ILR or Settled Status
– You choose

Following the government’s introduction of the EU Settlement Scheme last year, EU citizen’s holding Indefinite Leave to Enter or Remain (ILR) status were advised they could continue to live in the UK without applying for ‘settled status’ via the scheme.

Whilst this statement is true, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Here is why Smith Stone Walters is therefore recommending EU nationals with ILR status should still apply to the EU Settlement Scheme:

‘Settled status’ advantage

The advantage to ILR holders in reaffirming their ‘settled status’ via the EU Settlement Scheme relates to the retention of UK residency rights after a lengthy absence from this country.

To retain ILR status, existing holders must not remain outside of the UK for more than two continuous years. If they were to be absent from the UK for longer than 24 months and the absence was noted by an Immigration Officer upon their return to the UK, they would will lose their ILR status and therefore their automatic right to UK residency. 

In contrast, by registering their existing ILR status via the EU Settlement Scheme, individuals would be entitled to spend up to five years* outside the UK without losing the same UK residency rights.

This three year variation will be of huge significance to many EU nationals, especially those offered the opportunity to work abroad on secondment. Acquiring settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme ahead of the move overseas would ensure that individuals will not lose their right to live and work in the UK after a temporary 24 month secondment.

Registering with the EU Settlement Scheme is a fairly straightforward process and free of charge so people should not be deterred from applying. Applicants will only be subject to verification of identity, a criminality check and confirmation of ongoing residence.

If the very idea of losing UK residency rights is too unsettling to live with, an alternative route open to EU nationals holding ILR status would be to file an application to naturalise as a British citizen.

In securing British citizenship, any fears a European national held over losing their UK residency rights would be permanently removed. Whilst the cost of applying for citizenship can be prohibitive, many EU nationals are considering this a ‘peace of mind’ option.

How do I know if I hold ILR?

You’ll usually have applied for indefinite leave to enter or remain and acquired a stamp in your passport or a letter from the Home Office. You could also have a ‘vignette’ (sticker) or a biometric residence permit.

Subtle as it may be, the difference between holding ILR status and a permanent residence document is a hugely significant one.

As already mentioned, for those holding ILR status, applying to the EU Settlement Scheme is optional. Whereas, any individual holding a permanent residence document issued under EEA regulations does not have the same luxury. Permanent residence holders must either apply to the scheme or secure British citizenship before 30 June 2021.

Permanent Residence – the difference

Anyone holding a valid UK permanent residence document will be in possession of one of the following:

  • a certificate inside a blue ‘residence documentation’ booklet (or pink if a Swiss national);
  • a certificate inside their passport; or
  • a biometric residence card confirming permanent residence.

As the Permanent Residence status will become invalid on 31 December 2020, holders must apply for Settled Status. Failing to apply in time should be avoided at all costs.

Although the deadline for applications is 30 June 2021, we would recommend applying to the Scheme by 31 December 2020 when the current transitional period is due to end.

Should you have any questions regarding the EU Settlement Scheme, or how this latest immigration news will affect your business, contact one of Smith Stone Walters’ team of specialists today.

* If you’re a Swiss citizen, you and your family members can spend up to 4 years in a row outside the UK without losing your settled status.

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