European Citizens – Differences between Settled and Pre-Settled Status

Are you a European citizen and living in Scotland or other parts of the UK? If you moved here before 31 December 2020, and want to live here permanently, then you should apply for settlement status. You can do so until 30 June 2021, but it’s a good idea to do this as soon as possible because it can take quite a while.

If you’ve already been through the whole process, you might ask yourself how each settlement status might affect you. At first, they both seem to be quite similar, but there are a few differences

and you should be aware of them. In this article, you’ll find an overview on both statuses and how they affect your rights as a European citizen living in the UK.

What is Settled Status?

If you have been a continuous European resident in the UK for five years or longer, you have the right to apply for settled status. With that, you have “Indefinite Leave to Remain” and don’t have to re-apply for your status anymore. You have the same rights to live, work, healthcare and welfare benefits as a UK citizen.

There are some differences to the actual British citizenship though. You can only leave the UK for a maximum of five years (four, if you are Swiss). You also can’t get British citizenship for your children if they’re born outside the UK. And you don’t get the blue British passport. But to be fair, we probably all don’t want to get stuck in the international queue when we visit our relatives in Continental Europe.

One of the more inconvenient disadvantages of settled status compared to citizenship is that you can’t participate in general elections. However, you can still vote in the regional ones.

What is Pre-Settled Status?

If you’ve lived in the UK for less than five years, you get pre-settled status. That is the theory. In reality, there are quite a few examples of Europeans who lived in the UK for more than five years and are still struggling to get settled status.

One of the most prominent examples is Damian Wawrzyniak. He is a Polish chef who lived in the UK for 15 years and is probably the best European Citizen flagship the home office had to deal with. He had no gaps in his employment, and even cooked for the royal family. However,  his application for settled status was rejected.  

The good news is: Damian appealed and received settled status in the end. If you lived in the UK for more than five years and only received pre-settled status as well, you should double check if this correct. Find more information on how to appeal your pre-settled status.  

How does Pre-Settled Status Affect My Rights?

At first, pre-settled status doesn’t seem to be too different from settled status. You have the same rights to live and healthcare as someone with settled status. Unfortunately, the situation changes when it comes to welfare benefits.

For example, if you lose your job, then you have to show your “right to reside” under the EEA regulations. The irony is, that you can only show your “right to reside” when you have a job. Citizens Advice offers help on how to prove you have a right to reside if you don’t have the right evidence.

Another important aspect of pre-settled status is that you can’t leave the UK for longer than six months within a year. If you do that, your period of “continues residency” resets to zero. If you leave the UK for two years, you will lose your status completely. So if you ever consider a long trip abroad, make sure that you return to the UK in time. Especially during the Covid-19 crisis you should be careful that you don’t lock yourself out of the country in case the borders shut again. Otherwise, you have to start from the bottom again before you can apply for settled status.

See the diagram below from the the3million who summarised the main differences between the statuses.

How do I Move to Settled Status?

You can only apply for settled status after you have been a continuous resident in the UK for five years. Once you reached the time threshold, you have to renew your status and proof your residency period. You can already do that before your status expires. The expiration date on your home office letter is usually the date five years after you have applied. For example, if you moved to the UK in 2018, and applied for pre-settlement status in 2019, then your status will be valid until 2024. That means, you can already apply for settled status in 2023.

Useful links with more information on European Citizens’ Rights:


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