Housing advice for non-UK citizens

People who have come to the UK from elsewhere may be more likely to live in unsuitable or insecure housing, and to have other needs as well. These could include other health conditions, lack of money or unsuitable working conditions. Unresolved immigration problems can also affect your physical and mental health. (See More information and advice on housing for where to get help and support.)

If you are not a citizen of the UK, the type of help you receive with housing depends on a number of factors. These include your country of origin, your immigration status, and any conditions attached to your immigration status.

Eligibility for housing accommodation and support for non-UK citizens can vary considerably. See the Housing Rights Information website for a list of organisations that provide personal advice for non-UK citizens.

Limited leave to remain. People granted limited leave to remain, generally, do not have recourse to public funds. This means that you are unable to access most welfare benefits – including Housing Benefit – and that you are not eligible for local authority (council) housing. However, some benefits are available to you and you can still apply for housing association accommodation(see Rented housing).

EU and EEA nationals

If you are a worker (or family member of a worker) from one of the European Union or EEA (European Economic Area) countries, in most cases you do have access to the same welfare benefits as UK citizens and are entitled to: 

  • apply for welfare benefits, including Housing Benefit or Universal Credit.
  • apply for emergency housing.
  • apply for permanent council housing.

Restrictions apply to workers from EU A2 countries, and students and non-workers from EU and EEA countries. See the Housing Rights website for  detailed information on this in England, Wales and Scotland, and Housing Advice NI and NI Direct for information on housing and benefits in Northern Ireland.

Asylum seekers awaiting a decision

If you are seeking asylum, it is not unusual for people to be moved to different parts of the country while you wait for a decision. This will mean you have to change your HIV clinic and doctor. You may be isolated from the community and HIV organisations you previously relied on. But there will still be sources of advice and support; see More information and advice on housing for where to find these.

Asylum seekers do not have access to the same welfare benefits as UK citizens. 

If you are waiting for a decision on your claim for asylum, you will receive accommodation and support from the UK Border Agency.

Asylum support

If you need help with accommodation and support ,you will need to apply for asylum support. Shelter’s websites have advice about who is eligible, and how to apply for asylum support, in England, Scotland and Wales. You can also see more information on the UK Border Agency website

Emergency accommodation from the UKBA

If you are eligible to receive asylum support or have applied for asylum support, and are waiting for a decision, the UKBA will provide you with emergency accommodation, food and basic necessities, if you have nowhere else to stay.

Some people may be able to access accommodation and support through their local authority social services – if, for example, you are ill or pregnant (see Help from social services below).

Successful asylum seekers

Successful asylum seekers do have access to the same welfare benefits as UK citizens.

If you have refugee status, humanitarian protection or discretionary leave to remain, you are entitled to:

  • apply for welfare benefits, including Housing Benefit or Universal Credit.
  • apply for emergency housing.
  • apply for permanent council housing.

If you have indefinite leave to remain, you must meet two conditions before being entitled to apply:

  • You must be ‘habitually resident’ in the UK.
  • You must not have had an undertaking to support and accommodate you signed by a relative within the last five years.

You can also apply for social housing without meeting these two conditions, provided you can afford to pay the rent.

See Homelessness, Emergency Housing and Rented Housing for more about eligibility, how to apply, and how to document your housing and health needs.

Visit the Housing Rights Information website for housing rights information for new arrivals.

Unsuccessful asylum aeekers

An unsuccessful asylum claim is bound to cause an emotional reaction. You may feel very stressed and anxious about the future.  You may be particularly concerned about what it will mean for your health if you have to return home. See More information and advice on housing for where to get information and support for your next steps.

Unsuccessful asylum seekers do not have access to the same welfare benefits as UK citizens.

If your application for asylum has been refused, and you have appealed, you will continue to receive asylum support until a decision is made.

If your application for asylum has been refused, but you are unable to leave the country, you may be entitled to accommodation and support by applying for Section 4 support. Some people with HIV may be entitled to apply for this support on the basis of being unable to leave the country due to a medical condition. 

You can find out more about Section 4 support on the Refugee Council website. The Refugee Council also provides services for people who have no or very little access to financial help and can help people apply for Section 4 support.

Help from social services

Even if you are not eligible for accommodation or support, local authority (council) social services departments have a duty to help asylum seekers with ‘social care needs’. This includes people who suffer from a health condition, including HIV.  

And remember that, since October 2012, all HIV treatment has been free to all who need it, regardless of immigration status, in England.

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.