What does ‘continuous residence’ or ‘continuity of residence’ mean?
Continuous residence, or continuity of residence, simply means living in the UK. However, too much absence from the UK can break continuity of residence.
The rules are different depending on whether you are applying to the EU Settlement Scheme, or for British citizenship.
EU Settlement Scheme:
You are allowed six months’ absence (or a one-off absence of up to 12 months*) from the UK out of any 12 month period before breaking your continuous residence.
‘Six months’ actually translates to 180 days, rather than six calendar months.
The ‘out of any 12 month period’ is trickier to calculate than you might think, because you really do have to look at any 12 month period, not just checking each calendar year. For example, if you are away for 4 months between August and November in one year, and then 3 months from February to April the next, you might think that you didn’t break your continuity of residence. Unfortunately you did, because you were away for 7 months between July of the first year and July of the second.
To help you calculate your greatest total absence in any rolling 12-month period, we have created an ‘absence calculator’ for you. Clicking here will automatically download an Excel file. Open it and enter your absence dates. For best useability, we recommend you do this on a laptop/computer that has Excel installed. Please note the3million cannot be held responsible for any errors in this calculator, or any decisions taken as a result of using it. If you are in any doubt, please seek legal advice.
* A one-off absence of up to 12 months is allowed for some specific reasons (some examples are pregnancy, childbirth, serious illness, compulsory military services). The Home Office has published their Covid-19 guidance for the EU Settlement Scheme. It only appears to cover absences due to illness or quarantine, rather than pragmatic decisions not to travel during the pandemic, although students are mentioned separately.
VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: To be eligible for settled status, you normally need to show five years’ continuous residence which needs to have started before 31 December 2020. This means you cannot break your continuity of residence, come back to the UK after 1 January 2021 to restart your continuity of residence and apply for settled status once you reach five years. Your pre-settled status will have expired before you are able to get to five years of continuous residence, and you will not be able to renew your pre-settled status. Instead you will then have look at the UK’s immigration rules outside of the the EU Settlement Scheme.
See this question on allowance absences when applying for British citizenship. The requirements are stricter than for the EU Settlement Scheme.