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Rights under the EU Settlement Scheme

EU Settlement Scheme FAQs - Disclaimer

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.

Other resources

Useful resources:


Immigration Assistance:


  • EU Settlement Resolution Centre - Webform: eu-settled-status-enquiries.service.gov.uk/start or call 0300 123 7379 between Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays), 8am to 8pm, Saturday and Sunday, 9:30am to 4:30pm (See call charges)

  • Postcode finder - to find closest charity / voluntary organisation https://www.gov.uk/help-eu-settlement-scheme 

  • Charity / community organisations - the Home Office has funded charity / voluntary organisations to assist vulnerable applicants with their EUSS applications for free, search on: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/eu-settlement-scheme-community-support-for-vulnerable-citizens

  • Identity Scanning Locations - search here for a list of Local Authority locations. (Note that some may still be closed due to COVID-19 so if you can’t use your mobile devices to scan your documents you may need to send your Identity documents by post)

  • Assisted Digital Service - call 03333 445 675 or text “VISA” to 07537 416 944

  • Settled is a charity providing free immigration advice to EU citizens. You can contact them here: http://settled.org.uk/contact

  • Here for Good, free advice for vulnerable EU citizens, see https://www.hereforgoodlaw.org/advisory

  • There are many organisations and individuals providing advice on citizenship. In the UK, all immigration advice is regulated, so please make sure you go to someone who is qualified to give you advice on this area of law. On the ILPA website, you can find a directory of members to find an immigration advisor near your area: https://ilpa.org.uk.

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. 


Click here to see the calculator and find out more about absences.


* 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 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.


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.


British citizenship


See this question on allowance absences when applying for British citizenship. The requirements are stricter than for the EU Settlement Scheme.

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 some exceptions allowed for ‘important reasons’ and Coronavirus related absences - see here ). Your 5 years’ continuity of residence must have started before 31 December 2020.

For more information, see https://www.the3million.org.uk/absence-calculator.

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. (See also this FAQ on settled status 5-year absences)

What are the consequences of not applying for settled or pre-settled status?

The deadline to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme was 30 June 2021 (unless you are applying as a joining family member). If you did not apply by the deadline, you will no longer have a provable lawful residence status in the UK. You will now face the hostile environment policies and may find it increasingly more difficult or impossible to rent a property, access work, welfare or other services.


You may still be able to submit a late application - see our FAQ on late applications.

How secure is settled status?

We heard many EU citizens applying for British citizenship (see this FAQ for costs and benefits) 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. (See also this FAQ on settled status 5-year absences)

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 new immigration system. We are seeking clarification about what will happen to the EU citizens whom the Home Office failed to reach before the deadline. We are campaigning to get physical proof of status. We are also seeking to achieve residence-based voting rights for England and Northern Ireland, just as Scotland and Wales have done. 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://www.the3million.org.uk/report-it

What is the situation on pensioners’ rights in the UK? Do you lose access to your pension because of absences?

Part Two of the Withdrawal Agreement is all about citizens’ rights, and it is divided into different ‘Titles’. 


Title II covers residence rights and conditions that the EU Settlement Scheme must comply with. 


Title III is about social security coordination, and this includes pension rights, healthcare and social security rights. 


Title III covers a wider range of people than Title II, as it includes citizens who are in a situation involving both the UK and one or more EU member states, whether now or in the past. Even if you have settled status now, and then leave the UK to go and live in an EU country for more than five years, you will still have UK pension rights protected. 


This is a complex area - the European Commission Guidance Note provides examples of how people are covered.


The Government has also published staff guidance which gives many helpful examples.

What happens with my family reunification rights post-Brexit?

If you have settled or pre-settled status, you have family reunion rights, which means you will be able to be joined by certain EU or non-EU family members in the future. This includes your spouse or registered partner(as long as they were already your spouse or registered partner at the end of the transition period, 31 Dec 2020), your or your spouse/partner’s direct descendants who are under the age of 21 or dependants, and your or your spouse/partner’s direct relatives in the ascending line (parents, grandparents etc).

Article 10 of the Withdrawal Agreement has a list of eligible family members who can apply to join you in the UK. From 1 January 2021, family members who want to join you in the UK must apply to enter the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme. This can be done in two ways - applying for a family  permit before you come to the UK, or apply to the EU Settlement Scheme from outside the UK. See https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families/applying-for-settled-status.


Applying for a family permit

Your family member can apply for an EUSS family permit online. When they have been granted their family permit, they can travel to the UK to join you. Once in the UK, they will need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme within three months of arrival.

More information on family permits can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/family-permit/eu-settlement-scheme-family-permit


Applying from outside the UK

Citizens with EEA/Swiss passports/national identity cards with biometric chips, or citizens from other countries with valid UK-issued biometric cards can apply directly for pre-settled status or settled status before they travel to the UK.

They will have to wait until their (pre-)settled status is granted before they can move to live in the UK with you. See https://www.the3million.org.uk/rights-enter-uk for more information.


Note: if you are hoping to make use of your family reunification rights in the future, and you are thinking about applying for British citizenship, then you may wish to seek legal advice if you have gaps in your past where you should have had, but didn’t have, Comprehensive Sickness Insurance. Unfortunately there are some complex circumstances in the Immigration Rules in which naturalising as a British citizen may result in the loss of family reunification rights.


Also note that unmarried partners need to show that they have been in a relationship akin to marriage for at least 2 years. These cases can become complex and the help of a legal adviser is recommended.



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. (See also this FAQ on settled status 5-year absences).


However, to be able to maintain your continuous residence in the UK and convert your pre-settled status to settled status once you complete five years of residence in the UK. Usually, if you spend more than 6 months outside of the UK, you will lose your continuous residence. However, due to the pandemic, there are exceptions to how long you are allowed to stay outside of the UK without breaking your continuous residence. For more information on what the rules are, please read here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-eu-settlement-scheme-guidance-for-applicants#above1


To check whether you will still be eligible to apply for settled status in due course, read the ‘continuous residence’ FAQ.

What is the EU Settlement Scheme and what is the difference between settled and pre-settled status?

The EU Settlement Scheme is to be used by those EU, non-EU EEA, Swiss citizens, and their eligible family members who were living in the UK before 31 December 2020, to formalise their immigration rights now that 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. Eligible citizens had to apply to the scheme before 30 June 2021.


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 arrived in the UK before 31 December 2020) to 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 - which means you must have five years’ continuous residence that started before 31 December 2020) 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, see https://www.the3million.org.uk/absence-calculator


For a detailed comparison between the two, eligibility and conditions, have a look at this document put together by the3million.