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Check you have the right to reside for housing

This advice applies to England

If you’re from the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, you might be able to get help from your local council with social housing or somewhere to stay if you’re homeless.  To get this help, you’ll need to have ‘settled status’ or a ‘right to reside’. 

The EEA includes EU countries and also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

If you need help with Housing Benefit, you’ll need to follow a different process. Get help with Housing Benefit.

Showing you have a right to reside

You can have a right to reside for different reasons - for example to do with your work, family or time spent living in the UK. Not all rights to reside mean you can get help with housing.

You can stay in the UK, even if you don't have a right to reside.

If you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years or more

You can apply for settled status. If you have settled status you can get help with housing or homelessness. You won’t need to show you have a right to reside.

If you don’t yet have settled status and need help urgently, you may still be eligible if you can prove another right to reside. For example, the fact you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years or more might mean you have a permanent right to reside. 

To get settled status you need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. Check how to apply for settled status.

Your right to help with housing might stop if you don’t have settled status by 31 December 2020.

If you’ve lived in the UK for less than 5 years

You can apply for ‘pre-settled status’. Check how to apply for pre-settled status. 

If you have pre-settled status, or haven’t yet applied to the EU Settlement Scheme, you will still have to prove you have a right to reside to get help with housing.

Proving the UK is your home and you plan to stay

If you can prove you have a right to reside, you might also need to show you’ve made the UK your home and plan to stay here. You do this by passing the habitual residence test. 

When you don’t need to prove the UK is your home

You don’t need to pass the habitual residence test if you have: 

  • settled status through the EU Settlement Scheme

  • certain types of right to reside - for example as a worker or self-employed person or their family member

Check if you need to pass the habitual residence test.

Proving you have a right to reside 

You'll need to give evidence of your right to reside when you apply for housing help. You don’t need to prove a right to reside if you have settled status.

If you're working

If you can prove you’re a worker, you’ll have a right to reside. Workers are eligible for help with housing and homelessness. 

There’s no minimum amount you need to earn but the work has to be ‘genuine and effective’, not  ‘marginal and ancillary’. This means it can’t be a small, occasional job - for example, if your neighbour pays you £30 a week to feed their cats a few times a year while they’re away. It might be genuine and effective if you’ve agreed a £500 a month discount on your rent because you do regular cleaning or childcare for your landlord.  

Getting the right evidence

You might need to show your local council evidence that you’re a worker.  

Use evidence that shows as many different types of personal information as possible, such as your name, date of birth, address and National Insurance number. 

You can use evidence like:

  • payslips

  • tax documents - for example, your P60 or P45

  • employment contracts

  • letters or emails from your employer - for example, a job offer

It’s helpful to provide as much evidence as you can. If your local council wants to see more evidence, they will need to find it. For example, they could call your employer.  

If you work different hours each week or have a zero-hours contract

You can still prove you have a right to reside as a worker.

The person who makes a decision about your right to help with housing will look at all the details of what you do. These details will include how much you earn, how many hours and how regularly you work.

You’re more likely to have a right to reside as a worker if you work regularly - even if your hours change each week.

If you’re in training for a new job or skill

You might still be eligible if you’re having training to help you get work. This is called ‘vocational training’. 

You’ll keep your status as a worker if you: 

  • lost your previous job and the training will lead to any type of new job 

  • gave up work and the training is related to your previous career

If you're self employed

If you can prove you’re self employed, you’ll have a right to reside. The work has to be ‘genuine and effective’ not just ‘marginal and ancillary’. This means it can’t be a small, occasional job. Self-employed people are eligible for help with housing and homelessness. 

Example

A Big Issue seller working up to 24 hours a week and earning between £45-150 is doing genuine and effective work. Another Big Issue seller who works about 40 hours a week but only earns up to £50 is doing marginal and ancillary work. This is because the seller’s income after paying costs is so low it isn’t considered to be self employment.  

Getting the right evidence

When you apply for help with housing, you’ll need to show your local council evidence that proves you’re self employed.

If you’ve only been self employed for a short time, you’ll still have a right to reside if you can show you’ve taken steps to start working.

