Living in the UK with EU Settled Status


With settled status in the UK, you can live, work and study here indefinitely, and you’re not longer subject to immigration restrictions when entering and leaving the country. It can also go someway to helping you feel settled that the UK is your home. Settled status also offers a path to British citizenship. 

Since the UK left the EU at the end of 2020, and with the closure of the EU settlement scheme to new applications, we look at the current status of the settlement scheme in the UK, and what it means for EU citizens and their families living in Britain post-Brexit with settled status.


What are my rights in the UK with settled status?


Those granted either settled status or pre-settled status will continue to enjoy the same entitlements to work, study and access healthcare, pension and other benefits in the UK as per the rules prior to the transition period.

Those with either pre-settled or settled status under the EU settlement scheme also have the right to be absent from the UK for up to five years before their status automatically lapses.

Children born in the UK to those who have been granted settled status will be British citizens.


Who needs settled status?


The rules required EU, EEA or Swiss citizens, or family members of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, living in the UK to apply for settled status by 30 June 2021. This included those who were born in the UK but were not a British citizen; those with a UK permanent residence card; relatives of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen (including Irish citizen) who did not need to apply; those who had EU, EEA or Swiss nationality with a British citizen family member.

Irish citizens did not need to apply, nor did those who had been granted indefinite leave to enter or remain.

Non-European family members of EU citizens  – such as a spouse, civil partner, long term partner, dependent child or grandchild, and dependent parent or grandparent – were also able to apply for the status, on the basis of their relationship to the EU national, where the following applied:


  • the non-EU relative used to have an EU, EEA or Swiss family member living in the UK but this relationship is no longer subsisting, for example due to separation or death
  • the non-EU individual is related to a British citizen and lived outside the UK in an EEA country together
  • the non-EU individual is related to a British citizen who also has EU, EEA or Swiss citizenship and who lived in the UK as an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen before getting British citizenship
  • the non-EU relative is the primary carer of a British, EU, EEA or Swiss citizen
  • the non-EU relative is the child of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen who used to live and work in the UK, or the child’s primary carer


In addition to evidencing their EU relative’s status, non-EEA family members also needed to submit evidence of their own identity, residence in the UK and relationship to the EU citizen.

Non-EEA relatives living overseas were able to join an EU citizen resident in the UK until 29 March 2022, provided the relationship existed on the date of Brexit. Future children are also protected.


What is settled status under Appendix EU?


Appendix EU of the UK’s Immigration Rules is the basis upon which EEA and Swiss citizens, and the family members of EEA and Swiss citizens, can be granted indefinite leave either to enter or to remain in the UK. Indefinite leave to enter (ILE) is where leave is granted following an application made from outside the UK, while indefinite leave to remain (ILR) is where leave is granted for an application made from inside the UK.

Appendix EU essentially brings the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement into force to protect the rights of EEA and Swiss nationals through the Immigration Rules, where the expressions ILE and ILR are the terms used under these rules to refer to obtaining settled status. In contrast, limited leave to enter or limited leave to remain reflects pre settled status.

Any overseas national with either settled or pre settled status will be granted the right to live and work in the UK, as well as the right to access housing, education and health services, including free NHS healthcare, and to claim state benefits, where eligible.


What is settled status under the EUSS?


Settled status under the EUSS is the grant of indefinite leave to eligible EEA and Swiss nationals, and their family members, who have been able to evidence continuous residence in the UK for at least 5 years. In this way, settled status will provide the successful applicant with the right to live, work, study and rent property in the UK, and to access benefits and healthcare services, on a permanent basis.

The deadline for most people to apply to the EUSS was 30 June 2021, although those with pre settled status can apply for settled status once they have accrued 5 years’ continuous residence. There are also some limited circumstances in which a new application can still be made to the scheme. Specifically, if an individual or family member are from either the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, they can still apply to the EUSS if they or a family member were living in the UK by 11pm 31 December 2020 and either they:


  • meet one of the criteria for a later deadline to apply, where there are various people who may be able to make a valid application at this late stage
  • have reasonable grounds for not applying by the 30 June 2021 deadline date, such as being the victim of domestic abuse or for medical reasons.


