This guidance explains the rights of European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss citizens to access social housing and homelessness assistance in England after 1 January 2021.
EEA and Swiss citizens living in England by 31 December 2020
On 31 January 2020, the UK formally left the European Union and entered a transition period, which will end at 11pm on 31 December 2020.
The Withdrawal Agreement, which came into force on 31 January 2020, sets out the terms of the UK’s exit from the European Union. Part 2 (Citizen’s Rights) of the Withdrawal Agreement sets out the Government’s commitment to preserve the rights of EEA citizens and their family members who are resident in the UK, or who are working in the UK but not primarily resident (known as frontier workers) before the end of the transition period, i.e. before 11pm on 31 December 2020. Similar Withdrawal Agreements have been agreed with the EEA EFTA States (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland.
Those covered by these Withdrawal Agreements will have broadly the same rights to live, work and access benefits and public services in the UK as they did before the UK’s exit from the EU. This includes maintaining their eligibility to access social housing and homelessness assistance on broadly the same basis as now.
The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) enables EEA citizens who are resident in the UK by 31 December 2020, and their family members, to apply for UK immigration status. The deadline for applications to the EUSS by those residing here at the end of the transition period is 30 June 2021. However, where a person eligible for leave under the scheme has reasonable grounds for missing the application deadline, they will be given a further opportunity to apply.
The government has legislated to deliver on these protections so resident EEA citizens, and their family members, can continue to live, work, study, and access benefits and services in the UK on broadly the same basis as they do now, after the end of the transition period and for the duration of the grace period (1 January to 30 June 2021).
Moving to the UK from 1 January 2021
The Immigration and Social Security Coordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 will repeal the retained EU law relating to the free movement of persons in UK, ending free movement at 11pm on 31 December 2020. It will introduce a new global points-based immigration system from 1 January 2021.
Newly arriving EEA citizens, moving to the UK from 1 January 2021, will no longer be able to rely on rights to reside under EU law. They will not have any rights under the Withdrawal Agreements unless they are protected in another capacity, for example, where they are a family member joining an EEA citizen who was residing in the UK before the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.
If you arrive in the UK from 1 January 2021 you will be able to apply for an immigration status under the future immigration system. The new points-based immigration system will align the treatment of EEA citizens with that of other foreign nationals, including for the purpose of access to benefits and public services. This means newly arriving EEA citizens and their family members will not be eligible for an allocation of social housing or homelessness assistance until they are granted indefinite leave to remain (typically after five years of continuous residence in the UK), unless exempted under the Eligibility Regulations, for example, by having a refugee status.
Guidance to local authorities
Local authorities can find guidance on the changes to housing legislation that come into force at the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 below.
The Allocation Guidance and the Homelessness Code of Guidance will also explain how these changes to legislation will impact on local authorities’ responsibilities when assessing the eligibility of EEA citizens and their family members accessing social housing and homelessness assistance from 1 January 2021 onwards.
These changes will come into force at the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.
Irish citizens living in England
Irish citizens and their family members living in England, will continue to be able to access social housing, including supported housing, and homelessness assistance as now, after the UK leaves the EU.