Switching from Pre Settled to Settled Status

IN THIS SECTION

The requirement for pre-settled status holders to make a separate application for full settled status in the UK has been removed. Those with pre-settled status will automatically receive two-year extensions on their status every two years, as long as they continue to meet the eligibility criteria, such as residing in the UK, as detailed below.

The change follows a High Court ruling has found that the requirement for pre-settled status holders to reapply for full settled status after five years, or face loss of lawful status, was unlawful. The case, R (on the application of Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens’ Rights Agreement) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (European Commission and another intervening) [2022], was brought as a Judicial Review by the Independent Monitoring Authority (IMA) against the Home Office.

The Court found that the UK’s implementation of the Brexit Withdrawl Agreement in relation to citizens’ rights through the EU Settlement Scheme was unlawful in two specific areas:

  • If a pre settled status holder does not submit a second application for settled status, they should not lose their right to remain in the UK. This is on the grounds that article 13(4) of the Withdrawal Agreement explicitly states that a right to reside can only be forfeited under specific conditions, none of which are expired status.
  • As a result of the above, once the requirements for settled status have been met, settled status rights immediately become available without the need for a second application.

 

The remainder of this article pre-dates the judicial review decision in R (on the application of Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens’ Rights Agreement) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (European Commission and another intervening), which overturned the requirement to apply to switch from pre settled to full settled status. 

 

Pre-settled to full settled status guidance

 

Pre-Settled Status is a form of limited leave to remain, granting temporary permission to the holder to stay in the UK for five years. If you have pre settled status and you want to stay in the UK for longer than this, you must apply for settled status within that five-year period, and before your status expires or you will lose your legal right to stay in the UK.

You do not have to wait until the expiry date of your pre settled status stated in your Home Office decision letter. As soon as you have lived in the UK continuously for five years, you should apply for settled status i.e., permanent residence, which will allow you to remain in the UK for an indefinite period, subject to meeting certain conditions. If you’ve spent time living in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, this counts as time living in the UK.

 

Pre settled to full settled status requirements

 

  • You have lived in the UK for a continuous period of 5 years.
  • You have not been absent from the UK for more than 6 months in any 12 month period in the 5 year period being relied upon – there are some exceptions to this requirement, allowing longer periods of absence in certain circumstances, and the Home Office can additionally exercise discretion.
  • You meet the suitability criteria, including good character, criminality matters.

 

You might not be able to get settled status after 5 years if either:

 

  • you’ve spent more than 6 months outside the UK in any 12-month period
  • you got pre-settled status as the family member of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen and your or your family member’s situation has changed.

 

Continuous residence

To qualify for Settled Status, you must have been continuously resident in the UK for at least five years.

‘Continuously resident’ means that you must have been living in the UK for at least 6 months (180 days) in every 12-month period. The Home Office may agree to one absence of up to 12 months for an important reason, such as pregnancy, childbirth, serious illness, study, vocational training or an overseas posting.

It is possible to spend up to 2 years outside the UK without losing your Pre-Settled Status. However, if, for example, you spend a continuous year and a half out of the UK, though you will retain your Pre-Settled Status, it is unlikely that you will qualify for Settled Status. This is because you will not be able to demonstrate the required ‘continuous residence’ in the UK for at least five years. At present, there is no provision to extend a grant of Pre-Settled Status and so if you are unable to qualify for Settled Status before the expiry of your ‘Pre-Settled Status’, you may have to apply to remain in the UK on another basis.

The day your 5 years starts depends on whether or not you’re a citizen of the EU, EEA or Switzerland.

 

If you’re a citizen of the EU, EEA or Switzerland

Your 5 years starts from the day you started living in the UK, not the day you got pre-settled status. You can apply for settled status before your pre-settled status expires – it’s a good idea to do this as soon as you have lived in the UK for 5 years.You don’t have to wait until your pre-settled status is about to expire to apply for settled status.

 

If you’re a citizen of a country outside the EU, EEA or Switzerland

The rules about when your 5 years of residence starts are different depending on if you’re a close family member or an extended family member.

You’re a close family member if you’re a:

  • husband, wife or civil partner
  • dependent parent or grandparent
  • child or grandchild under 21 years old
  • dependent child aged 21 or over

 

Your 5 years starts from either the day you arrived in the UK or the day you became a close family member of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, whichever was later. For example, if you came to the UK then married a German citizen, your 5 years starts on the day you got married. It doesn’t matter if the EU, EEA or Swiss citizen didn’t have settled or pre-settled status at the time.

You’re an extended family member if you’re a:

  • long-term partner who isn’t married or in a civil partnership
  • brother or sister
  • aunt or uncle
  • niece or nephew
  • cousin

If you had a family permit when you arrived in the UK, your 5 years starts on that day. If you didn’t have one of these, your 5 years starts the day you got a residence card.

 

Absences from the UK

You might not be able to get settled status if you spent more than 6 months outside the UK within any 12-month period. There are some exceptions to this. You might still be able to get settled status if you were outside the UK for up to 12 months for:

  • an ‘important reason’ – for example, pregnancy or military service
  • any reason related to coronavirus – this includes shielding, caring responsibilities and following guidance not to travel

If you were out of the UK for longer than 12 months in a row because of coronavirus, this won’t break your continuity of residence. The first 12 months of your time out of the UK counts towards the 5 years you need for settled status. The rest of the time after 12 months doesn’t count.

 

Change of circumstances

If your relationship with your family member changed before you reached 5 years, you might not be able to switch to full settled status. It depends on what has changed.

Change of circumstances

Impact on status & eligibility

If your family member has died You can still get settled status after 5 years if either:

  • you lived in the UK as their family member for at least 1 year before they died
  • you’re aged under 21 and you’re in education

If these don’t apply, you can’t get settled status.

