Brexit - EU Settlement Scheme

Last modified: 01 May 2019

What is the settlement scheme and why is it necessary? 

The UK is due to leave the European Union at 11pm UK time (midnight continental Europe time) on 31 October 2019.  The UK is still a member of the European Union (EU) until this time. The UK and the EU have been negotiating an agreement to take effect as soon as the UK leaves the EU. This is known as the ‘Withdrawal Agreement’, and as yet there has been no final agreement reached between the UK and the EU. 

If the Withdrawal Agreement is agreed the UK will enter into a ‘transition’ or ‘implementation’ period from the date after the UK leaves the EU until 31 December 2020 (this period might be extended).

During this time EU, non-EU EEA and Swiss citizens and their eligible family members can still enter the UK on the same basis as in place currently (without requiring immigration permission, although see advice for non-EEA family members of EU and EEA nationals). However, EU, non-EU EEA and Swiss citizens and their eligible family members (as well as eligible family members of British citizens who have exercised a right to reside in another EU country) living in the UK before the UK leaves the EU (or before the end of any agreed transition period) will be able to apply for immigration permission under the ‘settlement scheme'. You will need to apply under the scheme (or under another category of the Immigration Rules) if you intend to remain in the UK after the UK leaves the EU or the end of any agreed transition period.

The settlement scheme is designed to offer EU, non-EU EEA and Swiss citizens and their eligible family members living in the UK the opportunity to protect their residence in the UK after the UK leaves the EU (separate agreements were made with EEA EFTA states and with Switzerland so that citizens of Iceland, Norway Switzerland and Lichtenstein and their eligible family members are also able to participate in the scheme). The scheme will continue to operate where an agreement with the EU is reached, and will also operate (in a more restricted way) if an agreement with the EU is not reached.

The settlement scheme is not only for those who intend to settle in the UK after studying. It is immigration permission, which can lead to settlement, but does not have to be used to gain settlement. With permission under the scheme there will be no restrictions on study (where you study or what you study). 

Do I have to apply under the settlement scheme?

Last modified: 01 May 2019

If the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and EU is agreed, EU citizens, non-EU EEA, Swiss citizens and the eligible family members of all them who are in the UK beyond 31 December 2020 will need to have immigration permission (either through the settlement scheme or through another category of the Immigration Rules as they will be from January 2021). Please note that those who enter the UK before 31 December 2020 will have until 30 June 2021 to apply under the scheme. NOTE: 31 December is the date the Withdrawal Agreement names as the end of any 'transitional' phase, but this date may be extended. 

For the same reason, those who have a documented right of permanent residence under EU law will need to apply under the scheme before the end of the transition period (or under another category of the Immigration Rules), as the right of permanent residence is an EU right which will no longer be recognised once the UK has left the EU (and after the implementation period if there is one). Those with a document confirming permanent residence can apply for free under the scheme, and will (if successful) be granted 'settled status'. 

Certain eligible family members who have not entered the UK by 31 December 2020 may still be able to apply under the settlement scheme after the deadline, if the relationship with the EU, non-EU or Swiss citizen was formed by this date. It will also be open to a child later born to someone granted permission under the scheme. 

If no agreement is reached between the UK and the EU, EU, non-EU EEA and Swiss citizens and all eligible family members will not be able to come to the UK on the same basis as now once free movement has ended. However, EU, non-EU EEA and Swiss citizens and their eligible family members who are resident in the UK before the UK leaves the EU (including those who are temporarily absent) will be able to apply under the settlement scheme to obtain 'settled' or 'pre-settled' status. See also settlement scheme – if no agreement is reached.

The settlement scheme has been designed to be very straightforward and user-friendly and has been tested under three pilots (with modifications made to the application throughout these pilots). 

In order to apply under the settlement scheme you do not have to be ‘exercising a right to reside’. This means if you are an EU citizen you will not have to be in the UK as a ‘worker’, ‘student’ or ‘self-sufficient person’ etc. Therefore, there is no requirement under the scheme to provide evidence that you have comprehensive sickness insurance. 

The settlement scheme from 30 March 2019

Last modified: 01 May 2019

There were three phases of a pilot of the scheme. 

The scheme was fully rolled out at 7 a.m. on 30 March 2019.

 The following groups of people who are resident in the UK can apply under the settlement scheme:

However, while the UK remains a member of the EU, the above groups continue to benefit from EU laws. Please see below for information about how the scheme will operate when the UK leaves the EU:

if an agreement is reached; or

if no agreement is reached 

Once you have ‘settled status’ any children you have who are under 21 can also apply for ‘settled status’ (without needing to be in the UK for five years themselves).

If you have lived in the UK for five years (meeting the definition of ‘continuous qualifying period’ in Appendix EU Annex 1- Definitions, which includes permitted gaps of up to six months in any 12 month period, and/or one instance of up to 12 months absence for a specified reason, which includes study) you will be able to apply for ‘settled status’ under the scheme. This is also referred to as ‘indefinite leave to remain’. There are (limited) circumstances in which someone can obtain ‘settled status’ with less than five years’ residence

If you have not been in the UK for five years (meeting the definition of ‘continuous qualifying period’ in Appendix EU Annex 1- Definitions), you can apply for ‘pre-settled status’ (a grant of five years’ permission), and after five years of living in the UK you can apply for settled status (the five years does not have to start from the point of the grant of pre-settled status - it will include all the time you have resided in the UK).You will need to do this if you intend to stay in the UK after the five year permission ends (unless you apply under another category of the immigration Rules).

