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Housing and Immigration restrictions

Your immigration status will affect what kind of support you can get from the council. If you have ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) then you may not be eligible for support with housing through the local council. Normally, limited leave to enter or remain (i.e. a visa with a time limit) means you will have NRPF. Immigration and residence restrictions can affect the help you get from the council if you are homeless or facing homelessness.

The information in this guide is not legal advice.  Please seek specialist immigration advice if you do not understand what your immigration status means. It’s best to try and do this before applying for housing at the council or before applying for benefits at the job centre.

Contact a Shelter adviser

Get advice from Shelter if you have no recourse to public funds and are homeless or will be homeless soon. Contact a Shelter adviser online or phone

Emergency helpline 0808 302 6115


Shelter’s expert advisers will:

  • check if you qualify for emergency housing from the Council
  • look for hostels or night shelters for you
  • tell you about local services that could provide practical help

Get help from the council

Anyone can ask the council for help when homeless or facing homelessness.

You can apply as homeless to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets if you're homeless or at risk of losing your home within 56 days. We will check if you meet immigration and residence conditions. The council call this being 'eligible for assistance'.

Many EU nationals qualify for help but the help you get depends on your situation. If you're in a priority need group, you may qualify for emergency housing and longer-term housing when homeless. If you don't meet immigration and residence conditions, the Council only has to give you general advice and information.

If Tower Hamlets decide you don't qualify we must give you a letter with reasons if we decide you don't qualify because of immigration or residence restrictions.

You can ask for a review within 21 days if you think the decision is wrong.

You may qualify for free legal help if you're on a low income:

Contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345

If you need immigration advice: Find a registered immigration adviser on www.gov.uk

EU and EEA citizens

Many EU citizens and their family members qualify for council help when homeless but it depends on your residence status.

Permanent residence

You qualify for help if you're an EU citizen with permanent residence status.

You might have permanent residence if you've:

  • lived in the UK for at least 5 years
  • retired or stopped work permanently due to illness or disability and lived in UK for at least 2 years

Working or self-employed

You qualify for help if you have EU worker status or EU self employed status. The council decides if you have this status by looking at:

  • how much you earn
  • the number of hours you work

The council should accept that you count as a worker or self-employed if you earn at least £155 a week. You could qualify if you earn less than this.

Pregnant or recently given birth

You qualify for help if you're on maternity leave from your job or self-employment.

You usually qualify for help if you stop working in the late stages of pregnancy or after having a baby, providing you return to work (or start looking for work) within 12 months.

Looking for work

You won't qualify for help if you've never worked in the UK. You will qualify for help if you've worked in the UK and still have your worker or self-employed status.

You usually keep your worker or self employed status for at least 6 months if you stop work, providing you register with Jobcentre Plus and look for a new job.

Can't work due to an illness or accident?

You usually qualify for help if you've worked in the UK but can't work temporarily because of illness or an accident. If your illness means you're unlikely to work again it won't be seen as temporary. You could have permanent residence and qualify for help if you lived in the UK for at least 2 years before giving up work.

Children in school

You might qualify for help if you have a child who lives with you and is in school in the UK, providing your child has lived in the UK while you or their other parent was an EU worker. Only one of you needs to have been an EU worker.

If the council can't help you

You'll need to find your own accommodation if the council can't help you with housing.

Help to pay rent

If you find somewhere to live, you may be able to claim one of the following benefits to help with your rent:

Your residence status in the UK affects if you qualify. Find out more from Citizens Advice about claiming benefits if you're an EU national.

People from outside the EU

Some people from outside the EU qualify for council help when homeless or facing

homelessness. Your leave to remain must allow you to have 'recourse to public funds'.

Settled status or indefinite leave to remain

You usually qualify for help if you've been granted indefinite leave to remain (ILR), also known as settled status. You won't usually qualify for help if you were granted ILR within the last 5 years because a relative sponsored you. The Home Office expects your relative to provide you with a home for your first 5 years in the UK unless they have died.


You usually qualify for help if you've been granted:

  • refugee status
  • humanitarian protection

You won't qualify for help if your leave to remain in the UK has ended.

If you apply to extend your leave before it expires, you continue to qualify for help until the Home Office makes a decision.

Asylum seekers

You won't qualify for homeless help from the council if you're seeking asylum.

You can apply for asylum support instead if you have nowhere to live while the Home Office looks at your asylum claim. If you're under 18 and on your own, children/social services will provide you with somewhere to live until you turn 18 or get a final decision on your asylum claim.

Spouse or partner visas

You won't usually qualify for help if you're in the UK on a spouse or partner visa. Your partner is expected to provide you with a home for your first 5 years in the UK.

If you need to leave your home because of domestic violence you can ask the Home Office for permission to claim benefits and get homeless help for a 3-month period.

The application form is on www.gov.uk but you should get immigration advice before you complete it.

Rights of Women www.rightsofwomen.org.uk can provide free legal advice.

No recourse to public funds

You can't get help with housing or benefits in the UK if your immigration status means you have 'no recourse to public funds'. This restriction affects foreign students, work-permit holders, visitors and some other types of limited

Get immigration and housing advice 

You may need specialist immigration advice if you're unsure of your residence status. The following organisations may be able to help you:

Tower Hamlets law centre: 02075384909

Toynbee Hall: 02073922978