Staying in the UK if you're from the EU

This advice applies to England. See advice for Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales

You usually need to apply to stay in the UK if you're from:

  • a country in the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland

  • another country and you are the family member of someone who is from the EU, EEA or Switzerland

The EEA includes EU countries and Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

You can apply for ‘pre-settled status’ or ‘settled status’ under the EU Settlement Scheme.

It’s worth applying for pre-settled or settled status now. After 30 June 2021 you might be asked to prove your right to do things like get a job or use the NHS. Once you've got either pre-settled or settled status you will have a right to:

  • stay in the UK

  • work

  • study

  • use the NHS

  • claim benefits - including the State Pension

  • rent a home

You might also be able to apply for British citizenship, but it’s best to apply for pre-settled or settled status first - it’s faster and it’s free. You might also find it easier to apply for citizenship after you get settled status.

If you’re already a British or Irish citizen, you don’t need to apply to stay in the UK. If you have family members who aren’t British or Irish, you can check if your family can stay in the UK.

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

You might be able to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if you have family in the UK who are from the EU, EEA or Switzerland and both of the following are true:

  • they were in the UK by 31 December 2020

  • your relationship with them started before 31 December 2020 – unless they’re a Swiss citizen

You need to apply to the scheme even if you have a permanent residence card as it will not be valid after 30 June 2021.

Check if you can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

If your relationship ended or your family member died

You might be able to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if your relationship with an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen has ended. 

The family member doesn’t have to be your partner - for example, it could be your parent or child.

If you got a divorce or your family member died, check if you can still apply to the EU Settlement Scheme on GOV.UK.

If your relationship with your family member broke down because of domestic abuse, you can still apply to the EU Settlement Scheme - you should get specialist immigration advice first.

Check what you need to apply for

What you need to apply for depends on how long you’ve lived in the UK and if you’ve applied to stay in the UK before.

If you’ve lived in the UK for less than 5 years

You should apply to the EU Settlement Scheme for pre-settled status. To get it, you'll need to prove you’ve lived in the UK for at least 1 day that was both:

  • on or before 31 December 2020

  • in the 6 months before you applied

If you get pre-settled status, you can live and work in the UK for up to 5 years. After you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years, you should apply for settled status to stay for longer. 

You can spend up to 2 years outside the UK without losing your pre-settled status. But, if you want to apply for settled status later, you need to:

  • have lived in the UK for 5 years in a row

  • prove that you lived in the UK for 6 months out of every 12 months during those 5 years

The 5 years can include time before you got pre-settled status.

Find out more about what you need to apply for pre-settled status.

If you retired or had to stop working

If you get a UK State Pension, you’ll automatically get settled status when you apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

You might get settled status if you've lived in the UK for less than 5 years and any of the following apply:

  • you had to stop working permanently because of an accident or illness

  • you retired early

  • you stopped working when you reached State Pension age - check your State Pension age on GOV.UK

Get help from your nearest Citizens Advice before you apply.

If you've lived in the UK for 5 years or more

You should apply to the EU Settlement Scheme for settled status.

If you get settled status, you can:

  • live and work in the UK for as long as you like

  • live outside the UK for up to 5 years in a row without losing your status - 4 years if you're Swiss

  • bring your family to live in the UK

  • apply for British citizenship 1 year after getting your status (or immediately if your husband, wife or civil partner is a British citizen)

Find out what you need to apply for settled status.

If you have a ‘permanent residence’ document

This is sometimes called a ‘document certifying permanent residence’.

Your permanent residence document will not be valid after 30 June 2021. You need to apply now for settled status to protect your rights in the UK after that date.

You’ll have the same rights with settled status that you had with permanent residence.

You might also find it easier to apply for British citizenship after you get settled status.

Find out what you need to do to apply for settled status.

If you have ‘indefinite leave to remain’ or ‘indefinite leave to enter’

You don't need to apply to stay in the UK if you have indefinite leave to remain or to enter. 

However, if you need to live outside the UK in the future, you could apply to the EU Settlement Scheme for settled status. You can live outside the UK for 5 years without losing your settled status. With indefinite leave to remain, you can only live outside the UK for 2 years.

If you're not sure if you have indefinite leave to remain

If you have indefinite leave to remain, you'll usually have one of these:

  • a stamp or document in your passport

  • a letter from the Home Office

  • a residence permit with a biometric chip (known as a 'biometric residence permit')

If you’re not sure if you have indefinite leave to remain or you can’t find the documents, you should apply for settled status. If you came to the UK before 1989, you can also apply to the Windrush Scheme to get new documents. Both schemes are free to apply to.

Find out what you need to apply for settled status

If you or your child were born in the UK

If you were born in the UK, you might not need to apply to stay - you might already be a British citizen. Your child might be a British citizen if you lived in the UK for 5 years before they were born.

Check if you're a British citizen on GOV.UK.

If you’re not already a British citizen or you don’t want citizenship, you should apply for settled status by 30 June 2021.  

Find out what you need to apply for settled status.

If you're a Maltese or Cypriot citizen

If you were living in the UK on or before 1 January 1973, you might not need to apply to stay in the UK. You might have been given indefinite leave to remain without applying for it.

If you have indefinite leave to remain, you'll usually have:

  • a stamp or document in your passport

  • a letter from the Home Office

  • a residence permit with a biometric chip (known as a 'biometric residence permit')

You will not be able to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if you already have 'right of abode' in the UK. If you have right of abode, you don't need permission under the immigration rules or EU law to live in the UK. You should have a certificate of entitlement to right of abode in your current or previous passport. 

If you're not sure if you have indefinite leave to remain

If you're not sure if you have indefinite leave to remain or you can't find the documents, you can apply:

  • to the EU Settlement Scheme for settled status

  • through the Windrush Scheme for new documents to prove you have indefinite leave to remain

Both schemes are free to apply to.

If you need to live outside the UK in the future, you should apply for settled status. You can live outside the UK for 5 years without losing your settled status. With indefinite leave to remain, you can only live outside the UK for 2 years.

Find out what you need to apply for settled status

Find out more about applying to the Windrush Scheme on GOV.UK.

Claiming benefits and getting help with housing

You have the right to apply for benefits or help with housing from your local council if you have settled status.

If you have pre-settled status, it’s easier to get benefits and housing help if you have another ‘right to reside’ - this depends on things like your work and family.

If you don’t have settled status or pre-settled status yet, you might still be able to claim benefits or get housing help. You must have been in the UK with a right to reside on 31 December 2020.

You can check if you have a right to reside for benefits and check if you have a right to reside for housing.

After 30 June 2021, you’ll usually need to have pre-settled or settled status to:

  • keep getting some benefits - like Universal Credit, Pension Credit and Child Benefit

  • keep getting housing help from your local council

Talk to an adviser if you’re worried about claiming benefits and getting help with housing.

Page last reviewed on 01 January 2021