If you are an EEA/Swiss national, you were in the UK before 11pm on 31 December 2020, and you wish to stay in the UK, you need to apply to the the EU Settled Status scheme. This scheme may allow you to stay in the UK (with certain conditions – see below) now that Brexit has happened and the UK is no longer part of the EU.

The EEA consists of the EU member states, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

If you were in the UK before 11pm on 31 December 2020, in most circumstances the deadline to apply to the Settled Status scheme was 30 June 2021. The deadlines for family members apply depend on the circumstances – read more here.

Applications made after the 30 June 2021 deadline may still be considered, if you have what the Home Office consider to be “reasonable grounds” for missing the deadline. See below for reasons a late application may be considered.

If you entered the UK after 11pm on 31 December 2020, the standard immigration process (until Brexit, for non-EEA nationals) will apply to you.

If your family members are with you in the UK before 11pm on 31 December 2020, or are outside of the UK but their relationship with you began before 31 December 2020, they can also apply under the Settled Status scheme. If you are a Swiss national, the timeframes are slightly different. Read the information on the Home Office website here.

If you are a British citizen and have been exercising treaty rights in another EEA state (not the UK), and you move back to the UK and want to apply for your non-EEA family member to live with you in the uK, you may be able to apply under the Surinder Singh principles. If the Surinder Singh situation applies to you, you can apply to stay in the UK under the EU Settled Status scheme if you move back to the UK before 29 March 2022.

Applying after the deadline

Applications to the EU Settled Status scheme made after the 30 June 2021 deadline may still be considered, if you have what the Home Office consider to be “reasonable grounds” for missing the deadline.

The Home Office list some of the reasons that could be considered reasonable. This list doesn’t cover every situation so you may have reasonable grounds even if your reason isn’t in this list. The Home Office list includes:

  • children who did not know they needed to apply, or whose parent, guardian or local authority didn’t apply for them
  • you had a medical condition, or you have a physical or mental capacity issue meaning you couldn’t apply
  • you couldn’t apply because of Coronavirus restrictions
  • you are a victim of modern slavery; or in a abusive or controlling relationship
  • you didn’t have internet access or the digital skills to make the application
  • you had permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain and you didn’t know you needed to apply
  • you came to the UK on another kind of visa, and didn’t know that you had become eligible to apply to the scheme
  • “another compelling practical or compassionate reason” prevented you applying

The Home Office guidance reminds you that you will need to provide evidence of your reasonable grounds for missing the deadline. The kind of evidence that the Home Office prefers for this are similar to their general views on “good” evidence. You can read more about evidence in our guide here.

For these specific circumstances, the Home Office suggests that evidence might include

  • a letter from a doctor, carer or other healthcare professional, to show your medical grounds or care needs
  • court documents or a letter from an organisation supporting victims of domestic violence, to show you were in an abusive or controlling relationship
  • a letter from a parent, guardian or local authority, if the application is for a child and they did not know they needed to apply for you
  • a letter from a charity or homeless shelter explaining your circumstances

How to apply for Settled or Pre-Settled Status

Most people will apply to the EU Settled Status scheme online (using a computer or smartphone).

See EU Settled Status scheme application website here.

In general, you can just provide your National Insurance number and there is an automated check of tax and some benefits records. These should show whether you have been resident in the UK for the required period (see below). If these checks do not show this, you may be required to submit extra information. See the application website here.

You do not need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge if you are applying to the EU Settled Status scheme.

Pre-Settled Status

If you are in the UK before 11pm on 31 December 2020, applied to the Settled Status scheme before 30 June 2021, and have lived in the UK for less than five years continuously (or cannot prove you have lived for five years or more continuously), you are likely to have been granted Pre-Settled Status. You may be able to apply even after the 30 June 2021 deadline if you had “reasonable grounds” to miss the deadline. See page 27 onwards of the Home Office guidance here.

If you are granted Pre-Settled Status, you can stay in the UK for a further five years from the date you get the status. You can then apply for Settled Status once you have reached five years’ continuous residence in the UK even if you reach the five years’ residence after the main 30 June 2021 deadline. Read more on the Home Office website here.

With Pre-Settled Status, you can work and study in the UK, and can access some benefits (at the time of writing, benefits that do not have a “right to reside” requirement attached to them).