There is no minimum time you need to have spent in the UK in order to apply for pre-settled status – you only need to show evidence that you currently live in the UK (and meet the definition of ‘continuous qualifying period’ in Appendix EU Annex 1- Definitions). The guidance for Home Office caseworkers contains a helpful list at Annex A of evidence that the Home Office currently accept, although other evidence can be used to evidence your residence in the UK.

Once you have ‘pre-settled’ or ‘settled’ status, there will be no restrictions on study (where you study or what you study).

‘Settled status' under the EU settlement scheme (unless granted to Swiss citizens and their family members) will be lost after a continuous absence of more than five years from the UK and Islands. ‘Settled status’ granted to Swiss citizens and their family members under the EU settlement scheme will be lost after a continuous absence of more than four years from the UK and Islands. 

'Pre-settled' status will be lost after a continuous absence of more than two years from the UK and Islands.

If status is lost and you are no longer eligible to apply under the settlement scheme, you will only be able to apply under any other category of the immigration Rules in place at the time you wish to come to the UK.

The application is free. The application under the pilot cost £65. The Home Office has published guidance about refunds for those who applied under the pilot

Read our blogs about the application process by two people who applied under the two previous pilots. 

If the Withdrawal Agreement is reached

Last modified: 12 April 2019

The following groups can apply under the settlement scheme (fully in place since 7 a.m. on 30 March 2019):

who are resident in the UK or arrive by 31 December 2020. The deadline to apply under the settlement scheme is 30 June 2021.

Eligible family members who are not in the UK by 31 December 2020 may still be eligible to apply under the scheme if  the relationship with the EU/EEA citizen was formed before this date.

Once you have ‘settled status’ any children you have who are under 21 can also apply for ‘settled status’ (without needing to be in the UK for five years themselves).

Those who arrive in the UK from 1 January 2021 will be expected to apply under a category of the Immigration Rules in place at that time - details of which have not yet been published.

If you have lived in the UK for five years (meeting the definition of ‘continuous qualifying period’ in Appendix EU Annex 1- Definitions, which includes permitted gaps of up to six months in any 12 month period, and/or one instance of up to 12 months absence for a specified reason, which includes study) you will be able to apply for ‘settled status’ under the scheme. This is also referred to as ‘indefinite leave to remain’. There are (limited) circumstances in which someone can obtain ‘settled status’ with less than five years’ residence

If you have not been in the UK for five years (meeting the definition of ‘continuous qualifying period’ in Appendix EU Annex 1- Definitions), you can apply for ‘pre-settled status’ (a grant of five years’ permission), and after five years of living in the UK you can apply for settled status (the five years does not have to start from the point of the grant of pre-settled status - it will include all the time you have resided in the UK).You will need to do this if you intend to stay in the UK after the five year permission ends (unless you apply under another category of the immigration Rules).

There is no minimum time you need to have spent in the UK in order to apply for pre-settled status – you only need to show evidence that you currently live in the UK (and meet the definition of ‘continuous qualifying period’ in Appendix EU Annex 1- Definitions). The guidance for Home Office caseworkers contains a helpful list at Annex A of evidence that the Home Office currently accept, although other evidence can be used to evidence your residence in the UK.

Once you have ‘pre-settled’ or ‘settled’ status, there will be no restrictions on study (where you study or what you study). 

‘Settled status' under the EU settlement scheme (unless granted to Swiss citizens and their family members) will be lost after a continuous absence of more than five years from the UK and Islands. ‘Settled status’ granted to Swiss citizens and their family members under the EU settlement scheme will be lost after a continuous absence of more than four years from the UK and Islands. 

'Pre-settled' status will be lost after a continuous absence of more than two years from the UK and Islands.

If status is lost and you are no longer eligible to apply under the settlement scheme, you will only be able to apply under any other category of the immigration Rules in place at the time you wish to come to the UK.

If no agreement is reached

Last modified: 12 April 2019

The UK government has given assurances and published a policy paper which states that the scheme will still operate as it will if an agreement is reached, but:

  • will only be open to EU citizens and their eligible family members who are resident in the UK by the time the UK leaves the EU (31 October 2019 in a 'no-deal' scenario). The scheme is fully open and if you are eligible to apply for the scheme you can apply from inside or from outside the UK. 
  • the deadline to apply will be 30 December 2020

The UK government has reached separate agreements with the EFTA EEA countries and Switzerland protecting non-EU EEA citizens and their eligible family members and Swiss citizens and their family members who are resident in the UK on the day the UK leaves the EU. They will be eligible to apply under the settlement scheme, but the deadlines within which to apply and within which family relationships need to be formed vary according to the two agreements.

In addition, the government has published guidance for EU, non-EU EEA and Swiss citizens who come to the UK after the UK leaves the EU. This guidance includes details of the European Temporary leave to remain. Please see our news item on this. Further to this the government published guidance specifically for Higher Education Institutions in the event of no agreement being reached

The application process

Last modified: 01 May 2019

Where to apply for the settlement scheme

How to apply under the settlement scheme

What you need to apply

After you apply


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