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How to stay in the UK after Brexit: About the EU Settlement Scheme

Following the referendum on the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union (EU) in 2016, the UK gave formal notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU (by triggering Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union), on 29 March 2017.

The date of the UK's departure from the EU (Brexit day) was 31 January 2020 

There is a transitional period from 31 January 2020 to 31 December 2020, during which EU law will continue to apply in the UK.

Citizens of European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) member states and Switzerland who are already resident in the UK (for example for studies) before the UK leaves the European Union may need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme in order to continue living in the UK beyond 31 December 2020.

 


As a part of the UK exiting the European Union (Brexit), the government will end reciprocal European Freedom of Movement to the UK. After the transition period, EU/EEA/Swiss nationals will no longer have the right to live, work & study in the UK. Likewise, UK citizens will lose the right to live, work & study in the other member states under European Directives.

The government has stated that EU/EEA & Swiss nationals & their family members already resident in the UK before the end of the Transition Period (currently the end of the transition period is scheduled for 31 December 2020), will be eligible to apply for a new status confirming that they can continue to live in the UK.  The status can be “Settled” or “Pre-Settled” in the UK.

Irish citizens will not need to apply because the Common Travel Area agreements existed between the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland prior to the EU Directive. There is some specific information for Irish citizens on the UK government website.

Family members who are not EU, EEA or Swiss nationals for the purposes of the scheme include: Spouses, civil partners and durable partners, children under 21 (including direct descendents such as grandchildren and great greandchildren), children 21 or over who are dependent, parents and other direct ascendents (such as grandparents and great grandparents) and other family members if they are dependent on you.


Settled status allows you to remain in the UK indefinitely. Whilst in the UK with Settled Status you can continue to study & work without restriction. You can also access any public funds you may be eligible for and use the National Health Service (NHS). You are free to travel in and out of the UK.

After obtaining Settled Status you can spend up to 5 years outside the UK without losing your status, you can choose to apply for British citizenship and any children born in the UK will automatically become British citizens.

The qualifying criteria for settled status is explained in the section below 'How do I get Settled or Pre-Settled status?'

Pre-Settled Status gives you permission to remain in the UK for a further 5 years from the date that you are granted this status. Once you have reached five years continuous residence, you can apply again to obtain Settled Status if you want to remain in the UK longer. However, you must apply before your five years on Pre-settled status expires if you wish to remain in the UK. You do not have to wait until you have had pre-settled status for 5 years to apply for Settled Status if you will have reached 5 years residency in the UK before that.

Whilst in the UK with Pre-Settled Status you can continue to study & work in the UK without restriction. You can also access any public funds you may be eligible for and use the National Health Service (NHS). You are free to travel in and out of the UK

Additionally, after obtaining Pre-Settled Status you can spend up to 2 years outside the UK without losing your status and any children born in the UK will automatically be granted pre-settled status. However, absence from the UK of longer than 6 months could impact on your eligibility to later apply for Settled Status

The qualifying criteria for pre-settled status is explained in the section below 'How do I get Settled or Pre-Settled status?'


The EU Settlement Scheme is open to all EU/EEA & Swiss nationals & non EU family members of an EU/EEA or Swiss national resident in the UK before the end of a transition period. 

You need to meet the qualifying criteria, prove your identity, provide your biometric details, complete the online application form and provide evidence of your residence in the UK.

The application is in two stages:

First, use the EU Exit: ID Document Check App which is to confirm your identity and provide you biometric details (photo, face scan and identity document information). The App is available on Android or iphone devices with NFC (Near-Field Communication) access. 

For those who don’t have access to a phone with the app, it is possible to book an appointment in an ID Document Scanning Location but there is usually a charge of around £14. Alternatively, you can send your ID documents to the Home Office by post

Second, complete a short online application form: www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families . You can complete this on any device e.g. a desktop computer.

You can apply in the UK or outside the UK. Outside the UK you can only apply using the app.

Please refer to our guide to completing the EU Settlement Scheme Application


The EU Settlement Scheme is open to all EU/ EEA & Swiss nationals resident in the UK before the end of the Transition Period, which is currently scheduled for 31 December 2020.

