What is the EU Settlement Scheme?
Your guide to the EU Settlement Scheme, what you need to do, and how.
If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen and were living in the UK by the end of 31 December 2020, you and your family can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme until 30 June 2021, to continue living in the UK after this date. If your application is successful, you’ll get either settled or pre-settled status.
You must have arrived in the UK by 31 December 2020 to be eligible – if you arrive(d) after this date, you will not be eligible and will need to apply for immigration permission under the relevant category at that time, such as a Student visa.
Settled or pre-settled status
Your eligibility for the EU Settlement Scheme is based on the length of time you have been living in the UK. To obtain settled status you will need to have lived continuously in the UK for five years. If you have less than five years’ continuous residence at the point you apply, you will be eligible for pre-settled status. You can then apply for settled status after you have lived in the UK continuously for five years.
Your rights with settled or pre-settled status
- with settled status you can spend up to five years of continuous time out of the UK without losing your settled status
- with pre-settled status can spend up to two years in a row outside the UK without losing your pre-settled status, but this time will not count towards the five years continuous residence if you later want to apply for settled status
- with settled or pre-settled status you will have the same access as you currently do to healthcare, pensions and other benefits in the UK
- with settled or pre-settled status you will be able to travel to and from the UK using a valid passport or (at least until 31 December 2025) a valid national identity card
- close family members living overseas will still be able to join you here after the end of the implementation period, where the relationship existed on or before 31 December 2020 and continues to exist when the person wishes to come to the UK. Future children are also protected
- with settled status, you can usually apply for citizenship after having settled status for 12 months
Covid-19-related absences and continuous residence
The Home Office have provided clarification on their definition of absences from the UK of 6-12 months in relation to Covid-19. This will affect you if you are an EEA / Swiss student intending to apply for settled status and have been outside of the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Under both EU free movement and the EU Settlement Scheme, you are allowed a single period of absence of 6-12 months in any five-year continuous qualifying period where that absence is for an ‘important reason’. An ‘important reason’ can include overseas study, childbirth or serious illness.
What counts as an ‘important reason’ in relation to absences related to Covid-19
In regards to absences related to Covid-19, if you – or a person with whom you are living- were suffering from the disease and were too ill to travel, or forcibly in quarantine for public health reasons, the Government would consider an absence in excess of six months (but less than 12 months) to be for an important reason. Consequently you would be able to maintain your continuous residence in the UK. If your absence was for this reason, we would advise you to keep a copy of any evidence relating to this absence (e.g. doctor’s notes, emails of travel cancellations, screenshots from web pages showing confirmation of travel restrictions).
However, where that absence was from a general reluctance to return to the UK and had no public health element attached to it, the Government position is that there was nothing preventing you from returning to the UK and the decision not to do so would have been a personal one, the consequences of which may be that continuity of residence would be broken.
Broken continuous residence
If you broke your continuous residence but resumed living in the UK by 31 December 2020, you will be able to apply for settled status after 5 years of continuous residence. Your 5 years will start from when you re-entered the UK.
If you broke your continuous residence but did not resume your residency by 31 December 2020, you will likely not be eligible for settled status. In this case
if you have pre-settled status, you will need a visa to study for 6 months or more, or to work in the UK, when your pre-settled status expires
if you do not have pre-settled status, you will need a visa to study for 6 months or more or work in the UK before you come to the UK.
The Student Immigration Service has devised a useful chart – intended as a guide only – to help provide further clarification on how Covid-19-related absences may affect your continuous residence under the EU Settlement Scheme.
Applying for the Settlement Scheme
When to apply
The EU Settlement Scheme opened on 30 March 2019, and you have until 30 June 2021 to apply (as long as you were residing in the UK by 31 December 2020).
You and your family members are not required to apply immediately, although you are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.
How to apply
The Settlement Scheme is delivered through a streamlined, digital application process. Applications are made online, with documents (where required) and proof of ID provided by post, in person, or via an online app (please note the app only works with Android devices or the iPhone 8 and newer Apple models).
The Government has released full guidance and comprehensive step-by-step information on how to apply, including where to source your nearest location offering ID document scanning and how to get Assisted Digital support if required.
Applications are free of charge and you are not required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.
Where to apply
You can apply for the EU Settlement Scheme from inside the UK. Most applicants can also apply outside the UK. Applications outside the UK must be submitted through the online app as you cannot post your identity document to the UK to be verified.
You will need to have the following documents:
- current passport or national identity card with biometric chip
- proof of continuous residence
You are not required to show that you meet all the requirements of current free movement rules, such as any requirement to have held comprehensive sickness insurance or generally to detail the exercise of specific rights (e.g. the right to work) under EU law. 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.
Proving your continuous residence
The application form will ask for a National Insurance Number and complete an automated check to determine whether you are eligible for settled or pre-settled status.
If you do not have a National Insurance Number, or the automated check does not determine that you are eligible, there are other documents that you can use to demonstrate your continuous residency in the UK.
Documents can be photocopies or scans and don’t need to be originals. The evidence does not need to cover your entire residence in the UK – just enough to show whether you qualify for settled or pre-settled status. Documents that only contain a single date will count as evidence for one month. Documents can be used to cover a longer period if they have a start and end date covering a period longer than a month.
Evidence that covers a longer period of time:
- a valid permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain document
- annual bank statements
- council tax bill
- degree certificate or yearly transcript
- rental agreement and evidence of payment
- student status letter
Important: please do not use a student status letter as sole proof of residence if you have not been residing in the UK before 1 January 2021. If you do, it is likely that you will be asked to provide further evidence of your arrival date in the UK.
Evidence that covers a shorter period of time:
- utility bill
- monthly bank statements
- letter from your GP
After your application is submitted
After you have submitted your EU Settlement Scheme application, you should receive a decision within one to four calendar days. Your application may take longer if your case is more complicated.
If your application is successful, a letter will be emailed to you from the Home Office confirming your settled or pre-settled status. You cannot use this letter to prove your status. The letter will contain a link to an online service that you can use to view and prove your status.
Generate a share code: https://www.gov.uk/prove-right-to-work