Use evidence like:

  • adverts you’ve used to promote your services - for example, a leaflet or social media post

  • letters and emails that show you’ve been looking for new work opportunities

  • proof you’ve registered as self-employed with HM Revenue & Customs - for example, letters or emails confirming you’re registered

  • receipts and invoices for equipment you use for work - for example, if you’re a decorator you could show you’ve bought paint and brushes

  • bank statements for your work accounts

It’s helpful to provide as much evidence as you can. Your local council should also try to find the evidence they need, if you can’t provide it. 

If you don’t always work

You should be able to keep your right to reside as a self-employed person if you can prove you’re still running your business and looking for work. You’ll need to show you’re:

  • advertising your business

  • keeping your accounts up to date

  • trying to find new work opportunities

If you've had to stop working

You might be able to keep your right to reside as a worker or self-employed person. For example, if you were made redundant or the self-employed work you were doing stopped because your skills weren’t in demand any more. This is known as ‘retaining worker status’ or ‘retaining self-employed status’. 

You can keep this status for up to 6 months, or longer if you were employed or self-employed for a year or more. But you need to prove you are looking for work by passing the ‘genuine prospect of work’ test and you must register as a jobseeker. 

You will also need to prove it wasn’t your fault you lost your work - this is sometimes known as being ‘involuntarily unemployed’.

Registering as a jobseeker

The best way to register as a jobseeker is by claiming Universal Credit or Jobseeker’s Allowance.

It’s really important that you register as a jobseeker as soon as possible after you leave your job. This is because you need to show you’re looking for work when you apply for housing or homelessness help for example, with letters or emails from the Jobcentre.

If you don't register as a jobseeker, you might have to explain any gaps between leaving your job and registering.

For example, if you waited 2 weeks before registering as a jobseeker, you might have to show what you’ve been doing to look for work during that time.

If you can’t explain why you waited, you could lose your status as a worker or self-employed. This means you might not be able to get help with housing.

Proving you’re looking for work 

You’ll need to pass a test to prove you have a good chance of getting a new job - this is called the ‘genuine prospects of work’ test. 

You’ll need to show what you’ve been doing to look for a job and how you’ve been improving your chances of finding one. It’s really important you provide as much evidence as you can. This evidence might help you keep your status for longer if you were previously working for a year or more and don’t find a new job within 6 months. 

You can use evidence like:

  • emails and letters that show you’ve applied for jobs or had interviews

  • proof of relevant qualifications or training you’ve been doing, or that you’re planning to do

  • proof of any volunteering you’ve done to help you get a job - this could be a letter from the organisation you’re volunteering for

Getting the right evidence

When you apply for help with housing you’ll need to show you were working before.

You can use evidence like:

  • employment contracts

  • payslips

  • letters or emails from your employer - for example, a job offer

  • tax documents - for example, your P60, P45 or tax return

  • something that shows why you had to leave your job - for example, a redundancy letter

  • invoices and bank statements showing you’ve been paid for work

If you’ve been offered a new job

You’ll be able to pass the genuine prospects of work test if you’ve been offered a new job but have to wait until it starts. You’ll keep your worker status. 

It’s helpful if you can give your local council evidence of your job offer - for example, a letter with your start date. 

If you lose your retained status

You’ll need to have another type of right to reside - for example, through a family member or by finding work.

If you can’t work temporarily because of an illness or an accident

You might still keep your right to reside as a worker or self-employed person.

This is known as ‘retaining worker status’ or ‘retaining self-employed status’.

You’ll need to prove you’ll only be off work temporarily. There’s no time limit to this, but there needs to be a good chance you’ll be well enough to go back to work in the future.

Getting the right evidence

You’ll need to show evidence that you’re not well enough to do the work you normally do.

It might help if you can get medical evidence or a doctor’s note that says why you can’t work. The evidence should also say that you’ll be able to return to work.

It’s helpful to provide as much evidence as you can. Your local council should also try to find the evidence they need, if you can’t provide it.

