Frequently Asked Questions
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Student FAQs - Disclaimer
For official information and updates, please consult UK Government sources (www.gov.uk) and sources from other key institutions such as Universities UK (https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk) or the UK Council of International Students’ Affairs (https://www.ukcisa.org.uk).
In our answers, we refer to all individuals eligible for status under the EU Settlement Scheme as ‘EU citizens’. However, some categories of citizens (e.g. Irish citizens) might benefit from different arrangements and exceptions.
Your Europe: EU Nationals in the UK (contains lots of links to other guidance and q&a documents from the European Commission)
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)
UKVI Resolution Centre Call 0300 790 6268 or from outside the UK: +44 (0)203 875 4669 Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays), 8am to 8pm, Saturday and Sunday, 9:30am to 4:30pm (See call charges)
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
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 is the current situation with Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (CSI)?
On 10 March 2022, the European Court of Justice issued a ruling which says that where people had access to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), they met the requirement for Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (CSI).
Just a few weeks earlier, the Government had introduced an amendment to the Nationality and Borders bill, as a result of our campaign, and your letter writing to fix the CSI legacy.
We have now seen a message from the Home Office to the Immigration Law Practioner’s Association (ILPA), dated 21 March 2022 (our emphasis):
“I wanted to update you on the nationality provisions in the Nationality and Borders Bill. The Bill has just completed Third Reading in the Lords and will return to the Commons this week.
I wanted to flag the new provision we have introduced on lawful residence, and to offer to answer any questions you may have.
The new clause relates to naturalisation applications for British citizenship under sections 6(1) or 6(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981, and applications to register as a British citizen under section 4(2), all of which have requirements that the person should not have been in breach of immigration laws during the residential “qualifying period”.
The lawful residence requirement has been a cause of concern for EEA nationals who were granted indefinite leave to remain (ILR) under the EU Settlement Scheme, but had been resident here as students or self-sufficient persons without Comprehensive Sickness Insurance. As you know, the 1981 Act includes limited discretion to overlook periods of unlawful residence in the UK, and our guidance includes such persons in the examples of when we would normally expect to exercise discretion. However, that discretion can only be used in the special circumstances of a particular case and so caseworkers often need to ask for further information. Although no applications have been refused because a person did not have CSI, we are aware that our existing guidance does not give the reassurance that some EEA nationals and their family members would want.
The amendment is intended to benefit all applicants and not just those who acquired ILR under the EU Settlement Scheme. It will mean the Home Secretary does not have to enquire into lawful residence at all where the applicant has ILR or indefinite leave to enter (ILE), however it was acquired. This will, of course, avoid us looking at periods of residence already considered in earlier applications.
We believe the change will additionally provide the certainty which people have asked for; will end the confusion over differing requirements between EUSS and nationality; will reduce the evidence required to be supplied with an application to begin with; and will aid the processing of cases in a fair and sensible manner.
You may have seen that the wording of the amendment is to “allow the Secretary of State to treat a person who has indefinite leave to enter or remain as meeting certain residence requirements”. This recognises that there may be exceptional cases when we chose not to do so. This might, for example, be in cases where new information comes to light that would have affected the original ILR/ILE decision had it been known at the time. However, this is expected to be a very rare occurrence.
The good character guidance will be amended in line with this change, and so that personal immigration transgressions for those already granted ILR or ILE similarly do not lead to an application failing solely on that basis. But it is only personal immigration history which may be overlooked: issues such as criminality will still be considered. Equally, we will still be assessing the length of absences from the UK during the residential qualifying period.
We will, of course, update guidance and application forms to reflect the change of approach in due course, and hope to be able to share our draft guidance on the new routes with you following Royal Assent.”
It is not yet clear how the UK Government will deal with the European Court of Justice ruling, but this will likely affect many areas including nationality, naturalisation, registration, access to benefits and more.
In the meantime, if you believe you are affected, or you have suffered loss because of past decisions where the Home Office said you did not meet the CSI requirement, please see our campaign-page https://www.csi-justice.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:
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.
What do I need to do if I am an existing EU citizen student, studying in the UK?
If you were in the UK before 31 December 2020, you had until 30 June 2021 to apply for settled/pre-settled status to secure your rights to stay in the UK but you can still apply if you can show that you have reasonable grounds for missing the deadline. See our FAQ on late applications. Students who do not qualify for the EU Settlement Scheme, i.e. they did not enter the UK before 31 December 2020 or do not have family members they are able to join in the UK, will have to apply using the new immigration system.
For more information about settled/pre-settled status and how to apply you can visit the Government’s website.
I am an EU citizen, and have started my course at a British university online. What can I do if I do not have settled/pre-settled status and I did not arrive in the UK before 31 December due to the pandemic?
If you are an EU citizen and are studying at a university in the UK already (i.e. you started your course before August 2021), you will be eligible for home fees for the duration of your degree. However, you need to have entered the UK before 31 December 2020 to be eligible for settled/pre-settled status.
If you have visited the UK in the past, but more than six months ago, you will likely not be able to show a ‘continuous residence’ that started before 31 December 2020, but seek advice because the Government have updated their Covid guidance for the EU Settlement Scheme, which includes concessions on longer absences related to Covid-19.
If you are not eligible for pre-settled status, you will now, instead, need to apply for a student visa under the new Immigration System.
How long can I be outside the UK with (pre-) settled status and not lose my status, or the opportunity to apply for settled 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, if you want to apply for settled status eventually (once you complete five years of residence), you will need to maintain your continuous 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.
I have pre-settled/settled status and intend to apply to start a university course after 2020/2021. Will I be eligible for home fees?
It has been confirmed that, if you are an EU citizen and already hold pre-settled/settled status and meet the relevant eligibility requirements (see here for more details) , you will be eligible for home fee status and financial support.
I have settled/pre-settled status and intend to start a postgraduate degree. Will I be eligible for home fees?
It has been confirmed that, if you are an EU citizen and already hold pre-settled/settled status and meet the relevant eligibility requirements (see here for more details), you will be eligible for home fee status and financial support.
What documents will be required to be able to stay in the UK for a study or work period from 2021?
If you arrived in the UK before 31 December 2020, you should have applied for the EU Settlement Scheme. Your pre-settled or settled status will be used as evidence of your rights in the UK. If you have not applied but believe you are eligible to apply, please see the guidance on late applications
If you first entered the UK after this date, you will have to apply for a visa under the new Immigration System.
What does the new Immigration System entail?
On 13 July 2020, the UK Government launched a UK points-based immigration system. These new arrangements will affect workers, students and graduates and visitors who will arrive in the UK from 1 January 2021, once freedom of movement with the European Union (EU) has ended and are also known as the new Immigration System.
If I arrived in the UK before December 2020, will I be eligible for home tuition fees and student loans?
It has been confirmed that, if you are an EU citizen, entered the UK before 31 December 2020 and apply for pre-settled/settled status, you will have access to home fees and student loans even after August 2021 (provided that you meet the criteria).
This is not the case for new EU students (without settled/pre-settled status). This might be different for Irish nationals intending to study in the UK.
For more information about this, please visit the dedicated Brexit section on Universities UK website or on the UK Council of International Student Affairs website.