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Staying in the UK if you're from the EU

This advice applies to 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.

If you're an Irish citizen

You don’t need to apply to stay in the UK - you’ll still have the right to stay after Brexit. 

If you have family in the UK who aren’t British or Irish citizens

They need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme or for Irish citizenship to stay in the UK. Check if your family member can get Irish citizenship on Citizens Information - this is an advice website run by the Irish government.

If they are citizens of a country outside the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you can help them apply to the EU Settlement Scheme by applying yourself and linking your applications. 

You don’t need to apply, but it will make your family member’s application easier if you do. This is because they might not have to prove how long you’ve lived in the UK. 

If you apply it will also be easier for your family member to stay in the UK if they arrive after 30 June 2021. If you apply first, your family member will also be able to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, instead of applying for a visa which is more difficult and expensive.

If you’re applying to the EU Settlement Scheme and linking your application to your family member’s application, you’ll need to have been living in the UK before 31 December 2020. Your family member might also need to show their relationship with you started before 31 December 2020.

Find out how to link your applications.

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

You’ll usually have dual Irish and British citizenship.

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.

You can’t apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if you’re British, so you can’t help your family member by applying to the scheme if you have both British and Irish citizenship - this is called ‘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. 

Find out more about how you and your family can apply.

If you have Irish and British citizenship

If you have family in the UK who are citizens of the EU, EEA and Switzerland, they need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme or for Irish citizenship to stay in the UK. Check if your family member can get Irish citizenship on Citizens Information - this is an advice website run by the Irish government.

If you were born in Northern Ireland

If your family member is a citizen of a country outside the EU, EEA or Switzerland they can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

Find out more about keeping your family in the UK.

If you were born outside of Northern Ireland

If your family member is a citizen of a country outside the EU, EEA or Switzerland, they might be able to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if any of the following apply:

  • you were an EU or EEA citizen and you became a British citizen after moving to the UK

  • you lived together in another EU country while the UK was part of the EU

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you think this applies to you.

If you’re a British citizen

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

If you have family in the UK who are citizens of the EU, EEA and Switzerland, they should apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

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

  • are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen who became a British citizen
  • lived with them in another EU country while the UK was part of the EU
  • were born in Northern Ireland 

Find out more about how your family members can apply.

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

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

You should apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if both:

  • you’re in the UK by 31 December 2020
  • you have family in the UK from the EU, EEA or Switzerland

You need to apply to the scheme even if you have a permanent residence card as it will not be valid after 31 December 2020.

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 when you should apply by

It is worth applying to stay in the UK now. After 30 June 2021 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. 

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

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. 

You can apply for pre-settled status as long as you move to the UK before 31 December 2020.

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 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
  • bring your family to live in the UK

You might also find it easier to apply for British citizenship if you have settled status.

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 30 June 2021. 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. 

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

Decide if British citizenship is right for you.

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 can apply for settled status.  

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 can continue to claim benefits and get help with housing from your local council until 30 June 2021. 

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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