“Continuous residence” in the UK is considered to be broken by absence(s) from the UK that are are more than a total of six months in any 12-month period. There are some exceptions to this – continuous residence may not be broken by one period of up to 12 months for if you were outside of the UK for an “important reason”. The Home Office gives the examples of childbirth, serious illness, study, vocational training or an overseas work posting. The exceptions to breaking continuous residence also include compulsory military service of any length, time you spent abroad as a Crown servant, or as the family member of a Crown servant, and time you spent abroad in the armed forces, or as the family member of someone in the armed forces.

Continuous residence is considered to be broken by a prison sentence; and by deportation or similar removal decisions.

When you have Pre-Settled Status, you can travel in and out of the UK. You can be spend up to two years in a row outside the UK without losing your Pre-Settled Status. Remember you will also need to be careful not to break your continuous residence (see above) if you wish to qualify for Settled Status.

Settled Status

If you are in the UK before 11pm on 31 December 2020, applied to the Settled Status scheme before 30 June 2021, and have lived in the UK for five years or more continuously, you should have been granted Settled Status. You may be able to apply even after the 30 June 2021 deadline if you had “reasonable grounds” to miss the deadline. See page 27 onwards of the Home Office guidance here. You can also apply to upgrade your Pre-Settled Status to Settled Status after the 30 June 2021 deadline. See section above.

“Continuous residence” in the UK is considered to be broken by absence(s) from the UK that are are more than a total of six months in any 12-month period. There are some exceptions to this – continuous residence may not be broken by one period of up to 12 months for if you were outside of the UK for an “important reason”. The Home Office gives the examples of childbirth, serious illness, study, vocational training or an overseas work posting. The exceptions to breaking continuous residence also include compulsory military service of any length, time you spent abroad as a Crown servant, or as the family member of a Crown servant, and time you spent abroad in the armed forces, or as the family member of someone in the armed forces.

Continuous residence is considered to be broken by a prison sentence; and by deportation or similar removal decisions.

When you have Settled Status, you can live in the UK as long as you wish (unless that status is revoked). With Settled Status, you can work and study in the UK, and can access benefits.

If you have Settled Status, you can spend up to four years in a row outside the UK without losing your status (or up to four years if you are a Swiss national).

If you are refused

If your application for Pre-Settled Status or Settled Status is refused, there are a few options of what to do next.

Administrative review

You could apply for an administrative review of the Home Office decision. This costs £80. You will get this fee refunded if the administrative review decides there was a caseworker error. If you submit new evidence as part of the review, and the decision is changed because of this, you won’t get the fee refunded.

The Home Office say you should get the result of the administrative review within 28 days. Read more about Settled Status scheme administrative reviews here.

Appeal the decision

Administrative reviews is generally a quicker and easier option than appealing the decision. If this is not available to you or unsuccessful, you can make an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal.

You can only appeal decisions on applications made after 11pm on 31 January 2020.

Deportation

If you have Settled Status or Pre-Settled Status in the UK (or are eligible to apply), you could still be at risk of deportation from the UK if you are convicted of committing a criminal offence.

If the criminal offence was committed before the end of 2020, the Home Office will need to consider the pre-Brexit rules on EU nationals. This means they would would have to show that deportation is in the interests of “the public good, public health or public security”. The threshold for showing that deportation is in one or more of these interests was generally higher for EEA nationals than the “public good” arguments for deportation of non-EEA nationals. The threshold is also determined by the length and permanence of your residence in the UK – for example, the threshold is higher for those with the right to permanent residence in the UK.

If the criminal offence was committed after 2020, or you did not have or were ineligible for Pre-Settled Status or Settled Status, the normal rules on deportation will apply to you.

Moving on from Settled Status

If you have Settled Status, you may then wish to consider applying for British Citizenship.

To apply for British Citizenship, you will need to have Settled Status for a year unless you are married to a British citizen.

You will also need to pass the “good character” test, and meet the knowledge of English and life in the UK requirements. At the time of writing, people who did not have Comprehensive Sickness Insurance when they were required to do so under UK law may be refused on the basis of the good character test. If you want to know more about the general requirements for naturalising as a British Citizen, see this Free Movement ebook.