COVID-19 News: What Will Happen to my Pre-Settled Status if I leave the UK?
In this time of uncertainty, several EU citizens living and working in the UK are seeking a way to go back to their home countries and spend some time with their families.
Under current rules, European citizens who wish to live and work in the UK must apply for either Settled or Pre-settled status to gain the right to remain in this country after its withdrawal from the EU. Since its launch in March 2019, more than 3.4 million European citizens have already requested their new immigration status.
Nevertheless, one of the conditions to retain one’s pre-settled is to live in the United Kingdom for a continuous period, without spending more than a certain amount of time abroad. This has led many to wonder about the validity of their immigration status. What will happen to those holding pre-settled status if they leave the UK during the COVID-19 emergency?
How to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme
EU citizens are entitled to apply for the UK Settlement Scheme if they have started living in the UK by 31st December 2020. Most importantly, they must have lived in the UK for a continuous 5-year period. To be valid, this period must include at least 6 months of residence in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man in any 12 months.
Although it is now taking longer than usual to process application, the EU Settlement Scheme is still open.
The deadline for applying is 30th June 2021. Nevertheless, the Government has made clear that, if a person eligible for leave under the EU Settlement Scheme has reasonable grounds for missing this deadline, they will be given a further opportunity to apply.
What happens if I have not spent at least 5 years in the UK?
EU citizens who do not have 5 years’ continuous residence will get pre-settled status. They can then apply for the EU Settled Status once they have got 5 years of lawful residence in the UK.
At the end of your 5-year period, you must apply to convert your status into a full residence permit. Otherwise, you will no longer be entitled to remain in the UK.
Will I lose my pre-settled status if I leave the UK due to the coronavirus emergency?
According to the current regulation of the EU Settlement Scheme, migrants who are absent from the UK for a continuous period may not automatically lose their pre-settled status.
Nevertheless, this absence, if prolonged, may jeopardise your right to apply for settled status. In fact, based on the current regulation, your continuous residence is valid only if you haven’t spent more than 6 months within any 12 months outside the UK. In other words, if you wish to get settled status in the UK, you must ensure that your absences from the country do not exceed this upper limit.
On the other hand, the legislation admits some exceptions. For example, EU citizens are allowed to leave the UK for one period of up to 12 months for an important reason, such as childbirth, vocational training or severe illness.
Can I leave the United Kingdom without losing my pre-settled status?
Based on current rules regarding the coronavirus health emergency, the 12-month absence exemption would only apply to applicants who spent some time abroad because they fell ill due to COVID-19 (serious illness). However, the exception does not include any time spent outside the UK before contracting the disease.
I am outside the UK, and I cannot return to the UK. What should I do?
Following the disease outbreak, many airlines have cancelled their flights to and from the UK, as well as other countries all around the world.
If you hold pre-settled status and you are stuck abroad, you may be worried about your future and your immigration status.
Although the Home Office has not addressed this issue yet, we recommend keeping all the documentation necessary to provide the reason why you were prevented from returning to the UK. This includes copies of national measures establishing travel bans, medical invitations to limit international transfers, and proof of any impediments, such as the need to assist a family member in need.
I have spent more than 6 months abroad. What should I do?
If you have already spent more than 6 months outside the UK and the Home Office has not conferred an exceptional nature on your absence, you will lose your pre-settled status. However, if you return to the United Kingdom before the 31st December 2020, you can submit a new application, and restart the expiry of the terms from this new date.
EU Settlement Scheme and Coronavirus: how to get professional help
To learn more about the latest EU Settlement Scheme and Coronavirus updates, or to seek professional advice, you can get in touch with IAS’ immigration lawyers.
Our experts are also offering qualified advice and guidance to all NHS workers for completely free of charge.
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