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:
To be eligible for settled status, you usually need to have been ‘continuously resident’ for at least 5 years. If you have been ‘continuously resident’ for less than 5 years, you will instead be eligible for pre-settled status (as long as you fulfil all other eligibility requirements).
You are allowed six months’ absence (with some exceptions*) 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. Click here to see the calculator and find out more about absences.
* Longer absences are allowed for some specific reasons (some examples are pregnancy, childbirth, serious illness, compulsory military services). The Home Office has updated their Covid-19 guidance for the EU Settlement Scheme, which includes concessions for longer COVID related absences not breaking continuity of residence in some cases, and allowing people to apply for a further grant of pre-settled status where necessary to achieve five years’ continuous residence. For full details, see the definition of “Continuous qualifying period” in the EU Settlement Scheme caseworker guidance.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Unless you are applying to the EU Settlement Scheme as a joining family member, your eligibility for (pre-)settled status depends on continuous residence which needs to have started before 31 December 2020.
ONCE YOU HAVE BEEN GRANTED SETTLED STATUS: You then no longer need to maintain ‘continuous residence’ as described above. You will be able to leave the UK for up to five years without losing your settled status (see this FAQ for more details).
See this question on allowance absences when applying for British citizenship. The requirements are stricter than for the EU Settlement Scheme.