If the applicant is successful, they would then be granted either settled or pre settled status, depending on how long they had lived in the UK. The applicant will not be asked to choose which status they acquire, where they will be automatically granted settled status if they have already accrued 5 years’ continuous residence. To meet the residence requirement, the applicant must be able to show that, for 5 years in a row, they have been living in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man for at least 6 months in any 12-month period.

For the purposes of continuous residence, the 5 years is counted from the day that any residence began, not the day that the person was granted pre settled status. There are also some absences of more than 6 months in any 12-month period that will not count as a break in lawful continuous residence when seeking to establish settled status, including:


  • one period overseas of up to 12 months for an important reason, such as serious illness, childbirth, study or vocational training, an overseas work posting or due to coronavirus
  • compulsory overseas military service of any length
  • time spent overseas as either a Crown servant or family member of a Crown servant
  • time spent overseas either in the armed forces or as a relative of someone in the forces
  • working within the UK marine area.


What is pre settled status?


At the time the settlement scheme was open to applications, those who had lived in the UK for 5 years or more on a continuous basis were typically granted full settled status. If, however, the applicant had lived in the UK for less than 5 years at the time of their application pre-30 June 2021, they would have been granted pre-settled status, provided they had started living in the UK by 31 December 2020.

Under the initial rules of the EUSS, those with pre-settled status were granted limited leave to enter and remain in the UK for 5 years, at which point they were required to make a further EUSS application for indefinite leave to enter and remain.  This requirement was deemed unlawful by the High Court and new Home Office guidance was subsequently issued in July 2023 changing the rules for pre-settled status holders ‘upgrading’ to full settled status.


Do you have to apply for full settled status if you have pre-settled status?


Under the scheme’s initial rules, anyone granted pre settled status under the EUSS was allowed to stay in the UK for an additional 5 years before needing to re-apply for pre settled status, or upgrade to settled status before their current status expired.

However, if a person failed to make a subsequent application for leave prior to expiry of their pre settled status, they would automatically lose their right to work, study and rent a property in the UK, and to access benefits and services. They would also be liable to removal from the UK on the basis that they would no longer be classed as lawfully present.

In July 2023, the Home Office issued a Statement of Changes confirming that the right to reside in the UK on the basis of pre-settled status “does not expire by virtue of failing to make a second application to EUSS“. This means the requirement on pre-settled status holders to make a further application for indefinite leave to remain and enter is being removed.

A further statement detailed that from September 2023, two-year extensions will automatically be granted to anyone with pre settled status who has not yet obtained settled status. This will apply by virtue of the Secretary of State’s powers under section 3(3)(a) of the Immigration Act 1971. The extension will be automatically applied to the individual’s digital status and this will be confirmed to the individual directly.

It was also confirmed that in 2024, the Home Office will start to conduct automated checks of government records to verify pre-settled status holders’ continuous residence. Those who meet the requirement will be automatically ‘upgraded’ from pre-settled to full settled status. The Home Office also advised that safeguards will be put in place to ensure that settled status is not wrongly granted.

In effect, this means that pre-settled status will be automatically converted to full settled status for qualifying individuals, without the requirement to make a further EUSS application.

The change was in direct response to the High Court ruling in The Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens Rights Agreements (IMA) v the Secretary of State for the Home Department [2022], which held that it is unlawful for pre-settled status holders to lose their lawful status by virtue of failing to make a second EUSS application.

In allowing the IMA’s application for judicial review, the court agreed that it was unlawful for citizens to lose their lawful status, along with all the rights which accompany it, under Part 2 of the Withdrawal Agreement — as well as the EEA EFTA Separation Agreement and Swiss Citizens Rights Agreement — if they failed to apply for settled status, or re-apply for pre settled status, prior to the expiry of their existing status.

The outcome of this ruling was therefore essentially twofold:

  • a person with pre settled status under the EUSS does not lose their residence rights if they fail to make a second application prior to the 5-year expiry date of that permission, and
  • a person with pre settled status who acquires a right of permanent residence after 5 years of continuous residence in the UK will not lose this if they fail to make an application to the EUSS for settled status.


