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26 May 2021

How do absences from the UK affect my pre-settled or settled status?

With the advent of COVID-19 many people have been outside the UK for longer than six months.The Home Office is aware of these unforeseen circumstances and has created guidance relating to it.
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
How do absences from the UK affect my pre-settled or settled status?

By Gabriel Okei, Legal Intern

A person with a pre-settled status must be continuously resident in the UK for a five year period to be eligible for a settled status, so as not to affect your citizenship application. As a rule, the continuous residence should not be broken and an applicant must be present in the UK for this duration. 

However, there are instances where an applicant can lawfully be absent from the UK. 

Such exceptions include:  

  • Absence from the UK for a period of six months in a twelve month period. The six months can be in one stretch or in several instances which add up to six months.
  • One long single absence of up to twelve months is permitted for reasons such as pregnancy, childbirth, serious illness, study, vocational training, overseas posting, military service and in some cases a global pandemic.
  • It is legally possible to be absent from the UK for up to two years while holding a pre-settled status without having your status cancelled.

The Home Office calculates the six months on a “rolling” basis. For example, an absence that took place in 2019 can be added to an absence in 2020. It does not matter if they happened in two different calendar years; they will be added up. 

The Home Office will ask you to provide evidence of the reason for absence with your application for a settled status.

Only an absence of two years or more causes a pre-settled status to be automatically cancelled but this is not advisable. Ultimately, if you want to get settled status, avoid being outside the UK for up to two years. 

You can find out more about applying for the EU Settlement Scheme here. 

What should I do if my absence from the UK was due to the pandemic? 

The Home Office has stated that where an applicant is absent from the UK due to the COVID pandemic, they must provide all relevant evidence stating why they were unable to return to the UK while applying for a settled status. 

This includes anything that shows it was impossible to return to the UK such as:

  • Embassy/consulate or public health England correspondence disrupting your travel due to the pandemic.
  • Correspondence from your airline cancelling flights. 

Unfortunately, where an applicant made a conscious decision to remain abroad for economic reasons, family reasons or because they considered their health safer where they were than the UK, their settled status application will be refused if they have spent more than six months outside the UK.

How does an absence affect my settled status?

If you have a five year continuous qualifying period in the UK, you should apply for the settled status before 30 June 2021. 

If you have been outside the UK for a five year continuous period since you completed the initial five year continuous period in the UK, your application for the settled status will be rejected.

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