The scheme is also open to non EU/ EEA or Swiss nationals resident in the UK if they are the relevant family members of an EU/ EEA or Swiss national who is resident in the UK. (Relevant family members are: spouse/ civil partner/ unmarried partner, children under 21, dependent children 21 or over including grandchildren and other direct descendants, parents, grandparents and other direct ascendants, and other family members who are dependent).

All applications are subject to an identity, criminality and residence in the UK check


The application for Settled or Pre-Settled Status is the same process through the EU Settlement Scheme. You don’t need to choose which status you are applying for initially. At the end of the application, based on the information provided by you, you are informed if you are being considered for settled or pre-settled status. You have the ability to change that by providing additional evidence at the end of the application.

Settled Status: To be granted Settled Status you must complete the EU Settlement Scheme application and demonstrate that you have been resident in the UK forat least 5 continuous years with no absences of longer than 6 months in any 12 month period. The continuous 5 year period can be any historical 5 continuous year period.

In exceptional circumstances, a one off absence from the UK of up to 12 months (such as pregnancy, childbirth, study or work posting) or in the case of compulsory military service of any length can be discounted as absence.

Your current residency in the UK must have started before the end of the Transition Period, which is scheduled for 31 December 2020 (if no extension to the Transition Period is agreed with the rest of the EU)

If you are under 21 and are applying with your parents, you may not need to have been resident in the UK for 5 continuous years to obtain Settled Status if your parent(s) have met the requirements.

Pre-Settled Status: To be granted Pre-Settled Status you must complete the EU Settlement Scheme application and demonstrate that you are resident in the UK.

You must have started living in the UK before the end of the Transition Period which is scheduled for 31 December 2020(if no extension to the Transition Period is agreed with the rest of the EU)


Settled Status To be granted Settled Status, you will need to evidence that you have been resident in the UK for 5 continuous years. Pages 98-100 of the EU Settlement Scheme Guidance provides a list of documents that you can use.

If you have been working/self-employed in the UK for a continuous period of at least 5 years, the easiest and quickest way to prove this is by providing your National Insurance Number (NINo) on the form. UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) can check this with HM Revenues & Customs by accessing your NINo records. In this case it is likely that no further documents will be needed to prove residence for settled status.

If you haven’t been working some or all of the continuous 5 year period, you can provide other documents listed in EU Settlement Scheme Guidance. These can include annual bank statements, letters from your school or university confirming your attendance, or tenancy agreements. All documents you provide must be dated and have your name on them. Check the EU Settlement Scheme Guidance for the full requirements. 

If you want to use a Queen Mary student status letter as evidence of your residence, find out how to get this letter here.

If you have had an absence from the UK of longer than 6 months but less than 12 months for one of the important reasons listed above, you will need to provide official evidence. 

Pre-Settled Status: If you have been resident in the UK for any period of time less than 5 years, you will need to provide evidence that you are resident in the UK before the end of the Transition Period currently scheduled for 31 December 2020.

Only one piece of evidence of residence is required to obtain Pre-Settled Status. The document must be less than 6 months old. If you have a National Insurance Number and you have been working, the National Insurance Number should be sufficient evidence for Pre-Settled Status.

If you don’t have a National Insurance Number and/or you haven’t been working, you can provide other documents from Annex A of the EU Settlement Scheme Guidance If you want to use a Queen Mary student status letter as evidence of your residence, find out how to get this letter here.


If you are an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen with a biometric passport you should use your passport with the EU Exit: ID Document Check App.  You do not need to send it to the UKVI unless requested.

Non EU/ EEA or Swiss family members of an EU national with a UKVI issued Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) Card, you must use your BRP with the EU Exit: ID Document Check App. You do not need to send it to the UKVI unless requested.

As well as completing the stages on the App, you will also need to provide evidence of your residence in the UK and any evidence to justify absences as explained earlier.

If you are a non EU/ EEA/ Swiss family member of an EU/ EEA, Swiss national, you will also need to provide evidence of your relationship.

Depending on your circumstances, you may need to provide additional evidence (for example: evidence of absence from the UK of more than 6 months if for a permitted important reason or evidence of dependency if child over the age of 21)

Pages 98 - 100 of the  EU Settlement Scheme Guidance provides a list of documents that you can use to provide evidence of residence in the UK.

