“Settled Status” is an application scheme under the UK’s Immigration Rules, intended to provide immigration status to European nationals and their family members after the UK leaves the EU. This is important because the automatic system of residence rights under the EU’s free movement and citizenship directives will cease to apply, and the UK uses a strict “hostile environment” to target people who need permission to be in the UK but do not have it.
1. Do I need to apply?
Not all EU nationals or family members will need to apply for Settled Status. For example, the following do not have to apply at all:
- Irish nationals
- British citizens
- People who already have indefinite leave to remain in the UK
However, if you do not already have status under one of these categories, you will need to apply for Settled or Pre-Settled Status before the deadline imposed by the UK Government following Brexit.
Even if you already have a permanent residence document under existing free movement laws, you will still need to apply for a status that will be valid after the Brexit deadline.
If you have indefinite leave to remain, you might still need to apply for a document to prove it that is acceptable to employers, banks and landlords, under the “hostile environment”.
2. Am I already British?
As a general rule under the British Nationality Act 1981, a person who is born in the UK to a parent who is British or “settled” is automatically British and can apply for a British passport.
“Settled” usually means having indefinite leave to remain, or permanent residence. Under current UK Government policy, until 1 October 2000 the definition also included EEA nationals exercising treaty rights in the UK, even if they did not have indefinite leave to remain.
Please note that UK nationality law can be complex, particularly if parents were not married at the time of a child’s birth. You should take legal advice about your particular circumstances.
3. Can I become British?
You might be eligible to apply for British citizenship (naturalisation as an adult, or registration as a child). For example:
- if you have a permanent residence document or indefinite leave to remain, you might be eligible to naturalise immediately (if you are married to a British citizen) or 12 months from the date you acquired permanent residence (if not married to a British citizen).
- A child born in the UK can register as a British citizen if either of their parents gets permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain after their birth.
- A child born in the UK can register as a British citizen if they have lived in the UK for the first 10 years of their life.
Applying for British citizenship usually costs £1,330.00 for an adult, or £1,012.00 for a child. It can take up to 6 months for an application to be decided: you should consider whether to apply for Settled Status beforehand, if there is a risk that you application for citizenship will not be concluded before the Settled Status application deadline.
Note that adults applying for naturalisation must provide approved evidence of English language ability, and pass the Life In The UK Test. Adults and children might also be subject to residence and good character requirements.
4. How do I know if I have indefinite leave to remain?
If you have lived in the UK for more than the last 18 years, you might already have indefinite leave to remain granted under the Immigration Rules or under previous legislation. You might have a document such as:
- A letter from the Home Office, Immigration and Nationality Directorate, or UK Border Agency, that confirms you have indefinite leave
- A green registration booklet with a stamp saying there are no conditions attached to your leave
- A stamp in a previous passport that says indefinite leave to remain/enter
It is possible to lose indefinite leave to remain (for example by being absent from the UK for a continuous 2-year period).
5. How can I prove I have indefinite leave to remain?
If you still have your indefinite leave, you do not have to apply for Settled Status, but in the future you will still need proof of your status that is acceptable under the “hostile environment”. There are several ways you might do this:
- Applying for a biometric immigration document that confirms you have indefinite leave. You will need to provide evidence such as your last indefinite leave stamp, and documents showing you have lived continuously in the UK since then. This costs £229.00.
- If you came to the UK before 31 December 1988, you can use the Windrush scheme to obtain a biometric card. It is useful to have some evidence of your status, but caseworkers will generally give guidance about what other documents you might need. This application is free.
- You can apply under the Settled Status scheme, which can use your HMRC and DWP records to check UK residence. This application is free.
In most cases, an application for Settled Status is likely to be straightforward. However, you should check if other routes to permanent status or citizenship in the UK might be more suitable for you, depending on your circumstances.
This information is only a summary of possible circumstances. You should take legal advice based on your individual circumstances to ensure that you have an accurate understanding of all your options.
15 October 2019