The scheme

Residence criteria

All those EU nationals and their family members who are resident in the UK before midnight on 31 December 2020 will be eligible to apply for status under the scheme. This provision includes those who are outside the UK on that date but who have maintained continuity of residence. People who happen to be abroad on holiday, on business or temporarily living abroad, will also qualify under the scheme.

Continuous residence


Continuous residence is assessed along the same lines as per current criteria under EU law regarding freedom of movement rules, however, the EU Settlement Scheme will not  take into account other requirements under those rules, such having held comprehensive sickness insurance or to have exercised specific rights such as working. The UK has decided, as a matter of domestic policy, that the main requirement for eligibility under the settlement scheme will be continuous residence in the UK.



For people who have been resident in the UK less than five years, they should generally have not been absent from the UK for more than six months in total in any 12-month period. There is no restriction on the number of absences permitted, provided that the total period of absence does not exceed six months in any 12-month period.



5 years

Once a person has been continuously resident in the UK for five years, they will be eligible for settled status where, since completing that period of residence, they have not been absent from the UK for more than five consecutive years. This is in contrast with the current criteria under EU law which only allows two consecutive years before status is lost as well as current criteria for ILR under the Immigration rules, which also lapses after two years.




family travel

  • A single period of absence of more than six months but which does not exceed 12 months is permitted, where this is for an important reason, such as pregnancy, childbirth, serious illness, study, vocational training or an overseas posting.
  • Any period of absence on compulsory military service is permitted.



In some cases, it is possible to acquire status in less than 5 years, such as:

  • When a person who had been working or self-employed in the UK retires
  • When a person who was working or self-employed is permanently incapacitated
  • Family members of people in situations described above.

REFSee Special cases for full details.


Provisions are being made to cater for family members of HM Forces personnel, and EU citizen Crown servants and their family members and the EU citizen family members of British citizen Crown servants. More information will be available in due course.

The draft Withdrawal Agreement protects the rights of EU citizens who are frontier working in the UK (that is who are working here and resident elsewhere) before the end of the implementation period on 31 December 2020, and their resident family members.

They may continue to frontier work in the UK. They may be resident in the UK for sufficient periods in the course of their work here to be eligible for the scheme. They may otherwise be subject to a requirement to obtain a document to evidence their right to enter the UK and work as a frontier worker from that date.  Further details will be provided in due course.

Periods of imprisonment


Continuity of residence is broken where a person has served, or is serving, a sentence of imprisonment of any length in the UK, unless the person has resided in the UK continuously for at least 10 years and has the right of permanent residence under the EEA Regulations. Additionally, the Home Office must consider that they had forged integrating links with the UK which were not broken. Otherwise, imprisonment resets the clock and residence restarts from scratch upon release, provided this is before 31 December 2020.



Continuity of residence is broken if a deportation order, exclusion order or exclusion decision is made, or the person is removed from the UK under the EEA Regulations, unless this has been set aside or no longer has effect.