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Post Brexit: What does 'continuously resident' mean?
EEA nationals and certain family members who are living in the UK by 31st December 2020 /31st October 2019 (see "time limits") can apply under the EU Settlement Scheme.

If they have been 'continuously resident' in the UK for five years or more then they will be granted settled status and therefore will be able to receive benefits including Universal Credit.

But what does "continuously resident" mean?

'Continuously resident' is referred to in The Statement of Intent  and in Appendix EU to the Immigration Rules as a 'continuous qualifying period' which basically just means having lived the UK for a period of five years or more with no gap of six months in any twelve month period. 

Some longer gaps are allowed where there are "important reasons" for being absent; whereas some people (certain prisoners and those due to be deported) are excluded from eligibility for settled status. There are also some specific circumstances in which less than five years' absence is required (set out in 3.7 of the Statement of Intent) - see "Can an EEA national be eligible for Settled Status with less than 5 years' continuous residence?" below.

In order to be granted settled status, the EEA national / family member just has to have lived in the UK without being a 'serious criminal' - they do NOT need to have had a "right to reside" under the Immigration (EEA) Regulations 2016 - eg worker or retained worker status, or been "self sufficient",  throughout the five years. 
However, applications should be easier and quicker for those who already have proof of permanent residence status.

Example of five years' continuous residence

Julia, Italian, moved to the UK seven years ago, when she married Brian who is British. She has no children and has only worked for a couple of years when she first arrived. Brian has left her and she has no idea where he is. Under the 'habitual residence test"' rules she would not be found to have a right to reside, but as she has resided continuously in the UK for five years she is eligible for settled status. (She might have difficulty providing evidence though.)

What if they are not in the UK on 31st December 2020 /Brexit day?

If an EEA national is not in the UK on this date, but has previously been continuously resident in the UK, they may still count as continuously resident eg if they are on holiday or working temporarily abroad.

Can an EEA national be eligible for Settled Status with less than 5 years' continuous residence?

Normally someone who applies for settled status with less than five years' continuous residence will be given pre-settled status which they will later convert to settled status. NOTE pre-settled status does not give entitlement to benefits,

However if the person is an EEA national who has been living in the UK since before 31st December 2020/ Brexit day, they will be eligible for settled status with less than 5 years' continuous residence, if they:

(a) Have retired from work or self employment. This only applies where they had a right to reside for at least three years, and in the twelve months immediately before retiring this was a right to reside as a worker; and they retired when they reached state retirement pension age or, if they were an employed worker (not self employed) the date could have been before state retirement age - ie they took early retirement.

(b) Are permanently incapacitated. This only applies where they had a right to reside in the UK for at least two years before stopping work/self employment due to permanent incapacity unless the incapacity was from an accident at work or an occupational disease (so long as the accident /disease means they could get "a pension payable in full or in part by an institution in the UK"); or

(c) They have been working in another EU country. This only applies where, immediately before their work abroad they had a right to reside as a worker for at least three years as a worker or self-employed person, and they retained a place of residence in the UK to which they returned, as a rule, at least once a week. 

Note that if the EEA national is the spouse or partner of a British citizen then where they qualify under (a) (retired) or (b) (permanently incapacitated)  they are not restricted by the rules about length of time as a resident or as a worker.


What about family members of EEA nationals who are not EEA nationals themselves?

These people will also be able to apply for settled status if they can show that they have been continuously resident for five years as a family member of an EEA national. They therefore have to provide more evidence than an EEA national does: click here.
And note that those whose only relationship to an EEA national is that of unmarried partner (ie a "durable relationship")- or another form of extended family member MUST have a residence card, for which they must apply to the Home Office on Form EEA (EFM) at a cost of £65.00 - link to gov.uk for the application here.


What about family members of EEA nationals with less than 5 years' continuous residence?

Normally someone who applies for settled status with less than five years' continuous residence will be given pre-settled status which they will later convert to settled status.

However, if the person is a family member of an EEA national who has been granted settled status for one of the reasons above, even though they have less than five years' continuous residence, their family member will also be entitled to be given settled status even if they haven't got 5 years continuous residence and regardless of how long they have been a family member of the EEA nationals if:

  • they were the EEA national's family member at the point that the EEA national became eligible to apply for settled status with less than five years residence (eligibility criteria as for EEA nationals, above), and
  • they are currently living in the UK. 


What if the EEA national / family member ceases to be continuously resident in the UK?

Someone who has pre-settled status will lose this is they are away from the UK for 6 months or more, but can apply again on their return (assuming they return before 31st December 2020 / Brexit Day- see time limits).

Once someone has been given settled status they will only lose this if they have been away from the UK for five years. 






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