Brexit - EU Settlement Scheme

Last modified: 17 June 2021

What is the settlement scheme and why is it necessary? 

The United Kingdom (UK) left the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020. See here for an explanation of the current situation in regards to the UK's departure from the EU

The EU settlement scheme is designed to offer EU, non-EU EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK before the end of the transition period (see Brexit - immigration), and their eligible family members, the opportunity to protect their residence in the UK after the transition period has ended.

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: 08 January 2021

EU citizens, non-EU EEA, Swiss citizens and the eligible family members of these groups who are in the UK beyond 31 December 2020 will need to have immigration permission (either through the EU settlement scheme or through another category of the UK's Immigration Rules). Eligible applicants who are in the UK before 31 December 2020 will have until 30 June 2021 to apply under the scheme BUT it is strongly advisable to apply as soon as possible.

Certain eligible family members who have not entered the UK by 11pm 31 December 2020 may still be able to apply under the settlement scheme after the deadline, if the relationship with the EU, non-EU EEA or Swiss citizen was formed by this date. Eligibility will also remain open to a child born to someone granted permission under the scheme. Eligible family members who are not yet in the UK and will be joining the EU/EEA/Swiss citizen should see information on the Citizens Advice Bureau website

If you are in the UK and eligible to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme, you will need to be in the UK in accordance with EU laws (see 'grace period' under Brexit - immigration) until you have permission under the EU settlement scheme. 

If you have a documented right of permanent residence under EU law you will need to apply under the scheme (or under another category of the Immigration Rules) before the end of the deadline for the scheme, as the right of permanent residence is an EU right which will no longer be recognised after the transitional/implementation period. Those with a document confirming permanent residence will (if successful) be granted 'settled status'. 

NOTE: 11pm on 31 December 2020 was the end of any 'transitional' phase (see our updated information on the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic on the transitional period). 

The settlement scheme - the basics

Last modified: 17 June 2021

The following groups of people who are currently in the UK or arrive by 11pm on 31 December 2020 can apply under the settlement scheme:

  • EU citizens;
  • citizens of Norway, Lichtenstein, Iceland (non-EU EEA citizens);
  • Swiss citizens;

This list is not exhaustive. See the Home Office guidance on the EU settlement scheme eligibility for a complete list.

If you are an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen who was in the UK by 11pm on 31 December 2020, but are temporarily outside the UK (in line with the definition of continuous qualifying period, which outlines absences that are permitted), you may still be eligible to apply. Also if you have already qualified for settled status and are outside the UK, you may still be eligible to apply. See below 'Absences from the UK because of the Coronavirus'. Eligible family members of those who have permission (or are eligible to apply) under the EU Settlement Scheme arriving in the UK after from 1 January 2021 should look at the information on the Citizens advice Bureau website.

Those who arrive in the UK from 1 January 2021 (and who are not eligible to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme - see above) will be expected to apply under a different and appropriate category of the UK's Immigration Rules - see Brexit - immigration

The organisation Freemovement have produced a blog answering the most recent common problems

Deadline and cost of the scheme

The deadline for EEA citizens and their eligible family members (who were in the UK before the end of the transition period) to apply under the settlement scheme is 30 June 2021, but it is strongly advisable to apply as soon as possible. For information about 'joining family members' who are eligible to apply but who were not in the UK before the end of  transition period (both EEA and non-EEA) and the deadlines they must meet - see the citizens advice bureau website

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

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). 

Exercising treaty rights

In order to apply under the settlement scheme you do not have to demonstrate that you are ‘exercising a right to reside’. This means if you are an EU citizen you will not have to demonstrate that you are in the UK as a ‘worker’, ‘student’ or ‘self-sufficient person’ etc. While there is therefore no requirement to provide evidence that you have comprehensive sickness insurance as part or application under the EU settlement scheme, until you get permission under the scheme you will need to be exercising a right to reside while you are in the UK. Therefore you will need to have comprehensive sickness insurance if you are in the UK as either a student, self-sufficient person or family member of either. 

Family members

Eligible family members who were 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 by this date. This includes:

Once you have ‘settled status’ any children (not grandchildren or great-grandchildren) you have who are under 21 can also apply for ‘settled status’ (without needing to be in the UK for five years themselves).

See the Home Office website for the criteria eligible family members need to meet to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Settled status 

You will be able to apply for ‘settled status’ under the scheme if you have lived in the UK for five years. You must meet 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 (the six-months mentioned here is not just a one-off absence of up to six months, but applies to multiple trips totalling six months together): and/or
  • one instance of up to 12 month’s absence for an 'important reason'; a non-exhaustive list of examples includes study - see page 138. 

See this blog on the Freemovement webiste which explains how absences are calculated, and how to deal with problems concerning absences.  

There are (limited) circumstances in which someone can obtain ‘settled status’ with less than five years’ residence

'Settled status' is also referred to as ‘indefinite leave to remain’.

Can you lose ‘settled status’? 

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

What to do if you lose your ‘settled status’

Holders of pre-settled status who have had a continuous absence longer than that permitted under the definition of 'continuous qualifying period' will not qualify for settled status. However, if after breaking your 'continuous qualifying period', you returned to the UK and Islands by 11 pm on 31 December 2020 can apply again under the EU settlement scheme again. This should result in another grant of pre-settled status for five years (see below).

If you lose your ‘settled status’, and you no longer meet the requirements of the EU settlement scheme, eg you return after 31 December 2020, you will have to apply under a relevant category of the Immigration Rules. Applications under other categories of the Immigration Rules are valid for entry to the UK on or after 1 January 2021; you cannot apply in the UK until that date. 

