When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Eligibility test for foreign nationals

You must be habitually resident in Northern Ireland and have a right to reside in the UK in order to be eligible for assistance as a homeless person and in order to claim benefits, such as Housing Benefit and Universal Credit. You can also be found ineligible for help as a homeless person if you have been involved in antisocial behaviour. 

You will only have a right to reside in Northern Ireland if you are lawfully here. Certain people will automatically have a right to reside, such as British and Irish nationals. For people from other countries, your right to remain depends on your nationality and, often, on your work history.

There are different rules for people who are from European Economic Area (EEA) countries and for people from outside the EEA.

It can be very difficult to work out if a person from an EEA country is eligible for homelessness help or for social security benefits. If you are not sure if you are eligible, contact Housing Rights for advice.

Generally, an EEA national needs to either have settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme or must have some sort of history of working in the UK in order to be eligible for help.

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.

Sometimes people will come to another country because they feel that it is not safe or possible for them to stay in their own country, perhaps because of war or extreme poverty. Under a 1951 UN agreement, these people can seek asylum in the country they arrive in. When someone has asked another country for help in this way, they become an asylum seeker. 

The relevant agency in that country will then investigate this person’s circumstances to see if it is appropriate for that person to continue living in their home country. In the UK, this work is done by the Home Office. If the Home Office decides that it is not safe for someone to return to their own country, that person will become a refugee.

If you are not a citizen of an EEA country, you will only be eligible for help as a homeless person or for social security benefits if your immigration status allows this.

The rules on housing are slightly different where there is a restricted person in someone's household. A restricted person is someone who is not eligible for assistance, is subject to immigration control or has no leave to enter or remain in the UK or cannot rely on public funds to remain in the UK.