives a basic overview.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

We are here to help. Visit our coronavirus and housing information page for advice on your rights and the latest legislation.

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The important points

  • Most people who are British and live in the UK will be eligible for help if they are homeless.
  • Some people from abroad won't be able to get help.
  • If you think this might apply to you or someone in your household get advice first. 
  • The council must still look at your situation but might not be able to help you. 

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