EUSS family permits


The EUSS family permit allows close family members of those with EUSS to apply to join their relatives in the UK.

A close family member includes a spouse, civil partner, durable partner, as well as a dependent child, grandchild, parent or grandparent. This includes the child, grandchild, parent or grandparent of your spouse or civil partner. Children of durable partners that have turned 18 since being granted pre-settled status were included in the July 2023 EUSS guidance changes.

Updated Home Office guidance issued in July 2023 confirmed that the EUSS family permit is closing on 8 August 2023 to new applications from family members of British citizens, known as ‘Surinder Singh’ cases and primary carers of British citizens, known as ‘Zambrano’ cases. The guidance states this change is to ensure fairness with other British citizens who are looking to sponsor family members by making all such applications subject to the relevant family Immigration Rules.


How do you prove EU settled status?


Being able to prove settled status is an important part of being granted ILR under the EUSS. This is because a person can use this status to prove their rights in the UK, for example, the right to work, study and rent residential property, or to claim benefits or use NHS services.

An individual can view their status online. To view their immigration status, they will need the details of the identity document they used to apply, such as their passport, national identity card, or biometric residence card or permit, together with their date of birth.

They will also need access to the mobile number or email address used when they applied to the EUSS, where they will be sent a code for logging in. Once they have access to the online service to view their settled status, they can then generate a share code to be able to prove their lawful status to others. This could include, for example, a prospective employer looking to recruit them for a new job role or, alternatively, a prospective landlord or letting agent looking to grant them a residential tenancy agreement in the private rented sector.


How do you check EU settled status?


For prospective employers looking to recruit an overseas national for a UK-based business, or prospective landlords and letting agents looking to let out residential property in England, they will first need to carry out right to work checks or right to rent checks.

If an employer, landlord or letting agent is looking to undertake a pre-employment or pre-tenancy check, in this way providing them with a statutory excuse against a civil penalty in the event that they are found to be employing or renting to someone without the right to live in the UK, they will need a share code. This is the code that an individual with settled status under the EUSS can generate by accessing their online account. This code can either be emailed to the employer, landlord or letting agent, or handed to them directly. By inputting this code into the online service, together with the employee’s or tenant’s date of birth, the employer, landlord or agent will be able to view the individual’s lawful settled status, proving a permanent right to work in the UK or an unlimited right to rent.

To ensure that a statutory excuse is established, copies will need to be taken and the date recorded of each check. However, because there are no time limits on the right to work or right to rent in the UK, there will be no need to conduct any follow-up checks. In respect of those with pre settled status, it is anticipated that updates to the Home Office right to work and rent guidance will soon be made to cover the scenario where a person’s pre settled status has expired but they have failed to make a subsequent application under the EUSS.


Does settled status expire?


A commonly asked question is, how long is settled status valid for? Settled status grants indefinite permission to remain in the UK. However, should you leave the UK for a period of more than 5 years, your settled status will be lost.


Can I apply for a British passport with settled status?


To apply for a British passport, you have to hold British citizenship. EU citizens looking to naturalise as a British citizen will need to prove they have held indefinite leave to remain, which includes lawful status under the EUSS, for the relevant qualifying period.


Can you get British citizenship with settled status?


Having obtained settled status under the EUSS, an overseas national may become eligible to apply to naturalise as a British citizen once they have attained the required period of residency and meet all of the other British citizenship requirements. To apply for citizenship with settled status, the applicant must usually have lived in the UK for 12 months after being granted settled status, unless they are married to a British citizen, when this 12 month requirement does not apply.


What if you’ve missed the EU settled status deadline?


Many EU citizens have been living lawfully in the UK for several years with indefinite leave status, but they may have concerns about whether or not they are still living legally in the UK post-Brexit, particularly if this is not clear from their passports or any old-style documents, or they no longer have any documentary proof of their indefinite leave. The good news is that many of these citizens can now apply for a free No Time Limit (NTL) application to have their status validated via a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).

