The Covid-19 pandemic, has resulted in many European staff working remotely outside the UK, and they should be aware of the following:
If you have already been granted Settled status, you can remain outside the UK for up to 5 years without affecting your status. Returning to the UK, even for one day, during a five year period of absence will mean that you won’t lose your settled status and it will reset the clock for another 5 years.
If you hold Pre-Settled status, you can remain outside the UK for up to 2 years without your Pre-Settled status being cancelled BUT if your absence outside the UK is more than 6 months in any 12 month period (or 12 months for an 'important reason', such as pregnancy and childbirth, serious illness, study or vocational training or an overseas work posting) it will break your continuity of residence. While you could remain in the UK for the five years, a long absence might mean that you do not qualify for Settled status at the end of that time. You might then have to apply for a UK work visa (at significant expense) instead. If you have had a significant absence it may be worthwhile considering applying for Pre-Settled again when you return to the UK before the 30 June 2021 deadline to apply.
If you have not yet applied
If you were previously living in the UK but have not yet obtained Pre-Settled status and:
- returned before 1 January 2021 following an absence from the UK, you should apply for Pre-Settled status as soon as possible, and before the 30 June 2021 deadline, at the latest.
- returned after 1 January 2021 following an absence from the UK, you will only continue to have a ‘right of residence’ and be able to apply for a Pre-Settled status when you return if your absences have not exceeded 6 months (or 12 months for an 'important' reason such as pregnancy and childbirth, serious illness, study or vocational training or an overseas work posting).
As this is complicated, the following examples may help.
|Example 1: An EU/EEA employee has been resident in the UK for two years. She leaves the UK on 15 March 2020. On 15 December 2020 she returned to the UK. She must apply for Pre-Settled status before 1 July 2021.
|Example 2: An EU/EEA employee has been resident in the UK for two years. He leaves the UK on 15 March 2020. On 1 March 2021 he returns to the UK. He is only entitled to enter if his absence from 15 March 2020 to 31 December 2020 (the end of the transition period) was for an ‘important reason’ and he must apply for Pre-Settled status by 14 March 2021, within 12 months of his departure from the UK.
Example 3: An EU/EEA employee has been resident in the UK for two years. She leaves the UK on 15 March 2020. On 15 December 2020 she applied from outside the UK for Pre-Settled status. Her absences over the period 15 March 2020 to 15 December 2020 exceed 6 months. She is only eligible for Pre-Settled if she has been absent from the UK for an ‘important reason’. If the absence was not for an ‘important reason’, she could have returned to the UK before 1 January 2021 and applied for a Pre-Settled on the basis of being resident in the UK before the end of the transition period (31 December 2020).
It may be possible in some circumstances to submit a Pre-Settled application from outside the UK.
Absences due to Covid-19
Home Office guidance published in December 2020 states that periods outside the UK when you were ill with Covid-19, were self-isolating, or could not return to the UK due to travel restrictions, would be counted as an 'important reason' which would not break your continuous residence if you were outside the UK for up to 12 months. You would need to retain evidence of your illness, required period of self-isolation, or that travel to the UK was not possible to submit when applying for Settled status to explain that this longer absence was for an 'important reason'.
If it was possible to return to the UK, but you chose not to, this would not count as an absence for an 'important reason' and would break you continous residence if you were outside the UK for more than 6 months in any rolling 12 month period.
This is general guidance only and cannot cover every situation. If you have any concerns as to your status in the UK now or after the end of the transition period (31 December 2020), or your eligibility for Pre-settled or Settled status, please contact either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com in the Staff Immigration Team or obtain legal advice, to ensure the duration of absences outside UK will not affect your continued rights to stay in the UK without having to obtain a UK work visa.
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