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Staying in the UK after Brexit

This advice applies to England

DEAL If you’re from the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, you and your family should apply to stay in the UK after Brexit. The EEA includes EU countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Check if you need to apply to stay in the UK

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

  • are from a country in the EU, EEA or Switzerland
  • are from another country and you have a family member who is from the EU, EEA or Switzerland 

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

If you're an Irish citizen

You don't need to apply to stay in the UK but you can apply for 'settled' or 'pre-settled status' if you want to. Your existing rights will continue after Brexit.

However, if you have family who aren't Irish citizens they need to apply to stay. It will be easier for them to apply if you apply first.

Find out more about applying for your family.

Your family members might also be eligible to become Irish citizens, which will allow them to stay in the UK. Find out more about getting Irish citizenship on Citizens Information.

If you were born in the UK or have a British parent

You can't apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if you're also a British citizen.

You might be a British citizen even if you don't have a British passport. This means you're both an Irish citizen and a British citizen - this is known as 'dual nationality'. You can't apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if you're both an Irish and British citizen.

You're automatically a British citizen if you were born in:

  • Northern Ireland
  • England, Scotland or Wales and you have an Irish parent

You might also be a British citizen if you were born outside the UK and you have a British parent. It will depend on when you were born.

Your family members from outside the EU, EEA and Switzerland can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if you either:

  • are an EEA citizen who became a British citizen
  • lived with them in another EU country

Find out more about how your family members can apply.

If you're a British citizen

You can’t apply for ‘settled’ or ‘pre-settled status’.

However your family members from outside the EU, EEA and Switzerland can apply if you either:

  • are an EEA citizen who became a British citizen
  • lived with them in another EU country 

Find out more about how your family members can apply

You should also check if they can apply for British citizenship on GOV.UK.

Check when you should apply by

You should apply to stay in the UK by 31 December 2020 to keep your existing rights. The EU Settlement Scheme will close on 30 June 2021. However, some of your rights could change after 31 December 2020 - depending on when laws are passed by parliament. These include your rights to:

  • stay in the UK for more than 3 months
  • work  
  • study 
  • use the NHS
  • claim the State Pension
  • rent a home

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the EU Settlement Scheme will close on 31 December 2020. You’ll need to prove you were living in the UK by 31 October 2019 to apply. 

If you arrive in the UK after that date, you can stay for 3 months. If you want to stay longer, you’ll need to apply for European temporary leave to remain. More details about this scheme will be announced if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

Check what you need to apply for

What you need to apply for will depend 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’. You only need to prove you’ve lived in the UK for 1 day in the last 6 months to get pre-settled status. 

If you get pre-settled status, you can live and work in the UK for up to 5 years. You can spend up to 2 years outside the UK without losing your pre-settled status. 

You can then apply for settled status when you’ve lived in the UK for a total of 5 years. This includes time before you got pre-settled status. However,  you must live in the UK for 6 months out of every year if you want to apply for settled status later. 

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

Claiming benefits and getting help with housing

You can continue to claim benefits and get help with housing from your local council until 31 December 2020. After that date, you must have settled status to claim some benefits like Universal Credit, Pension Credit and Child Benefit. You must also have settled status to get help with housing from your local council. 

If you only have pre-settled status, those benefits might stop and you might not be able to get help with housing from your local council.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you’re worried about claiming benefits and getting help with housing.

If you’ve lived in the UK for less than 5 years - and you’re retired or too ill to work

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

You might get settled status if you’ve lived in the UK for less than 5 years and you:

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

If these don’t apply to you, you can get pre-settled status. You only need to prove you’ve lived in the UK for 1 day in the last 6 months to get pre-settled status. 

With pre-settled status you can stay in the UK for up to 5 years. apply for settled status when you’ve lived in the UK for a total of 5 years. This includes time before you got pre-settled status. 

With settled status, you can:

  • live in the UK for as long as you like
  • continue to claim the State Pension
  • live outside the UK for up to 5 years in a row without losing your status - 4 years if you’re Swiss
  • apply for British citizenship 12 months after you get settled status
  • bring your family to live in the UK

It’s free to apply for settled status. 

Get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice before you apply. 

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

You should apply for British citizenship or 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
  • apply for British citizenship 12 months after you get settled status
  • bring your family to live in the UK

It’s free to apply for settled status. 

You’ll have more rights if you become a British citizen but you might have to give up your current nationality. You have to pay to apply for British citizenship.

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

Decide if British citizenship is right for you.

If you have a ‘permanent residence’ document

Your permanent residence document will not be valid after 31 December 2020. You need to apply for either settled status or citizenship to continue to live in the UK after that date. 

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

You can usually apply for British citizenship once you’ve had permanent residence status for at least 12 months. You can find the date on the Home Office letter that came with your permanent residence document. 

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

Decide if British citizenship is right for you.

If you were living in the UK before it joined the EU

If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen and 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’)

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’ll 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 do to apply for settled status.

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

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’ll need to live outside the UK in the future, you should 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 1 January 1988, 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 do to apply for settled status.

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

If you or your child was 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.  

Check if you have or can get citizenship.

If you’re not already a British citizen or you don’t want citizenship, you can apply for settled status if you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years or more. It’s free to apply. Find out more about what you need to do to apply for settled status.

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