EEA nationals and family members

EEA nationals and family members

Local authorities may need to provide support to people from countries in the European Economic Area (EEA nationals) and their family members who are unable to access certain social security benefits. 

This chapter provides some basic information to help guide local authorities in assisting EEA nationals and their family members. It is not to serve as a comprehensive guide to rights under European Union (EU) law and benefit eligibility, so further information may need to be referred to or specialist advice obtained. 

The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019. The UK Government and EU have yet to reach a final agreement on the full terms that will apply to the UK when it leaves. The UK Government is proposing that EU free movement rights that currently allow EEA nationals and their family members to live and work in the UK will continue until 31 December 2020. EU nationals and their family members present in the UK by that date must apply under the new EU Settlement Scheme if they wish to stay here. This arrangement will be different in the event of a ‘no deal scenario’. If that applies, free movement is expected to end on 29 March 2019, and temporary immigration requirements will be introduced for EEA nationals who arrive in the UK after 29 March 2019, although those that are living in the UK by that date will be able to apply to stay in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme. The information contained in this chapter will be updated to reflect any significant changes. 

Key points 

  • Currently, EEA nationals and their family members do not require leave to enter or to remain in the UK. Their rights to enter, live and work in the UK are governed by European law, and are commonly referred to as ‘EU treaty rights’ or ‘free movement rights’.
  • Benefit and housing entitlements for EEA nationals can be complex and usually depend on the EEA national being economically active or having a permanent right of residence, or a person being the family member of an EEA national who this applies to.   
  • In the absence of a requirement for an EEA national and most family members to make an application to the Home Office to clarify their status, social services, the local housing authority and the DWP, will need to make their own determination of this for the purpose of determining eligibility for services. This means they will need to establish whether a person has a relevant right to reside based on their employment or family circumstances. Local authority officers will therefore require training and support in order to be able to correctly assess EEA national’s eligibility for services, and when another agency may have made an incorrect decision that can be challenged. 
  • Local authorities need to undertake proactive action to ensure EEA residents are aware of the new EU Settlement Scheme and know what they may need to do to protect their rights after the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019. Local authorities will need to play a role in reducing any negative impacts on communities that may arise if EEA nationals lose their entitlement to benefits and employment by failing to successfully apply under the scheme.