These answers are for guidance only. Please consult official sources and seek legal advice to discuss personal circumstances. The3million is not OISC accredited and is unable to advise on personal circumstances.
See here for more detail and some useful contacts.
If you want to learn more about the Settlement Scheme, the difference between Pre-Settled and Settled Status and your rights under this Scheme, please consult this document.
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. Clickinghere 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.
Do you need Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (CSI) for settled status?
No. The CSI requirement was scrapped for EU Settlement Scheme applications.
To apply for pre-settled or settled status, you do not need to evidence that you were in one of the ‘qualified person’ categories (worker, self-employed, jobseeker, self-sufficient with CSI or student with CSI).
The EU Settlement Scheme checks for your residence in the UK.
To be eligible for settled status, you normally need to evidence you have been living in the UK for at least 6 months out of every 12 months for a continuous period of 5 years, and this period needs to have started before 31 December 2020. You can check your absences with this form which only asks a handful of simple YES / NO questions: http://t3m-settledstatus-absences.paperform.co
Does pre-settled status automatically convert to settled status?
No. And it is very important you renew your status before it expires.
Pre-settled status is limited leave to remain under the EU Settlement Scheme. It allows you to continue living and working in the UK for 5 years, after which it expires.
When you receive your decision email from the Home Office, the PDF attached to the email will explicitly mention which status you have. If you have pre-settled status, it will indicate the day your status expires.
You absolutely must re-apply before your status expires.
If you reach 5 years' residence before it expires, you can apply for settled status before your pre-settled status expires. For example, if you have been in the UK since 2017 and you received pre-settled status in 2019, then if you live continuously in the UK until 2022 you will be able to apply for settled status before your pre-settled status expires in 2024.
It is important not to break your continuity of residence. This means you cannot be out of the UK for more than 6 months in any 12-month period (with one single longer absence up to 12 months allowed for some specific exceptions). Your 5 years’ continuity of residence must have started before 31 December 2020. If you are in any doubt about your absences, use this simple form to answer some YES / NO questions to check your situation: https://t3m-settledstatus-absences.paperform.co/
Can you continue to work in the UK indefinitely with settled status without applying for citizenship?
Yes. Settled status is a form of Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
The difference is what happens if you leave the UK for an extended period. If you have settled status, but later decide to work in another country, you will lose your settled status if you are abroad for 5 years without returning to the UK.
What are the consequences of not applying for settled or pre-settled status?
The deadline to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme is 30 June 2021, but you need to prove you lived in the UK before 31 December 2020. If you do not apply by the deadline, your residence in the UK will become unlawful. You will face the hostile environment policies and find it increasingly more difficult or impossible to rent a property, access work, welfare or other services.
We heard many EU citizens applying for British citizenship for the reason they do not feel secure with settled status, or because they do not receive physical proof of their settled status. There can be changes to the legislation underpinning the EU Settlement Scheme, although these should not remove rights guaranteed by the Withdrawal Agreement. Settled status can also be lost if you are abroad for more than 5 years, for example.
What work is left to advocate for on the EU Settlement Scheme?
Currently, the3million is focussing on campaigning for a legal safety bridge between the end of freedom of movement and the UK’s future immigration system. We are seeking clarification about what will happen to the EU citizens whom the Home Office will fail to reach by the deadline. We are campaigning to get physical proof of status. We are also seeking to keep our existing political rights to vote and stand as candidate in local elections. You can read more about our campaign goals here: https://www.the3million.org.uk/goals
As part of our campaign for physical proof of status, we are collecting evidence of problems with digital status. If you have experienced any problems, or know someone else who has, please help us to help everyone by filling in our form at: https://t3m-digitalstatus.paperform.co/
I have pre-settled status but cannot return to the UK due to the pandemic. Will this have an impact on my status?
With pre-settled status, you lose your status if you leave the UK for a period of 2 consecutive years, whereas with settled status you can be away for 5 years.
However, your ‘continuous residence’ will reset to 0 if you are away for more than 6 months in any 12 month period with pre-settled status.
This means that you will only be eligible for settled status five years after you re-entered the country ( provided that you re-enter the UK before 31 December and you re-apply for pre-settled status - to ensure that your pre-settled status will still be valid when you reach five years' continuous residence).
The Government have recently published their Covid guidance for the EU Settlement Scheme, which says “If you have been absent from the UK for a single period of more than 6 months, but not more than 12 months, during your 5 year continuous qualifying period due to being ill with coronavirus, and you were unable to return to the UK because you were ill or in quarantine, that absence will not cause you to break your continuous qualifying period.” However, this does not appear to cater for someone who could have travelled but decided it was perhaps safer not to, although students are mentioned separately.
The EU Settlement Scheme is to be used by EU, non-EU EEA, Swiss citizens, and their eligible family members living in the UK to formalise their immigration rights in the UK after the transition period of the UK exit from the EU ended on 31 December 2020. EU free movement rights no longer apply in the UK. The Settlement Scheme offers the opportunity to protect their residence and rights in the UK.
In short, settled status is an immigration status granted under the EU settlement scheme which allows individuals who have been in the UK for more than five years ’ ‘continuous residence’ (that started before 31 December 2020) to remain in the country indefinitely. Those who have not been in the UK for five years can apply for pre-settled status.
Pre-settled status is an immigration status granted under the EU settlement scheme which allows individuals who qualify to remain in the UK for a period of 5 years after it is granted. Before the 5 years elapse, you need to apply for settled status (when you qualify for it) to be able to stay in the country. To be granted and keep your status, you need to be eligible and satisfy certain conditions, stipulated on the Government’s website.
Absences impact continuous residence. If you are in any doubt about your absences, and whether you should apply for a fresh Pre-Settled Status, use this simple form to answer some YES / NO questions to check your situation: https://t3m-settledstatus-absences.paperform.co/
For a detailed comparison between the two, eligibility and conditions, have a look at this document put together by the3million.
Can I reset the clock by extending pre-settled status after an absence of more than six months?
You can only apply for pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme if you have ‘continuous residence’ which started before* 31 December 2020. Continuous residence is generally (there are some narrow exceptions) broken by absences totalling more than six months in any 12-month period**.
If continuous residence was broken before 31 December 2020, you may have a chance to reset the clock by applying for a fresh pre-settled status (as long as you returned to the UK before 31 December 2020 to ‘reset’ your residence, and you apply for the new pre-settled status before 30 June 2021).
However, if your continuous residence is broken after 1 January 2021, you will not be able to reset the clock, since you will not be eligible to apply for settled status, nor to apply for fresh pre-settled status in future.
If you are in any doubt about your absences, and whether you should return to the UK before 31 December 2020 or apply for a fresh Pre-Settled Status, use this simple form to answer some YES / NO questions to check your situation: https://t3m-settledstatus-absences.paperform.co/
* With some exceptions for certain family members who can come to the UK later and apply to the EU Settlement if their relative holds pre-settled or settled status.
** Calculating rolling absence in any 12-month period can be tricky - so we have created an ‘absence calculator’ for you. Clickinghere 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.