If you’re pregnant or on maternity leave and have stopped working

If you take maternity leave while employed or self-employed, you’ll keep your worker or self-employed status - even if your leave is unpaid. 

If you have to give up work or self employment because of the physical effects of pregnancy or childbirth, you’ll have a right to reside. You’ll need to show you intend to go back to work a year after your baby’s born, or less. You won’t have to go back to the same job.

If you're looking for work

You might still have a right to reside as a jobseeker if:

  • you’ve never worked or been self-employed in the UK

  • you didn’t pass the test for retaining your status as a worker or self-employed person

But this won’t entitle you to help with housing or homelessness. 

You might have a right to reside on another basis - for example if you’re eligible as a family member of someone from the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein. You might also have a right to reside if you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years or more.

Proving a right to reside as a family member

You might have a right to reside as a family member of someone from the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein. You might have this right even if you’re not from one of these countries yourself. 

You’ll have this right to reside even if you’re unemployed. 

A family member means you can be their:

  • husband, wife or civil partner

  • child or grandchild if you're under 21 - you could also be the child or grandchild of their husband, wife or civil partner

  • child or grandchild, if you’re over 21 and you depend on their financial support or care to meet your basic needs - this includes being the child or grandchild of their husband, wife or civil partner

  • parent or grandparent, if you depend on their financial support or care to meet your basic needs 

You might have a permanent right to reside if you’ve lived in the UK for at least 5 years as a family member, or through another type of right to reside. 

If your relative loses their right to reside, you will also lose your right to reside as their family member. For example, if they lose their job and don’t find a new job within a year.

You might also have the right to reside through other people in your family. This will be based on where you lived with them, what their right to reside is and whether you depend on them or need their care. This is known as being an ‘extended family member’.  

The rules are complicated so get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you’re a family member of a British citizen

The rules are different.

You won’t automatically have a right to reside because of a British family member.

The rules are complicated so get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice.

Getting the right evidence

When you apply for help with housing or homelessness, your local council will check your EEA relative has a right to reside. For example, you could show employment contracts and payslips if they’re a worker.

You’ll also need to show evidence of your relationship to them, such as birth or marriage certificates.

If you’re a family member of someone who’s died

You may have a permanent right to reside if you were a family member of a worker, self-employed person or someone with a permanent right to reside. You will need to show you lived with them immediately before they died and either:

  • they lived in the UK for at least 2 years before their death

  • they died because of a work-related accident or disease

If you’ve split up with your husband, wife or civil partner

If you’re still married or in a civil partnership with them, you’ll keep your right to reside as their family member, even if you no longer live together.

If you’re divorced or have ended your civil partnership

You may have a permanent right to reside if you had a right to reside for at least 5 years - as a family member, worker, jobseeker or any combination of rights to reside. 

If you’re an EEA national and don’t have a permanent right to reside, you’ll need to establish a right to reside in your own right. This could be as a worker, self-employed person, or a family member of another EEA national who’s a worker, self employed or who has a permanent right to reside. 

You can get help if you’re having trouble proving a right to reside. Get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you’re caring for a child who’s in education

If you don’t have your own right to reside in the UK, you might get it if you’re caring for a child who:

  • is in education - this doesn’t include pre-school or nursery

  • has a parent or step-parent who has worked in the UK - this doesn’t need to be you

  • was in the UK while the parent or step-parent was working

This is called a ‘derivative right to reside’. 

You must be the child’s ‘primary carer’. This means you’re:

  • their parent, grandparent or legal guardian

  • responsible for looking after them and you don’t share that responsibility with anyone else who has their own right to reside 

You might be eligible for help with housing or homelessness but will have to pass the habitual residence test.

Read more about the habitual residence test.

Example

Jakub and Lena are from Poland and have been living in the UK. They’re married and have a child who is 5 years old and in school. Jakub has a right to reside as a worker because he has a job. Lena doesn’t work, but she has a right to reside as the family member of a worker because she’s married to Jakub.

Jakub and Lena get divorced and Jakub moves back to Poland. Lena loses the right to reside she got from her husband, but can get a derivative right to reside from her child.

