EU settled status and UK permanent residence are not the same. EU nationals currently in the UK and wising to remain lawfully in Britain beyond 30 June 2021 will need to take steps to secure their status.
The following guide looks at the difference between settled status and permanent residence, and the impact of your status as an EU citizen in the UK on your eligibility to apply to naturalise as a British citizen.
What is EU settled status?
The end of EU freedom of movement and the introduction of a new points-based immigration system will mean EU citizens coming to the UK from 1 January 2021 will need to apply for a visa before they travel. EU nationals already in the UK by this date are now required to apply for settled status by 30 June 2021 to safeguard their future status in the UK.
EU settled status is the official grant of immigration status by the Home Office that will allow you as an EU citizen to continue to live, work and study in the UK on an indefinite basis. With settled status, you retain full access to healthcare and, where eligible, any public funds including state benefits and pensions.
As such, those with settled status are to have access to the same rights and benefits they were entitled to under free movement. They will also be entitled to leave the UK for up to 5 years before losing their status, and any children born in the UK will automatically be classed as British citizens.
Settled status is not an automatic right. EU citizens will need to apply for, and be granted, EU settled status.
The Government has advised that EU citizens who fail to apply for settled status before the deadline of 30 June 2021 will may no longer have the right to remain in the UK lawfully.
How do I qualify for settled status?
To qualify for settled status under the EU settlement scheme you would need to show that you have lived in the UK for a continuous period of 5 years.
To satisfy the 5-year continuous residence requirement, subject to certain exceptions such as time abroad in the armed forces, you must have lived in the UK for at least 6 months in any 12-month period.
Please note, if you already have permanent residence and apply for settled status, you will not have to prove you have 5 years’ continuous residence.
You have until the 30 June 2021, or 31 December 2020 in the event of no deal, to apply for under the EU settlement scheme. Your rights will remain unchanged until then, provided that you were resident in the UK by 31 December 2020, or the date the UK leaves the EU if there’s no deal.
Those who moved to the UK prior to the applicable deadline date but who have not yet lived in the UK for 5 years should instead be eligible for pre-settled status. This will give the successful applicant the right to stay in the UK for a period of 5 years, during which time they can re-apply for settled status.
What is permanent residence?
EU citizens, as well as EEA and Swiss citizens, including non-EEA family members, acquire an automatic right of permanent residence in host EU member states in which they have legally resided for a continuous 5-year period.
Prior to the UK leaving the EU, it was not a mandatory requirement for qualifying EU citizens to apply for a permanent residence card in the UK to prove their status, unless they were looking to apply for British citizenship or sought documentary evidence for use with authorities, employers or other administrative formalities.
Am I eligible to apply for settled status?
If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, or the family member of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, you will be eligible to apply for settled status under the EU settlement scheme. The EEA, ie; the European Economic Area, includes EU countries, in addition to Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
It does not matter if you are a non-EEA family member, you can come from anywhere in the world. The following non-EEA family members will be eligible for settled status:
- Spouses, civil partners and unmarried partners
- Children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren under 21
- Children over 21 who are dependent
- Parents, grandparents or great-grandparents who are dependent
- Dependent relatives.
Applicants can apply online and will need to prove their identity and continuous 5-year residence in the UK, or less for pre-settled status. Criminal background checks will also be conducted for applicants over 18. The scheme is now open and there is currently no fee to apply.
Do I need to register for settled status if I already have a permanent residence?
To continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021, EU citizens and their family members, including those who have already obtained permanent residence, must either register for settled status under the EU settlement scheme or, alternatively, apply to naturalise as a British citizen before 30 June 2021.
As previously indicated, if you already have permanent residence and apply for settled status, you will not have to prove you have 5 years’ continuous residence.
Please note, permanent residency documents will become invalid after the application deadline for settled status under the scheme. Please also note that although EU citizens with indefinite leave to remain do not have to apply for settled status under the EU settlement scheme, they are strongly advised to do so to evidence their ongoing right to live and work in the UK.
How do I know if I have valid permanent residence document?
To verify whether you have a valid permanent residence document you will need to look for one of the following:
- A certificate inside your blue residence documentation booklet, or pink if you are a Swiss national
- A certificate inside your passport
- If you are from the EU, EEA or Switzerland your permanent residence document will say “Document Certifying Permanent Residence”
- If you are not an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, your biometric residence card will say “Permanent Residence Status”.
Please note a “registration certificate” is not a permanent residence document.
Is it better to apply for settled status or British citizenship?
EU, EEA and Swiss nationals over the age of 18 who have had permanent resident status in the UK for at least 12 months, and hold a permanent residence document from the Home Office, will be eligible to apply for British citizenship by way of naturalisation.
For EU, EEA and Swiss citizens, and family members, who have automatically acquired permanent residence but who do not have a valid permanent residence document, they will need to apply for settled status to enable them to make an application for British citizenship by way of naturalisation.
EU, EEA and Swiss nationals who have had settled status for at least 12 months will also be eligible to apply for British citizenship.
The question remains, therefore, which is the preferred option where you are currently eligible to apply for both settled status ‘and’ British citizenship by way of naturalisation. In other words, should you first apply for settled status with a view to applying for naturalisation after 12 months, or at some point in the future, or, where eligible, whether to apply for naturalisation right now?
Much may depend upon your personal preferences and circumstances, not least whether or not you want to enjoy the same rights as a British national, including the right to vote and obtain a British passport.
Contact us for advice on your circumstances and the application process to naturalise as a British citizen.
Permanent residency v settled status FAQs
Should I apply for settled status if I have permanent residence?
Permanent residence holders have to register under the EU settled status to retain their lawful immigration status in the UK after 30 June 2021.
Is Settled status the same as indefinite leave to remain?
Settled status is the grant of indefinite leave to EU nationals who can evidence continuous UK residence for at least 5 years.
Can I apply for British citizenship with settled status?
British citizenship requirements are extensive and applicants will be required to provide substantial evidence that they meet all of the criteria, including the residency requirements.
Last updated: 2 February 2020