If your relationship has ended You can’t get settled status unless an exception applies. There are exceptions if:

  • you were married or in a civil partnership for at least 3 years
  • you and your ex-partner have a child under 18 and lives in the UK and you have responsibility for your child or contact with them.
  • your relationship ended because of domestic abuse
If your family member left the UK You can only get settled status after 5 years if either:

  • you’re aged under 21 and you’re in education
  • you’re responsible for a child aged under 21 who is in education

If these don’t apply, you can’t get settled status.

If you’re no longer dependant on the family member You can still get settled status after 5 years if you got pre-settled status as:

  • a dependent child aged under 21
  • a dependent parent

The rules are different if you got pre-settled status as another type of dependent relative – for example as a dependent child aged 21 or over. You can only get settled status if you’re still dependent – or if you were dependent on 31 December 2020.

 

 

If you can’t apply for settled status when your pre-settled status ends

 

You might be able to get pre-settled status for another 5 years. You should apply before your current pre-settled status ends.

You can add together the time from both periods of pre-settled status. You can then apply for settled status when you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years in a row. You might be able to get pre-settled status again by applying as a family member. You can do this if you have a family member from the EU, EEA or Switzerland who has pre-settled or settled status. They must have been living in the UK by 31 December 2020.

You can apply as a family member whether or not your first period of pre-settled status was as a family member. Find out more about applying as a family member.

If you can’t apply as a family member, you might be able to get pre-settled status again if both of the following apply:

  • the time spent outside the UK was before 31 December 2020
  • you were back in the UK by 31 December 2020

 

How to apply to switch

 

To switch from Pre-Settled Status to Settled Status you will need to submit an online form or a paper application form (depending on your particular circumstances) to the Home Office. Additionally, you may need to upload/submit supporting documents to evidence your continued residence in the UK.

 

How long does processing take?

 

Once submitted, the published processing time is between 5 working days and 1 month, however, in our experience applications under the EU Settlement Scheme can take up to 6 months and are subject to further delays.

 

Applying for your children

 

If you have children who were resident in the UK by 31 December 2020, are not British or Irish citizens, and do not have another type of UK immigration status (for example, temporary leave or indefinite leave to enter or remain) they must make an application to the EUSS.

You can apply on their behalf, and when you apply for your child you can ‘link’ their application to yours.

If you or your partner has given birth in the UK since 31 December 2020, and neither you or the other parent had settled status, another form of indefinite leave to enter or remain, or British citizenship when the child was born, you will need to apply to the EUSS on your child’s behalf within 3 months of their date of birth.

You do not need to apply on your child’s behalf if you or your partner held settled status, another form of indefinite leave to enter or remain, or British citizenship at the date the child was born because the child will be British by birth.

 

Don’t lose your status

 

If you spend more than two years outside the UK, your Pre-Settled Status will lapse. Your Pre-Settled status can be revoked if you commit a serious criminal offence or the Home Office believes you submitted false information with your application.

If you have been granted Settled Status, you can spend up to five years in a row outside the UK without losing your status unless you are a Swiss citizen or the family member of a Swiss citizen.

Note that if you’re a Swiss citizen or the family member of a Swiss citizen, you can only spend up to four years in a row outside the UK without losing your Settled Status.

If you spend over this amount of time outside the UK without returning, your Settled Status will lapse. If this does occur and you wish to return to live in the UK, you will need to make a new application under a different route. Please note that the new application will need to meet the Immigration Rules in force at the time and therefore it is possible that some people may not be eligible to apply to return to live in the UK if their settled status lapses. The Home Office can revoke your status if:

 

  • You commit a serious criminal offence; or
  • The Home Office believes that you submitted false information as part of your application.

 

How to view and prove your status and share this with third parties

 

Third parties may include employers and landlords.

It is important to note that EEA citizens should still be able to show their identity documents to prove their rights in the UK until 30 June 2021.

The Home Office will not issue physical proof of your status, unless you are a non-EEA family member who has not previously been issued with a biometric residence card.

The confirmation email and the PDF letter you receive are not proof of your status so you will need to log in to your online profile to prove your status.

To log into your online profile, you will need to:

  1. Choose the identity document you used in your application, for example:
    • Biometric residence card (BRC)
    • National identity card
    • Passport
  2. Enter your passport/ID card/ BRC number
  3. Enter your date of birth
  4. Confirm who you are

A ‘one-time’ six-digit access code will be sent to your phone or email address, depending on what you have specified. This code is valid for a limited time. Once you enter it, you will be logged into your online profile and be able to view your Pre-Settled or Settled Status.

Once you have logged into your online profile, you can also navigate to “Prove your status to someone” and receive a ‘share code’ to prove your status to others, such as employers and landlords.

 

Pre Settled to Settled Status FAQs

 

How do I change from pre settled to settled status?

Those with pre-settled status will automatically receive two-year extensions on their status every two years, as long as they continue to meet the eligibility criteria (such as residing in the UK).

How do I apply for settled status?

You apply on the .gov website or contact the EU Settlement Resolution Centre to request an application form.

What is the difference between pre settled status and settled status?

Pre-settled status is permission for temporary residence for those who had been living in the UK for less than five years by the end of the Brexit transition period, while settled status is a permanent residence authorisation designed for those who have been living here for at least five years.

 

Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris is a law firm specialising in UK immigration. We help individuals with their UK immigration needs, and can guide and support you through any Home Office process, including an application to secure your rights to remain in the UK under settled status. If you have any questions, please contact us.

 

Last updated: 23 May 2024

Author

Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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