Getting the right evidence

When you apply for help with housing or homelessness, you’ll need to prove:

  • one of the child’s parents or step-parents is working or has worked in the UK - for example, with payslips, P60s or P45s, or a letter from an employer

  • you’re the child’s primary carer - for example, by showing you live together

  • your relationship to the child you’re the primary carer for - for example, with a birth certificate

  • that the child you’re caring for is in education - for example, with a letter from their school

Getting a permanent right to reside

A derivative right to reside won’t help you get a permanent right to reside in the UK. It doesn’t count towards the 5 years of having a right to reside that you need to become a permanent resident.

Proving a permanent right to reside

You might have a permanent right to reside if you’ve been in the UK for 5 years or more. You can sometimes get a permanent right to reside in less than 5 years - for example, if you retire or can’t work any more because you’re ill. 

You’ll lose your permanent right to reside if you spend 2 years outside the UK without gaps.

If you’ve been in the UK for 5 years or more

You might have a permanent right to reside.

You’ll need to prove you’ve spent 5 years in the UK with a right to reside as:

  • a worker or self-employed person

  • someone who’s had to stop working or being self employed but has kept their worker or self-employed status (known as ‘retained worker’ or ‘retained self-employed’ status)

  • someone with an initial 3 months’ right to reside

  • a jobseeker

  • someone who can support themselves financially (known as being ‘self-sufficient’) and has comprehensive health insurance

  • a student who is self-sufficient and has comprehensive health insurance

  • the family member of someone with a right to reside

You can count more than one type of right to reside towards your 5 years.

For example, you might have a permanent right to reside if you spent 4 years working and 6 months as a jobseeker, with 1 year as a family member of a worker as well.

If you’ve spent time outside the UK

During your 5 years, you can have short gaps outside the UK, including:

  • up to 6 months outside the UK each year

  • up to 12 months outside the UK for important reasons - for example, pregnancy or childbirth, serious illness or time spent working abroad

If you’ve been in prison

Time in prison can’t be taken into account when deciding if you have 5 years’ permanent residence. 

When working out how long you’ve had a right to reside, you also can’t add together time before and after you were in prison. For example, if you were living in the UK for 4 years before you went to prison and 1 year after, only the 1 year would count.

Getting the right evidence

When you apply for help with housing or homelessness assistance, you’ll need to give evidence for 5 years in a row where you had a right to reside in the UK.

If it’s difficult to get the evidence, you might find it easier to prove another type of right to reside - for example if you’re currently working.

If it’s easy to get evidence for your 5 years, you should prove you have a permanent right to reside when you apply for help with housing. For example, if you have 5 or more years of payslips and tax documents from your job, include copies of them with your housing application.

If you retire

You might have a permanent right to reside if you were a worker or self employed and reach State Pension age, or if you were a worker and retire early. You will need to have either:

  • lived in the UK for 3 years or more and you worked here for 1 year before you retired

  • lived and worked in the UK and your husband, wife or civil partner is a British citizen

If you can never work again because of illness or an accident

This is known as ‘permanent incapacity’. You might have a permanent right to reside if one of the following applies:

  • you lived in the UK for 2 years or more before you were permanently incapacitated

  • your accident or illness was caused by something that happened at work

  • you lived and worked in the UK before you were permanently incapacitated and your husband, wife or civil partner is a British citizen

If you lived in the UK before your country joined the European Union

When you’re working out how long you've had a right to reside, you can include time spent in the UK before your country joined the EU. For this time to count, you’ll need to have had leave to enter or remain in the UK. You will also need to have been a worker, self-employed or the family member of someone working or self-employed.

If you’re from a country that joined the EU after 2004

There are rules that might have affected your right to reside in the UK in the past. This is important if you’re trying to prove you have a permanent right to reside because of what you’ve done in the past.

The countries affected by these rules are:

  • Bulgaria

  • Croatia

  • Czech Republic

  • Estonia

  • Hungary

  • Latvia

  • Lithuania

  • Poland

  • Romania

  • Slovakia

  • Slovenia

Proving you have a permanent right to reside can be complicated so get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice.

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