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

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 should have applied for ‘pre-settled status’ or ‘settled status’ to continue to live and work in the UK from 1 January 2021. If you haven’t been granted pre-settled or settled status, you aren’t eligible to claim benefits or for help from the council if you are homeless.

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 website.

It’s a good idea to get some expert advice before you apply. For free, impartial and confidential advice contact Settled 0330 223 5336 or email [email protected].

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.

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 provided a Grace Period, between 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021, allowing you time to apply to the EUSS.

If you applied to the EUSS during the Grace Period but your application was not dealt with by 30 June 2021, you can still qualify for social housing and assistance, provided you can prove the date of your application and that you met the eligibility criteria.

If you did not apply to the EUSS by 30 June 2021 you may still be able to apply if you can show ‘reasonable grounds’ for applying late, 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 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 not residing in the UK before the end of 31 December 2020

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 2020

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.

Changes to the EU Settlement Scheme

On 17 July 2023, the Home Office announced changes to the EU Settlement Scheme. If you are an EU citizen with pre-settled status you will now automatically have your status extended by 2 years. The Home Office will notify you of this and your digital status on the View and Prove system will be automatically updated. 

If you have pre-settled status, the Home Office will also automatically upgrade you to settled status if you are eligible.  

You will only be eligible for this automatic upgrade if the Home Office can evidence that you have lived in the UK for the last 5 years.

As an EU citizen you do not have to wait to be automatically upgraded to settled status following the end of the 2 year extension, you can apply to upgrade as soon as you are eligible.  

If you do not have 5 years continued residence you will not be eligible for the automatic upgrade but can apply as soon as you qualify for settled status.

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.

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This page was last updated on: Mawrth 22, 2024

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.