Pre-settled status 

If you have not been in the UK for five years, by meeting the definition of ‘continuous qualifying period’ in Appendix EU Annex 1- Definitions, you can apply for ‘pre-settled status’. This is a grant of five years’ permission.

There is no minimum time you need to have spent in the UK in order to apply for pre-settled status, but you will need to show evidence that you meet the definition of ‘continuous qualifying period’ in Appendix EU Annex 1- Definitions if the Home Office can't see this from checking other government records, such as HMRC records. This also applies if you are applying from outside the UK. The guidance for Home Office caseworkers contains a helpful list on pages 178 - 180 of evidence that the Home Office currently accept, although other evidence can be used to evidence your residence in the UK.  

Can you lose pre-settled status?

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

If you lose your ‘pre-settled status’, and you no longer meet the requirements of the EU settlement scheme, eg you return to the UK after 31 December 2020, you will have to apply under a relevant category of the Immigration Rules. Applications under other categories of the Immigration Rules are valid for entry to the UK on or after 1 January 2021; you cannot apply in the UK until that date.

What to do before your pre-settled status expires

Make sure you do not lose your status through an absence from the UK and Islands exceeding two years.

After five years of continuous residence in the UK, you can apply for settled status. This five-year period does not have to start from the date on which you are granted pre-settled status - it will include all the time you have lived in the UK.

You can apply again from inside or outside the UK, but you must meet the criteria for pre-settled status or settled status on the date you apply. This means that the period of residence on which you are basing the second application must have started before 11pm on 31 December 2020.

What to do if you have pre-settled status and have broken, or are about to break your ‘continuous qualifying period of residence’

If you have broken, or are likely to break, your 'continuous qualifying period',  eg by being outside the UK for more than six months in any 12-month period or for over 12 months even if it was for an 'important reason', you must return to the UK by 11pm on 31 December 2020. If you do not do this, you will not be able to stay in the UK long term under the EU settlement scheme. 

Once you are back, you must also maintain your 'continuous qualifying period' for five years in order to qualify for settled status. A person in this situation will usually have to apply under the scheme for another grant of pre-settled status before they qualify for ‘settled status’. This is because it is extremely important to make sure that you do not have a gap between the end of your first five-year grant of pre-settled status and your next grant of permission, whether it is ‘pre-settled’ or ‘settled’ status.

Absences from the UK because of the Coronavirus

On 10 June 2021 the Home Office released updated information and new Home Officer caseworker guidance explaining how absences 'because of the Coronavirus' will be treated in regards to eligibility under the EU Settlement Scheme. In the following four cases, the Home Office will consider (from a non-exhaustive list under each heading) whether the absence was 'because of the Coronavrius' 

  • one-off absence of up to 12 months
  • an absence which was not intended to exceed 6 months and did not exceed 12 months
  • an absence exceeding 12 months
  • a second absence for up to ‘12 months for an important reason’. The guidance says that in this case either absence can exceed 12 months, but explains that there are more limited circumstances in which the period beyond 12 months will be accepted. It further explains how the excess period will be dealth with in calculting the period required for settled status.

In all cases listed above an acceptable reason for the absence is where you were "advised by your university or employer not to return to the UK, and to continue studying or working remotely from your home country, due to coronavirus". In cases where the absence (or second absence, where permitted) didn't exceed 12 months, an acceptable reason is where you were "advised by your university that, due to coronavirus, your course was moved to remote learning and you were advised or allowed to return to your home country to study remotely."

If relying on any of these concessions, students must provide evidence with their application. The guidance contains a non-exhaustive list of evidence that caseworkers can accept. The guidance also includes an explanation of how absences that exceed 12 months will impact on applications for settled status. 

From 15 December 2020 until 6 May 2021 the guidance on the Home Office webiste included the following:

"If you are a student who was studying in the UK and are studying outside the UK because of coronavirus, that absence will not cause you to break your continuous qualifying period, where it is for a single period of more than 6 months but not more than 12 months, during your 5-year continuous qualifying period."

This guidance was withdrawn on 6 May 2021 without notice or explantaion. On 3 June 2021, there was an update from the law firm Bindmans LLP, explaining the reasons for the withdrawn guidance.

In order to be eligible under the scheme as an EEA citizen you must have been in the UK and Islands before 11 pm on 31 December 2020, and you will need to apply under the scheme (either inside or outside the UK) before you exceed any allowed absences. If you have or are applying for pre-settled status and are planning on applying for settled status in the future you must maintain your residence in the UK and Islands (ie not be outside the UK and Islands for longer than the allowed absences - see 'settled status' above). This is not just from the point that your pre-settled application is decided, but for the whole five year period you are relying on as qualifying for settled status.

Does permission under the EU settlement scheme allow study? 

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

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

The application process

Last modified: 17 June 2021

Where to apply for the settlement scheme

How to apply under the settlement scheme

What you need to apply

After you apply

Leaving the UK while an application is pending

Further help

Last modified: 19 May 2021

The following organisations also offer help and guidance on the EU Settlement Scheme (information about which groups each organisation offers help to is outlined on each website):

Settled

Citizen's Advice Bureau 

Advice NI in Northern Ireland

EU Citizens' Rights Project in Scotland

Law Centres Network

European Londoners Hub

The UK Government funds a number of organisations specifically to provide community support for vulnerable applicants under the scheme


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