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Help for people from the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA)

From 1 January 2021 important new rules affect the rights of EU, EEA citizens and Swiss nationals in the UK to apply for social housing and homelessness help from the council.

What are the new rules?

If you are a:

  • European Union (EU) citizen
  • European Economic Area (EEA) citizen, or a
  • Swiss national

and were living in the UK on the 31st December 2020, you MUST apply for pre-settled or settled status to continue to live and work in the UK. If you do not apply you will not be able to get help from the council with housing or claim benefits.

The scheme to apply for pre-settled or settled status is called the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

How do I apply to the EUSS?

You can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) on the Gov.uk website.

It’s a good idea to get some expert advice before you apply. For free, impartial and confidential advice contact Citizen’s Advice EU citizens’ rights project on 01446 509897 or email wgproject@eu.citizensadvice.org.uk

If your application is successful you will be given either pre-settled status or settled status. Which status you get depends on how long you’ve been living in the UK. You will usually only get settled status if you’ have lived in the UK for a continuous 5-year period.

When can I apply to the EUSS?

The deadline for applying to the EUSS was 30 June 2021.

If you did not apply by 30 June 2021 you may still be able to apply to the scheme if you can show ‘reasonable grounds’ for why you did not apply by the deadline, for example a medical condition or care needs. Even if you have missed the deadline, it is important to apply as soon as possible and explain why there has been a delay. The gov.uk website gives some other examples of what might be considered a ‘reasonable ground’ but even if your reason is not listed you should still apply.

I was living in the UK before the end of the 31 December 2020 and applied to the EUSS before that date

If you applied and were granted pre-settled or settled status under the EUSS before 1 January 2021 (the end of the Brexit transition period) you will be eligible to apply for social housing and homelessness assistance.

You will need to show your digital status to the council when you apply for homelessness help.

I was living in the UK before the end of the 31 December 2020 but have not yet applied for or been granted leave under the EUSS

The government has provided a Grace Period, between 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021, allowing you time to apply to the EUSS. So, if you have not yet applied, you should do so by 30th June 2021.

If you are granted pre-settled or settled status under the EUSS then you will be eligible to apply for social housing or homelessness assistance. You will need to show your digital status when you apply.

If your application has not been dealt with by 30 June 2021, but you can show that you:

  • applied to the EUSS during the Grace Period, and
  • you meet the eligibility criteria

then you will qualify for social housing and homelessness assistance. You will need to show that you are eligible for the EUSS and be able to provide evidence that you lived in the UK before the end of December 2020.

I was not residing in the UK before the end of 31 December 2021

Unless you entered the UK on the basis of a family permit granted under the EUSS (to join an EEA citizen who was living in the UK before the end of the transition period), you will be subject to immigration control. You will not be eligible for social housing or homelessness assistance.

(Different rules apply if you have refugee status or indefinite leave to remain)

I entered the UK for the first time after 31 December 2021

EU, EEA and/or Swiss nationals who enter the UK for the first time on or after 1 January 2021 are subject to immigration control and must apply for leave (permission) to remain in the UK.

The sort of leave you have will impact on the rights you have for help with social housing or homelessness.

Generally, people are given limited leave in the UK to:

  • work
  • study
  • visit, or
  • join family members.

Limited leave usually comes with a condition attached that you must be able to accommodate and support yourself without relying on public money (“no recourse to public funds”). This means you will not have the right to apply for council housing, receive full homelessness assistance or claim benefits.

In Wales, you should be given free information and advice about how to prevent homelessness, find accommodation or get further help from your council’s homelessness department, even if you have conditions attached to your limited leave.

If you are in this situation, it is a good idea to have enough money to cover your housing costs, or to try to arrange to stay with friends or family for a short time. It can be very difficult to get into a homeless hostel or night-shelter. This is because you usually need to be able to claim housing benefit to pay for your hostel space.

Contact Streetlink if you find yourself with nowhere to stay at night. They will be able to put you in contact with help in your area. Go to their website or phone 0300 500 0914.

Some people are given limited leave to remain ‘outside the immigration rules’, i.e. exceptionally. If this leave is granted with recourse to public funds then you will be eligible for homelessness assistance and housing allocation.

I have a family member who is an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, what are their rights?

Your family member must apply to the EUSS.

If your family member is already in the UK they can do this now if either:

  • they arrived in the UK by 31 December 2020, or
  • they arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020 and they have a residence card or a family permit.

If your family member came to the UK as a visitor after 31 December 2020, they will have to leave and apply to the EUSS as a family member from outside the UK.

For more advice about keeping your family member in the UK, see the Citizens Advice website.

What are the EU and EEA countries?

European Union (EU)
The EU was founded in 1992 and has 27 member states. Click here to find out which countries are in the EU.

Citizens of EU countries can live, travel, work, and invest in other member states.

European Economic Area (EEA)
The EEA began in 1994 and allowed participating countries to trade in the European Single Market without having to join the EU. There are 30 participating countries, which include the 27 EU member states plus:

  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Norway

Switzerland also has an agreement with the EEA, which gives it’s citizens the same right to trade in the European Single Market.

Where can I get more help?

Immigration law can be very complicated, so get advice before you apply for housing if you are not sure of your status.

The following organisations can also provide more advice about applying to the EUSS:

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.

This page was last updated on: Awst 9, 2021

Shelter Cymru acknowledges the support of Shelter in allowing us to adapt their content. The information contained on this site is updated and maintained by Shelter Cymru and only gives general guidance on the law in Wales. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law.

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