The EU Settlement Scheme Guidance in general highlights the other documents you may require in specific circumstances (such as absences from the UK for an important reason, evidence of relationship etc)


During the transition period, the EU Settlement Scheme is not compulsory.

The UK Government website states that if you plan to remain in the UK beyond 31 December 2020, you may need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme in order to remain in the UK after Brexit.

The current deadlines by which to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if you wish to remain in the UK after Brexit is:

  • apply before 30 June 2021

You will need to make a decision about whether you wish to apply now or later if you wish to remain in the UK beyond 31 December 2020 based on your personal circumstances.

Some may feel that there is no need to apply as they have no intention of remaining in the UK beyond 31 December 2020. Others may feel that the added feeling of security of obtaining the status now is important.

Unless there are any major changes to the current situation with the UK leaving the EU, if you wish to remain in the UK beyond 30 June 2021 and entered the UK before 31 December 2020, you will need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue residence in the UK (unless exempt).


The application is free of charge.


An application can be rejected if it is considered as invalid, for amongst other reasons; not using the correct application process, not providing the required proof of identity or nationality, or failure to provide biometrics.

An application can be refused in certain cases, including amongst others; an application not meeting the requirements, providing false or misleading information or evidence, failure to disclose information requested such as criminal convictions and where an applicant has certain criminal convictions in particular those which led to a prison sentence

It is important to read the Suitability Requirements for more details and seek advice if you think this may apply to you.


If you have absences from the UK which are less than 6 months in any 12 month period you can still be considered as being continuously resident in the UK. You will not need to provide evidence of these absences.

If you are resident in the UK but are temporarily absent when the UK exits the European Union (Brexit day), you are still eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme as long as the temporary absence has not been for more than 6 months in the last 12 month period. You can choose to apply to the Scheme while you are outside the UK or when you return to the UK.

A single absence of up to 12 months for an important reason can also be considered as continuous residence in the UK, for example pregnancy, child birth, serious illness, an overseas posting, fieldwork or a study abroad year. 

An absence of any length due to compulsory military service can be considered as continuous residence in the UK.

Absence from the  UK Example absence from UKEligibility for Settled or Pre-Settled?

Permitted Absence from the UK now

Absence during academic year 2019/20

Dmitri Is a Bulgarian student. He has been resident in the UK since September 2015.

He has interrupted his studies and been back in Bulgaria since December 2019 due to serious illness but he intends to return to the UK and resume his studies in September 2020

Dmitri should be eligible for pre-Settled status now.

When he has been in the UK for 5 years, because the absence (of more than 6 months but less than 12 months) was due to illness, it should be a permitted absence and he should be eligible for Settled status in September 2020.

A letter from a doctor could be evidence of absence due to illness for the Settled Status applicaton

Permitted absence from the UK in the past

Absence during the academic year 2018/19 

Paula is an Italian undergraduate student. She has been in the UK since August 2014 when she arrived to study English and work.

She has been studying at QMUL since September 2016 and is currently in her fourth and final year of study.

From September 2018 to August 2019 Paula went to live in Paris on an Erasmus exchange year

Because Paula was abroad for more than 6 months but less than twelve months and the reason was for study, the absence is permitted and Paula should still be eligible for Settled Status now if she provides evidence of the study abroad year.

The evidence of the permitted absence could be a letter from QMUL confirming the study abroad year

Permitted absence from the UK in the future

Absence during the academic year 2020/21

Mo is a German student. He has been living in the UK since July 2016.

He is going to Brazil for a one year study abroad exchange programme in September 2020 and will return to the UK in August 2021.

Because Mo is going to be absent from the UK after the expected end date of the transition period (December 2020), it may be advisable for him to apply for pre-settled status before he leaves the UK.

When he returns in August 2021 when he will have been in the UK for 5 years, he could apply again for Settled Status if he provides evidence of the study abroad exchange.

The evidence of the permitted absence could be a letter from QMUL confirming the study abroad year

 

Not Permitted absence from the UK

Absence longer than 12 months

Daniel is a Polish Master’s student. He has been in the UK since January 2012 studying and working.

However, between January 2015 and June 2016 he went back to Poland because his UK employer redeployed him for 18 months.

He has been back in the UK ever since  June 2016.

Even though Daniel has been in the UK overall for longer than 5 years, they haven't been 5 continuous years.

