If you are an EU/EEA or Swiss citizen who was resident in the UK before the Covid-19 pandemic, but have been working outside the UK during the pandemic, you should be aware of the following:
If you have not yet applied for Settled or Pre-Settled status, you should apply as soon as possible and before you have been out of the UK for more than 6 months (and in some cases up to a year). It might be possible to make the application from outside the UK, as explained on the gov.uk website. Contact the Staff Immigration Team if you require more information on this issue.
If you already hold Pre-Settled status, you can remain outside the UK for up to 2 years without losing your Pre-Settled status; 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 a work or study placement, maternity or illness) it will break the continuity of residence that you need in order to be eligible for settled status.
While you can remain in the UK for the five years, the long absence might mean that you will not qualify for Settled status at the end of that time. This then may require you to apply for a work visa (at significant expense).
New quite flexible Home Office guidance explains that it may still be possible to apply for Settled status where ordinarily you would have exceeded the permitted absence from the UK, and broken your period of continuous residence, but the reason for that absence is because of coronavirus.
Now in addition to your having been ill with Covid-19, self-isolating, or unable to travel, other examples of an ‘important reason’ for an absence include where you were:
- caring for a family member affected by Covid-19
- advised by your university that, due to Covid-19, your course was moved to remote learning and you were advised or allowed to return to your home country
- advised by your university or employer not to return to the UK, and to continue studying or working remotely
- absent from the UK for another reason relating to Covid-19, for example:
- you left or remained outside the UK because there were fewer coronavirus restrictions elsewhere,
- you preferred to work or run a business from home overseas, or
- you would have been unemployed in the UK and preferred to rely on support from family or friends overseas
It may now also be possible to have two absences over six, up to twelve, months absences if one of these was due to Covid-19.
If you are applying for Settled status and are relying on these issues linked to Covid-19 being an 'important reason' for a longer permitted absence you will need to provide additional evidence with your application to show the length of, and reason for, these absences linked to Covid-19. This is also discussed in the new Home Office guidance.