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Staying in the UK after Brexit

This advice applies to Wales

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

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

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

If you’re an Irish citizen

You don’t need to apply to stay in the UK - your existing right to stay in the UK continues after Brexit. 

If you have family in the UK who are EU, EEA or Swiss citizens, they need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.  

If you have family in the UK who are citizens of a country outside the EU, EEA and Switzerland, there are 2 ways you can help them stay in the UK: 

  • you could apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, then link your family member’s application to yours - this will make it easier for them to apply
  • they might 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 help family stay if you were born with both British and Irish citizenship - ‘dual nationality’.

You might be a British citizen even if you don't have a British passport - for example, if you were born in Northern Ireland. Check if you were born a British citizen on GOV.UK. 

Some of your family members from outside the EU, EEA and Switzerland can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. They should be able to apply if they lived with you in another EU country while the UK was part of the EU. 

Find out more about how your family members can apply.

If you’re a British citizen

You don't need to apply to stay in the UK after Brexit.

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 while the UK was part of the EU

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

It is worth applying to stay in the UK now. After the UK leaves the EU you might be asked to prove your right to do things like get a job or use the NHS. You’ll be able to do this by showing you have ‘pre-settled status’ or ‘settled status’ under the EU Settlement Scheme, or British citizenship. 

You should apply by 31 December 2020 - your rights could change after that date. 

Getting your status will prove your right to:

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

If the UK leaves the EU with no deal 

You’ll only be able to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if you were already living in the UK before it leaves the EU. 

If you arrive in the UK after 11pm on the day it leaves the EU, you can stay until 31 December 2020. If you want to stay longer, you’ll need to apply for European temporary leave to remain. The government will announce more details about this scheme if the UK leaves the EU without an agreement.

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. You only need to prove you’ve lived in the UK for 1 day in the last 6 months to get it. 

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've retired, reached State Pension age or stopped work because you were ill or injured

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

  • had to stop working permanently because of an accident or illness
  • retired early
  • have reached State Pension age - check your State Pension age on GOV.UK

Get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice before you apply.


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

You should either apply to the EU Settlement Scheme for settled status or for British citizenship.

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 - or straight away if you’re married or in a civil partnership with a British citizen 
  • bring your family to live in the UK

Find out what you need 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 need to pay to apply for British citizenship.

Decide if British citizenship is right for you.

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 31 December 2020. You need to apply now for either settled status or citizenship 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 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. If you’re married to a British citizen or in a civil partnership with them, you can apply for citizenship straight away. 

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 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.

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 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 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 can apply for settled status.  

Find out what you need to apply for 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, some benefits like Universal Credit, Pension Credit and Child Benefit might stop if you don’t have settled status. 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.

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