The EU Settlement Scheme

On 31 December 2020 free movement between the European Union and the UK ended as a result of the UK's referendum vote to leave the EU. Prior to this date EU and EEA citizens* had been able to enter the UK to live, work and study without a visa.

Since 1 January 2020, anyone without a British or Irish passport who wants to live, work, study or join a family member in the UK must apply for entry clearance through a recognised UK immigration route.

EU & EEA Nationals living and working in the UK prior to 31 December 2020

The UK Government set up the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) for eligible EU & EEA nationals* who were in the UK prior to 31 December 2020. The deadline for applications to the scheme was 30 June 2021.

Find out about making a late application on our page about Coming to the UK from the EU and EEA.

Pre-settled status or settled status?

Eligible applicants to the EU Settlement Scheme were granted either pre-settled status or settled status. In most cases, the status received was awarded based on the length of time the applicant had been in the UK prior to 31 December 2020 or the length of time a parent had been in the UK.

To be eligible for settled status the applicant needed to prove they had been a continuous resident in the UK for at least five years. Continuous residence means that the applicant was in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for more than six months in each 12 months of residence.

There are some exceptions to this rule including for regular or compulsory military service, working in the UK marine area, being abroad as a Crown servant or the family member of a Crown servant, and other important reasons such as childbirth, serious illness, study, vocational training, an overseas work posting or because of coronavirus.

For those applicants who were not eligible for settled status, the eligibility criteria for pre-settled status was that they, or a family member, had to have started living in the UK by 31 December 2020.

Those with settled or pre-settled status can:

  • work in the UK
  • use the NHS for free (if they had been able to previously)
  • study in the UK
  • access public funds such as benefits and pensions (if eligible)
  • travel in and out of the UK

Applicants who received settled status can stay in the UK for as long as they like and will be able to apply for British citizenship if they meet the eligibility criteria.

For those applicants under the EUSS who received pre-settled status, there is a five-year time limit for their stay in the UK which runs from the date they were granted pre-settled status.

What happens when the pre-settled status period expires?

Pre-settled status expires five years after the date it was granted. To continue living in the UK, pre-settled individuals will need to switch to settled status.

An application to switch status must be made before the expiry date. To be eligible for settled status, the applicant will need to prove they have been resident in the UK continuously for five years prior to the date of application. (Please note, the five-year period is calculated from the first day of continuous residence in the UK, NOT the date that pre-settled status was granted.)

If an application is not made before the pre-settled status expires the individual will no longer be able to stay in the UK without a visa.

Applying for citizenship

Eligible EU and EEA citizens* with permission to stay in the UK (for example, indefinite leave to remain or settled status) can apply to become a British citizen through ‘naturalisation’.

Typically, there is a requirement for applicants to have lived in the UK for 12 months after being granted settled status before submitting their application for naturalisation.

As well as proving length of residency, applicants will also need to:

  • have a good knowledge of English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic
  • pass the ‘Life in the UK Test’
  • prove their intention to stay resident in the UK
  • be of ‘good character’

Find out more on our page about Becoming a British Citizen by Naturalisation

Coming from Europe to the UK post Brexit

With the exception of Irish nationals and some family members of EU and EEA citizens* with settled or pre-settled status (if the relationship had commenced before 31 December 2020 and still exists), anyone coming from the EU and EEA to live, work, study or join a family member will now have to apply for and receive a visa in order to live, work or study in the UK.

There are numerous visa routes available and you can find out more on our Entry Clearance page.

Immigration legal advice from experienced immigration solicitors

The UK’s immigration rules are complex and can change very quickly. It is impossible to cover the entirety of the rules and how they apply to the different situations of individuals within these pages, so it is crucial to seek advice from experienced immigration lawyers before you apply for a visa or make an application which relies on settlement status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

The visa route that suits you best will be fully dependent on your personal circumstances and relationship to people already in the UK.

You can discuss your situation with us by booking a one-hour fixed-fee meeting (£100 + VAT) in which a qualified solicitor will speak confidentially with you about your case or that of a family member. We aim to provide up-to-date information to help you decide the steps you want to take next and you won’t be charged if you go on to instruct us to handle your case.

For further assistance please call Lorraine Toal on 020 8290 7956 or email


*      European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA) (i.e. Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) and Switzerland.