I am a US citizen, and I am attempting to visit my UK girlfriend visa-free for ten days. She has invited me to stay at hers and I have enough money to support myself during the vacation. However, I wasn't sure whether the fact that she lives in council housing would be acceptable by UKVI, regardless of whether she has invited me to stay. Should I book a hotel for myself instead?
Yes you can stay with her without any issue.
There's no reason why council housing would be relevant to the UKVI. The rules for non-visa visits are as follows:
- they must not work during their stay in the UK (although study is permitted as a 'student visitor'), with limited exceptions for
authorized "permitted paid engagements" of up to one month
- they must not register a marriage or register a civil partnership during their stay in the UK
- they must present evidence of sufficient money to fund their stay in the UK (if requested by the border inspection officer)
- they must intend to leave the UK at the end of their visit and can meet the cost of the return/onward journey
- if under the age of 18, they can demonstrate evidence of suitable care arrangements and parental (or guardian's) consent for their stay in the UK
Since you're not coming to study, work or stay for more than 6 months you're within your rights to stay anywhere you are welcome.
Similarly, your girlfriend is within her rights to have overnight visitors in her home, especially as only for ten nights. As long as she "makes sure that anyone living at or visiting the property does not cause a nuisance".
Even as just an introductory tenant, the main things she can't do are:
- swap your home by mutual exchange
- apply to buy your home
- take in lodgers or sublet any part of your home
- use your home for business
- make major improvement to your home
For a visa application, this would be complicated. If you were relying on her hospitality as a premise for the visa, you'd need to provide documentary evidence that her council is okay with her having boarders.
However, since you're entering visa-free, you're not going to be subject to as exhaustive a check at the border as a visa process would be. If you arrive with definite plans to return after 10 days (and return tickets booked, which the airline will have informed about through advance passenger information) and you make a reasonably non-destitute impression when you approach the immigration booth, it is pretty unlikely that they will take the time to inquire in detail about the sleeping arrangements.
For her own sake, your girlfriend should still investigate before your visit whether her lease allows her to have someone living with her for that amount of time. Depending on the precise rules she's renting under, her rates might be predicated on the size or total income of her household, and you'll want to be sure that your temporary presence is not going to upset that calculus.
You'll then know whether you need to book a hotel. And in the unlikely case that you're asked about it at the border, you can then say, yes we checked that and it turns out to be okay. Problem solved.