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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

EEA nationals who have lived in the UK for five years or longer

If you are an EEA national who has lawfully lived in the UK for a period of five years or more, you will automatically be eligible for assistance.

Apply for a permanent residence card

You can apply for a permanent residence card to prove that you have an automatic right to reside and can apply for benefits and homeless help. This card can be used to prove that you have an automatic right to reside in the UK and that you are entitled to assistance.

What happens if you don’t have a permanent residence card?

The Housing Executive and Social Security Agency can accept other forms of proof to show that you’ve been in the UK for five years.

This could include things like

  • Proof of your addresses
  • Old wage slips or P45s
  • Bank statements which show that you have been regularly accessing your account during this period
  • Benefits statements if you have been receiving benefits or tax credits.

What counts as “lawful residence”?

You will only get permanent residence if you have “lawfully” resided in the UK for a continuous period of five years.

At all times during the five years, you must have met at least one of the following conditions:

  • You were a worker or
  • You were able to keep your worker status or
  • You were self-employed or
  • You were a job-seeker or
  • You were a student who was self-sufficient
  • You were self-sufficient and supporting yourself financially
  • You were a family member of one of these groups.

You could also get a permanent right to reside if you have lived in the UK for at least three years and have been working for at least 12 months by the date you reach state pension age.

Breaks during the five-year period

Going abroad for short periods shouldn’t affect your right to get permanent residence. During the five-year period, certain absences from the UK are allowed, including:

  • absences outside the UK, as long as these weren’t for more than a total of six months in one year
  • absences from the UK to do compulsory military services
  • absences from the UK for a maximum of 12 months, as long as the absence was for an important reason, such as pregnancy, illness, studying or training or a posting abroad

Being placed in prison will break your five-years continuous residency. Once you are released from prison, you cannot use any time before your committal towards your five-year period for permanent residency.

If you are absent from the UK for more than two years, you will lose your permanent right to reside.

What happens after Brexit?

At the moment, no one is sure what will happen to EEA residents with permanent right to reside once the UK leaves the EU. The government has said that it will still be possible for EEA nationals to become permanent UK residents, but the process is likely to be different.