Daniel had an absence from the UK of more than 12 months but the absence is not permitted even if it was for an important reason, because it was longer than 12 months. Therefore, he wouldn’t be eligible for Settled Status.

However, he should be eligible for pre-Settled Status now and if he has no further absences of longer than 6 months (or a one off absence of up to 12 months for an important reason), he should be eligible for Settled Status in June 2021

 

Not Permitted absence from the UK

More than one absence of up to 12 months 

Susana is a French student. She has been living in the UK on and off since September 2013.

In September 2015 she returned to France for one year due to serious illness and returned to the UK in August 2016.

In September 2017 she left the UK to do a work placement in the USA as part of her degree and returned to the UK in August 2018. 

Because Susana has had two periods of absence from the UK of more than 6 months but less than 12 months for an important reason, only one of them is permitted

Therefore Susana would not be eligible for Settled Status now but she would be eligible for pre-Settled Status now.

If she obtains evidence of the second absence for the work placement which was part of her studies (eg: letter from QMUL confirming the work placement), and if she has no further absences of longer than 12 months, she could be eligible for Settled Status in August 2021

 

Not Permitted absence from the UK 

Absence not for an important reason

Ayesha is a Norwegian Master's student who has been in the UK since September 2018. 

She has just finished her studies and has a job offer in New York on a fixed term contract for 1 year starting in March 2020 finishing in March 2021.

She plans to return to the UK at the end of her contract

Because the job offer is not a permitted absence (unlike an overseas posting where an existing employer in the UK sends you abroad temporarily), Ayesha could not rely on the year in New York as part of her continuous residence

Ayesha could apply now for Pre-Settled status and can be abroad for up to two years without losing that status.

However, if Ayesha later wants to apply for Settled Status, she will need to build up 5 continuous years residence in the UK after her return and may need to apply again for pre-Settled status.

Entering the UK after Brexit

Even in the event of a no deal Brexit, the UK Government have confirmed that EU/ EEA & Swiss citizens will see no changes to their ability to enter the UK without the need for a visa. You should still be able to use the e-gates available at the UK border at most airports. 

If you are resident in the UK but temporarily absent in the event of a no deal Brexit, this should not impact on your ability to return to the UK after Brexit and you should still be able to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme before 31 December 2020


EU/EEA/Swiss nationals and their family members can continue to come to the UK as now under existing EU free movement rules until 31 December 2020 then apply under the EU Settlement Scheme. Those arriving after 31 December 2020 will be subject to the UK Immigration rules in place at the time. 

 


Family members who are EU/ EEA or Swiss citizens

If you have family members who are EU/EEA/Swiss nationals, they can come to the UK as normal before 31 December 2020 and will need to apply for Pre-Settled Status before 30 June 2021.

Family members who are not EU/ EEA or Swiss citizens

If you have family members who are not EU, EEA or Swiss nationals, currently they can apply to come to the UK with an EEA Family Permit under European Directives while the UK remains a member state of the European Union and during the transition period or they can apply to come to the UK with an EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit if you already have Settled or Pre-Settled Status.

Under the EU Settlement Scheme rules, non EU/ EEA or Swiss national family members of EU & EEA nationals can come to join you in the UK before 31 Deember 2020 (or before 31 December 2025 for spouses and civil partners of Swiss citizens). After these dates, family members of EU nationals will need to apply for the appropriate visa in order to come to the UK to join you.

Non EU/ EEA or Swiss national family members can join you after this date if you have obtained settled or pre settled status, the relationship existed before the above dates and they continue to be your family member. 

An EEA Family Permit or an EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit is valid for 6 months by which time the family member may need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme in order to stay in the UK.


EU/ EEA citizens will continue to be able to access NHS services as they do now until 31 December 2020 (or 30 June 2021 in the case of a Brexit withdrawal agreement) regardless of having made an application for settled or pre-settled status.

Those who apply to the EU Settlement Scheme successfully will have access beyond this date if granted either settled status or pre-settled status.  

Until the UK exits the European Union existing European free movement rules apply, including the requirement to hold Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (“CSI”) for students and self-sufficient people. This would usually mean holding a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or a private health insurance policy.