An EU citizen NTL application is essentially an administrative process by which an EU citizen in the UK with either indefinite leave to enter (ILE) or indefinite leave to remain (ILR) can apply for confirmation of their lawful status on a BRP. Any person who holds ILE or ILR, and is ordinarily resident in the UK, will be free from immigration time restrictions and will be classed as settled. Provided you are eligible, you can apply for an NTL BRP where:


  • you would like to upgrade any non-digital proof of your ILR or ILE status, for example, where you have a passport vignette sticker, you can exchange this for digital confirmation of your immigration status in the form of a new-style BRP
  • your passport containing an ILE or ILR endorsement has been lost, stolen or has expired
  • you have legitimately changed your identity since being granted indefinite leave and would like this confirmed on a BRP.


It is not mandatory to apply for an NTL BRP as an EU citizen with indefinite leave, although there are a number of benefits in you making an application, including the fact that a BRP:


  • has enhanced security features which cannot be found on an old-style vignette, meaning there is less chance of this being used fraudulently by someone else
  • is evidence that you have the right to reside permanently in the UK, together with the right to work and access certain state benefits, providing you with peace of mind
  • will allow you to prove your right to work or rent using online checking services
  • will facilitate travel both overseas and coming back to the UK.


If you have been granted settled status under the EUSS, you will not need to make an EU citizen NTL application. You will already have secure digital status permitting you to stay in the UK indefinitely. Equally, if you have pre-settled status under the EUSS, a change in the rules is expected that will not require you to apply for dull settled status after the qualifying five-year residence period.


How to make an NTL application


To be eligible to make an EU citizen NTL application, you must:


  • be in the UK with either ILE or ILR
  • have not lost your ILE or ILR status, for example, by being absent from the UK for more than 2 continuous years since 2000
  • continue to be entitled to ILE/ILR, where this status has not been or will not be revoked.


As an EU citizen, if you were granted indefinite leave under the Immigration Rules prior to 30 April 2006, when the right of permanent residence came into force under the EEA Regulations, or before the EU country of which you are a national joined the EU, you may be eligible to apply. You may also be eligible as the spouse or partner of a person present and settled in the UK if you were granted indefinite leave on this basis, or as the holder of ILR under a route associated with the European Communities Association Agreement with Turkey.

You will not be eligible for an NTL BRP if you are an EU citizen or their family member who acquired a right of permanent residence under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016 before these regulations were revoked on 31 December 2020. In these circumstances, you will instead need to make an application under the EUSS.

To make an EU citizen NTL application, you must apply from inside the UK using the online NTL application form. This can be found at GOV.UK. You will also be required to provide your biometric information and submit supporting documentation. This must include, among other things, any existing documentary proof of indefinite leave and photographic evidence confirming your identity, such as a passport, driving licence or national identity card.

If you are eligible to make an EU citizen NTL application, you may be able to include any dependants on your application, provided they also have indefinite leave. This can include your spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner and any children under the age of 18.

Once an EU citizen NTL application has been submitted, and all supporting documentation has been received by the Home Office, your application should be decided within 6 to 8 weeks, although this could take up to 6 months where further information is requested. However, the benefits of having an BRP can make this worth the wait, where this can be used to prove your right to live and work in the UK. It can also facilitate an application for British citizenship.


Settled status UK FAQs


What is a settled status?

Settled status refers to the grant of indefinite leave to remain (ILR) under Appendix EU of the UK’s Immigration Rules. Settled status is the term used to describe ILR under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

Does settled status mean permanent residence?

Settled status means that you have the right to reside in the UK for as long as you like. This will also give you the right to work, study, rent property, and to access benefits and healthcare services, including the NHS.

How long is settled status valid for?

The grant of settled status will provide a person with the right to live in the UK on an indefinite basis. It also means that they can apply to naturalise as a British citizen after a period of 12 months.

What are the rules for settled status?

To be eligible for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), you must have lived in the UK on a lawful basis for a continuous period of 5 years.

How long does settled status last?

UK settled status is indefinite, but may be lost if you are absent from the UK for more than five years.

Last updated: 18 May 2024


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 500and 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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