Are you ‘eligible’ for help?

The council will want to decide if you are legally ‘eligible’ to qualify for help. To do this they may need to ask you some questions about your nationality and/or your immigration status.


In response to the outbreak of violence in Israel that commenced 7 October 2023, there has been an important change in law.

This change helps certain groups of people fleeing the violence to receive housing assistance.

The following people are now eligible for homelessness assistance and community landlord housing without having to satisfy the conditions of the ‘habitual residence test’:
People arriving in Wales who are subject to immigration control:

  • who were residing in Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights or Lebanon immediately before 7 October 2023 and left in connection with the attack on 7 October 2023 or the violence which rapidly escalated in the region following the attack;
  • who have been granted leave in accordance with the immigration rules;
  • whose leave is not subject to a condition requiring them to maintain and accommodate themselves, and any person dependent upon them, without recourse to public funds, and
  • whose leave was not given as a result of an undertaking that a sponsor would be responsible for the person’s maintenance and accommodation.

People not subject to immigration control:

  • who were residing in Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights or Lebanon immediately before 7 October 2023 and left in connection with the attack on 7 October 2023 or the violence which rapidly escalated in the region following the attack.

If you have arrived from Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights or Lebanon elsewhere in the United Kingdom, please check Shelter England, Shelter Scotland, or Housing Advice Northern Ireland for updates.

What does being ‘eligible’ mean?

Being ‘eligible’ for homelessness assistance depends on your immigration and residence status. There are different rules for British citizens, nationals of EU or EEA countries and people of other nationalities.

Only people who are ‘eligible’ are entitled to full homelessness help from the council.

If you live in the UK, are a British citizen and have not recently spent time living in other countries you will almost certainly be  ‘eligible’. There are two main groups of people who may not be ‘eligible’. These are:

  • people who may have rights to live here but have spent time living somewhere else and aren’t considered to be ‘habitually resident’
  • people who are not British citizens and/or don’t have full rights to live here because of their immigration status.

If your husband, wife, civil partner or parent is eligible, you may be eligible yourself (even if your relationship has ended).

In Wales, even if you are not eligible, you should be given general information and advice about how to prevent homelessness, find accommodation or get further help.

Are all British citizens eligible?

You are eligible if you are a British citizen living in the UK and you have not recently spent time living abroad.

You may not be eligible if you are a British citizen but have returned to the UK after living abroad for a lengthy period. This is because councils can only provide homelessness assistance for people who are classed as ‘habitually resident’. When they assess your application, the council will decide whether you are habitually resident, and will look at things like:

  • where you live
  • where you work
  • where you have family or friends
  • the reasons why you have come to live in the area
  • where you intend to live in future
  • whether you have been ‘habitually resident’ in the past.

Are people from abroad eligible?

Only certain people from abroad are eligible. The rules are very complicated if you are not a UK citizen and your rights will depend on your immigration status. The council may contact the Home Office to check your status, so you should always get specialist advice before you apply.

People who are subject to immigration control

Citizens of countries from outside the EEA are generally subject to immigration control and need permission to enter or remain in the UK.

EEA, EU and Swiss citizens who arrive in the UK after the 1st January 2021 are also likely to be subject to immigration control.

Most people who are subject to immigration control are not eligible for homelessness assistance. But, there are some exceptions. You may still be eligible if:

  • you have refugee status.
  • you have exceptional leave to remain in the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or the Republic of Ireland, and your leave doesn’t state that you should have ‘no recourse to public funds’.
  • you are habitually resident in the UK and your leave was granted without any conditions (this includes EEA nationals granted ‘settled status’ under the EU Settlement Scheme).
  • you have humanitarian protection.
  • you have temporary leave to remain in the UK because you are a victim of human trafficking or slavery.
  • you have come to the UK from Hong Kong and fall within a certain category of people with limited leave (you also need to be habitully resident in the UK).
  • you are an Afghan citizen who falls within a certain category of person granted leave.
  • you left Afghanistan due to the collapse of the Afghan government in August 2021.
  • you were living in Ukraine and left due to the outbreak of violence in February 2022, or were living in the UK at that time and qualified under the ‘Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme’ or ‘Ukraine Family Scheme’.
  • you were living in Sudan and left due to the outbreak of violence in April 2023.
  • you were living in Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights or Lebanon and left due to the outbreak of violence throughout the region in October 2023. 
  • you have limited leave to remain in the UK on the grounds of ‘respect for family or private life’ under Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention and your leave doesn’t state that you should have ‘no recourse to public funds’.

People who are not subject to immigration control

If you are not a British Citizen and not subject to immigration control, you will probably be eligible provided you are ‘habitually resident’ in the UK.

There are some situations where you can still be eligible for assistance, even if you are not habitually resident. These include if you are an:

  • EU/EEA or Swiss citizen who has been granted pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)
  • EU/EEA or Swiss citizen who has been granted settled status under the EUSS. This is usually only granted after you have lived in the UK continuously for five years before applying to the EUSS.

See our advice for EU and EEA nationals for more details.

Immigration law is extremely complicated, so get advice before you apply if you are not sure of your status.

Asylum seekers

If you are seeking asylum and have nowhere to live, you may be entitled to help from UK Visas and Immigration while your asylum claim is being decided. In some cases, social services may be also be able to help. Get advice if you are in this situation.  See the page on Asylum Seekers for more information.

What if some of my household is eligible and others aren’t?

The rules for mixed-eligibility households are complicated so it is best to get advice, especially if you have dependent children. In most situations like these, the eligible person should apply to the council for assistance.

Should the council give me emergency housing whilst they are deciding if I am ‘eligible’?

Until the council make a decision that you are not ‘eligible’ they should continue to carry out an assessment of your case.

If, before making a final decision, the council have reason to believe that you may be ‘eligible’, homeless and in ‘priority need’ then it should make sure that emergency housing is available to you. At this stage the council does not have to be certain that you are eligible, it just has to have reason to believe that you might be. This accommodation may be called ‘interim accommodation’ and you can find out more about it here.

If the council later decides that you are not ‘eligible’ it can ask you to leave any emergency housing it has provided but must still provide you with general information, advice and assistance in getting other help for you.

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

If the council decides that your household is not ‘eligible’, it has no further duty to help you other than give you some general information and advice. If the council has already provided you with emergency housing whilst it was carrying out checks and making it’s decision then it can ask you to leave.

If the council considers that you are not ‘eligible’ 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 an adviser can help you consider your alternative housing options.

Where can I get help and advice?

If it is decided that you are not eligible for assistance and the decision cannot be challenged, you may be able to get help in other ways.

Social Services departments of local councils may have a duty to assist if:

  • you are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • you are a family with children
  • you are a young person who has been in care
  • you are an adult with a need for ‘care and attention’, for example, because you are ill, elderly or have a disability or mental health problem.

The council’s housing department and social services should co-operate to help you.

UK Visas and Immigration provides housing and other support to people who are seeking asylum.

The Housing Rights Information website has useful information about the housing and benefit rights of people from abroad.

If you need specialist advice about your immigration status, you can find your nearest adviser by following the link on the Citizens Advice website.

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This page was last updated on: March 21, 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.