Whilst there is a requirement for permanent residence applications for EEA citizens coming to the UK as either a student or a self-sufficient person to prove that they have had CSI in place for at least five years, the Government has confirmed that evidence of CSI is not required for the Settled Status Scheme. The UK has decided, as a matter of domestic policy, that the main requirement for eligibility under the settlement scheme will be continuous residence in the UK.

When the UK leaves the EU, permanent residence applications will cease to exist, having been replaced by the Settled Status Scheme. As such, to continue paying for CSI would no longer to a requirement for EEA students in order to obtain pre settled status or settled status. However, given the uncertain nature of negotiations between the UK and the EU at present, it may be advisable to continue to pay CSI until the ‘waiver’ of this prior requirement has been confirmed in law in both a deal and no-deal scenario.


If you obtain Settled Status, any children born in the UK while you’re living here will automatically be British citizens.

If you obtain pre Settled Status, any children born in the UK while you’re living here will be automatically eligible for pre-settled status. They will only be a British citizen if they qualify for it through their other parent.

Under existing rules (for those without settled or pre-settled status) most children born in the UK to parents from EEA countries are likely to have the same immigration status as their parents. Those whose parents have lived in the UK for at least five years at the time of their birth may qualify for British citizenship automatically. The rules regarding this are slightly complex and depend on the date on which a child has been born in the UK:

  • children born in the UK before 2 October 2000 are automatically British if either of their parents was exercising a Qualified Person right at the time of their birth;
  • those born after that date but before 29 April 2006 are automatically British if one of their parents obtained formal confirmation of the right to live permanently in the UK before they were born;
  • if born later than this, it is necessary to show a parent has a right to permanent residence acquired before birth, not necessarily a document showing this.

It has yet to be determined how the “right to permanent residence” will be defined in the context of settled status.  It is presumed that children born in the UK to parents who have settled status will still qualify for British citizenship.  Arrangements need to be confirmed in respect of those whose parents have five qualifying years of residence but have not yet made the application.    

There are detailed rules in place about children obtaining of British citizenship by application if born outside the UK or otherwise not matching a category above. It is unusual for a child to be registered as a British citizen if at least one of their parents is not currently British or applying at the same time, but there is discretion for caseworkers to allow this.


Those with Permanent Residency status will be required to apply to exchange this to settled status if intend to remain in the UK beyond 30 June 2021, “subject only to criminality and security checks”. 

Those with Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK do not need to apply to exchange this to settled status, but can choose to do so if they wish. One benefit of this is that whereas ILR normally lapses after 2 years absence from the UK, Settled Status doesn’t lapse until 5 years absence from the UK.

 


Should I apply for British citizenship?

The rules for acquiring British citizenship are explained on the UK Government website and the decision whether to apply if you meet the criteria is a personal one.

There are a small number of jobs in the UK Civil Service which are reserved for British citizens alone. Holding permanent residence or settled status would not be sufficient to qualify for permission to work in those specific roles. Anyone holding permanent residence or settled status in the UK should otherwise be able to access the UK’s job market; indeed, it may well prove an advantage to be able to live and work in European Union countries without restrictions

In order to vote in general elections, you must be a British, Irish or Commonwealth citizen. Otherwise, the majority of the same rights are afforded to those with permanent residency status or settled status, including access to public healthcare, schools and pensions.

The current fee for British citizenship applications is £1,330. For many people, such a cost in unfeasible and in which case the free settled status application is much preferable.


The Advice and Counselling Service have a dedicated section of our website for EU, EEA & Swiss nationals where we provide updates on Brexit, the EU Settlement Scheme and other issues which may affect you including a Guide to completing the EU Settlement Scheme application.

The United Kingdom Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) have detailed information on the EU Settlement scheme and other issues relating to EU, EEA & Swiss nationals, as well as a free student information line

The UK Government website has a section for EU, EEA & Swiss nationals which contains information on the EU Settlement Scheme, the Application form, policy guidance, immigration rules and other important information.

The AIRE Centre (Advice on Individual Rights in Europe) is an advice centre which specialises in European rights.

The Citizens Advice Bureau has branches across the UK and provides free independent advice on a range of legal matters including immigration related issues.

The Immigration Law Practioners’ Association is an umbrella body for immigration solicitors and advisers many of which specialise in EU rights.

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