EEA nationals’ homelessness rights after Brexit
Posted on 02/06/21
Eligibility of EEA nationals for homelessness help changed on 1 January 2021. Shelter's senior legal editors Ewa Brem and Alona Kiriak explain the housing rights of EEA nationals with settled and pre-settled status.
With the deadline for applications to the EU Settlement Scheme approaching on 30 June 2021, this is essential reading for anyone advising EEA nationals.
The Brexit transition period ended on 31 December 2020.
From 1 January 2021 homeless EEA nationals who approach the council for help are assessed under new rules. EEA nationals who arrive in the UK for the first time after 1 January 2021 and become homeless do not automatically qualify for help from the council.
EEA nationals who were living in the UK before 1 January 2021 can qualify for homelessness assistance. Their rights may vary depending on whether they have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme. The deadline for applications is 30 June 2021.
When a homeless person approaches the council for help, the council must assess their circumstances. One of the first things the councils check is eligibility. Eligibility of EEA nationals is linked to the EU Settlement Scheme.
The EU Settlement Scheme grants two types of status:
- settled status
- pre-settled status
EEA nationals should be signposted to a certified immigration advisor if they have questions on applying to the EU Settlement Scheme.
A person with settled status is eligible for homelessness assistance if they are habitually resident in the Common Travel Area. Being habitually resident means that a person’s home is in the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.
EEA nationals who have been living in the UK for five years can get settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. Sometimes it is possible to get it sooner.
EEA nationals with pre-settled status are not automatically eligible for homelessness assistance. They can only get help if they meet additional conditions.
An EEA national with pre-settled status is eligible for homelessness assistance if they are a:
- self-employed person
- family member of an EEA worker or a self-employed person
- parent or main carer of a child in education if one of the parents is or was an EEA worker
EEA nationals who have temporarily stopped working may still be able to get help. This applies if a person stops working because of:
- vocational training
- late stages of pregnancy and childbirth
- loss of employment or self-employment
Sometimes eligibility lasts for a limited time. Shelter Legal provides more details.
A person with pre-settled status who subsequently acquired a permanent right to reside can get homelessness assistance. Permanent right to reside usually means that a person lived in the UK in accordance with EU rules for five years. This could help EEA nationals with pre-settled status who become homeless before receiving settled status.
Some EEA nationals might have not applied to the EU Settlement Scheme yet or may be still waiting for a decision when they become homeless. They can still get homelessness assistance.
The first condition is that the EEA national was lawfully resident in the UK on 31 December 2020. Being lawfully resident means living in the UK in line with the EU free movement rules as they applied before 31 December 2020. This includes working, looking for a job, being a student or even coming on holiday, as long as it was for less than three months. The rules are complicated and are expained in greater detail on Shelter Legal.
The second condition is that the EEA national meets the same additional requirements that apply to EEA nationals with pre-settled status when they apply as homeless. For example, they are a worker or a self-employed person.
EEA nationals have until 30 June 2021 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. There is no requirement that an EEA national applies to the Scheme before they ask the council for homelessness assistance. If the EEA national does not receive a decision by 30 June 2021, the temporary protection rules will continue until they get their status.
If an application to the Scheme has been rejected, the EEA national needs specialist immigration advice.
An EEA national whose application has been rejected by the Scheme may be eligible for homelessness assistance under other rules that apply to people from abroad.
EU Settlement Scheme operates as a digital-only service and no paper proof of immigration status is issued. There are no stamps in the passport. To access the Home Office digital portal, an EEA national needs access to their ID document, phone number and email address.
This may make it difficult for some EEA nationals with settled status to prove it to a housing officer, especially if they had to leave their accommodation in a hurry and cannot access their belongings.
Where an EEA national cannot access their digital data, a letter or an email from the Home Office should be sufficient to show there is a reason to believe that the person may be eligible for homelessness assistance.
Councils must offer emergency accommodation to anyone who is homeless, as long as there is a reason to believe that the person may also be:
- in priority need
Priority need means for example having children or being vulnerable because of a disability or old age.
‘Reason to believe’ is a low threshold and councils must not delay offering emergency help until extensive enquiries are carried out.
For example, in the case of a homeless EEA national with pre-settled status, a payslip or a bank statement showing that they are employed would likely be enough.
Shelter Legal is an online guide to housing law and provides more information on the housing rights of EEA nationals discussed in this article.
People with EU pre-settled status eligibility for homeless assistance explains the rules for getting homeless assistance for EEA nationals with pre-settled status.
People with EU temporary protection eligibility for homeless assistance sets out the rules for EEA nationals who have not yet been granted settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.
People from abroad who are eligible for homeless assistance lists categories of people who may be eligible for homelessness assistance under rules other than the EU Settlement Scheme.
Homeless application process provides an overview of how people can make a homeless application to a local authority and what duties are owed to them.
Gov.uk has infomation on how to find a certified information adviser.
Find an immigration adviser directs to databases of registered advisers and explains what to check before hiring an adviser.