European nationals

Housing Benefit rules are different for European Economic Area (EEA) nationals than those for British nationals and citizens of the Common Travel Area (Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and The Isle of Man).

As well as the normal Housing Benefit rules your eligibility to receive Housing Benefit as an EEA national will depend on your employment or worker status.

However, if you’re an EEA national who has lived legally in the UK for a continuous period of five years or more then you will have a permanent right of residence and your eligibility to receive Housing Benefit will not be restricted by these rules.

The EEA includes all countries in the European Union (EU) plus Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and for benefits purposes Switzerland. To check which countries are members of the European Union, see the Europa website www.europa.eu.

These rules only affect your eligibility to receive Housing Benefit. If you’re an EU national who has the right to reside in the UK, you're eligible to receive Council Tax Reduction.

Apply for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction

Jobseekers

Since 1 April 2014, if you are an EEA national and come to the UK as a jobseeker you will no longer be entitled to Housing Benefit, even if you’re receiving income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA).

However, if you were receiving both Housing Benefit and JSA on 31 March 2014, you can continue to receive Housing Benefit until you have a change in your circumstances that ends your Housing Benefit or JSA.

If you are seeking work following a period of at least 6 months employment in the UK the rules are different. Please see below for details of Housing Benefit eligibility for former workers.

Workers

If you’re an EEA national and are working legally in the United Kingdom you are eligible to receive Housing Benefit. You can be working full time or part time, but in order to receive Housing Benefit you'll need to show that the work that you're doing is genuine and effective and not marginal or ancillary.

Self-employed

If you’re an EEA national and are genuinely self-employed in the UK, you are eligible to receive Housing Benefit. You should register as self-employed with Her Majesty’s Revenues and Customs (HMRC) and we will ask you to provide your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) and your accounts. Please see our self-employed and company directors page for full details of what information we'll need from you.

Maternity or sick leave

If you're employed and you're on maternity or sick leave you'll keep your worker status for as long as you remain employed.

If you're self-employed and you're on maternity or sick leave you'll keep your worker status for as long as you remain self-employed and intend to return to work.

Former Workers

Workers who are temporarily out of work

If you’ve been working in the UK and your employment ends through no fault of your own, such as if you were made redundant or your fixed term contract ended, you are said to be involuntarily unemployed. If you’re involuntarily unemployed you will be eligible for Housing Benefit as long as you are registered as a jobseeker and are actively seeking genuine and effective work.

If you're involuntarily unemployed and have been working in the UK for less than a year before losing your job you will only keep your worker status and be able to claim Jobseeker's Allowance and Housing Benefit for six months after you lose your job.

If you've worked in the UK for more than a year before becoming involuntarily unemployed you may be able to claim Jobseeker's Allowance and Housing Benefit for longer than six months, but only if you're continuing to look for work and can provide compelling evidence that you have a genuine chance of finding work.

If you leave your job voluntarily or are fired, you will not be eligible to claim Jobseekers Allowance or Housing Benefit.

Please contact Jobcentre Plus for further details on Jobseekers Allowance entitlement and how to register as a jobseeker.

Workers who become permanently unable to work

If you're no longer able to work because of illness or an accident you may get the permanent right to reside in the UK and be entitled to Housing Benefit if:

  • you have worked for two years in the UK, or
  • you have worked for less than two years, but became unable to work because of an industrial injury or occupational disease

Retired workers

You will have a right of permanent residence and be eligible to receive Housing Benefit if you have:

  • retired after working in the UK (including self-employment) for at least 12 months prior to reaching state pension age, and you have lived in the UK continuously for more than three years
  • taken early retirement as an employee after working in the UK for at least 12 months, and you have lived in the UK continuously for more than three years
  • retired from work in the UK (including self-employment) after reaching state pension age and your spouse or civil partner is a UK national
  • taken early retirement as an employee in the UK, and your spouse or civil partner is a UK national
  • ceased working in the UK (including self-employment) as a result of permanent incapacity; and either
    • your incapacity is the result of an accident at work or an occupational disease which entitles you to a pension payable by a UK institution (including a pension paid by a private company); or
    • you have lived and worked in the UK continuously for more than two years; or
    • your spouse or a civil partner is a UK national 

Page last updated: 02 October 2017