Apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to stay in the UK after 31 December 2020

The UK left the European Union on Friday 31 January 2020 and entered a transition period until 31 December 2020. During the transition period freedom of movement effectively continues and EU nationals will continue to be able to come to the UK to live, work and/or study on the same basis as before. However, any EU citizens who wish to stay in the UK beyond 31 December 2020 will need to apply for immigration status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

This note summarises the immigration position for EU doctors currently living and working in the UK or those that wish to come to work in the UK for work in the future.

References to EU citizens include EU citizens and citizens of EEA (i.e. the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland. Note that Irish citizens are not required to apply under the Settlement Scheme. Irish citizens’ rights to reside in the UK are not affected by Brexit as they are governed by separate law which pre-dates the EU.

The Transition period and beyond

During the transition period freedom of movement will continue allowing EU citizens and their family members to enter and reside in the UK for three months without restrictions. If they wish to reside in the UK for over three months, the EU citizen must “exercise an EU Treaty Right” by engaging in work, being self-employed or self-sufficient (and holding comprehensive private medical insurance (CSI)) or engaging in study (and holding CSI).

In the transition period EU citizens and their family members retain free movement rights while also being eligible to apply for leave under the EU Settlement Scheme; both regimes will run concurrently.

At the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 freedom of movement will end. From 1 January 2021 any new arrivals from the EU who enter the UK to live, work and/or study will be subject to the UK’s new immigration system and will need to obtain immigration permission before they travel. The exact details of how the new immigration system will operate are currently unknown whilst the Government prepares the new system.

EU Settlement Scheme

EU citizens resident in the UK on or before 11pm on 31 December 2020 are eligible to apply under the Settlement Scheme.

Successful applicants will gain either settled or pre-settled status:

  1. Settled Status. EU citizens and their family members who have resided in the UK for a continuous period of at least five years are eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. This means that they will be free to reside in the UK, to access public funds and services and eventually to apply for British citizenship.
  2. Pre-settled Status. EU citizens and their family members who have resided in the UK for a period of less than five continuous years can apply for Limited Leave to Remain, allowing them to complete the five-year continuous residence period and become eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain under settled status.

Close family members (spouses, civil partners and unmarried partners, dependent children and grandchildren) who are living with or join an EU citizen in the UK during the transition period, where the relationship exists on 31 December 2020, will also be able to apply for pre-settled or settled status.

Continuous residence means that applicants must not have been absent from the UK for more than six months in any continuous 12-month period. A single absence of up to 12 months is permitted for exceptional reasons such as pregnancy, childbirth, ill health, study or vocational training. 

Individuals who are granted settled status will lose it if they are absent from the UK for more than five continuous years.

For full details on the Settlement Scheme and eligibility criteria see:

How to apply

You can apply now if you meet the eligibility criteria. It’s free to apply and the application process is intended to be simple, made either online or via a mobile app. For details on how to apply via the mobile app, please see: After the application is submitted, a decision is generally made within a month and an e-mail is sent to the applicant confirming their status. 

The deadline for applications to the Settlement Scheme is 30 June 2021 however we would advise that applications are made sooner rather than later to avoid any last-minute rush. The majority of those applications that have already been made have been successful with applicants generally being granted the status that they were expecting.

Documents Certifying Permanent Residence

Currently, under EU law, EU nationals who have lived in the UK for five continuous years and who have exercised an EU Treaty Right throughout this period are automatically deemed to hold permanent residence. They may apply for a Documents Certifying Permanent Residence (DCPR) in order to evidence this status, although this is not mandatory. Current DCPR holders can swap this document for settled status using the app or an online form and must do this by 30 June 2021.

British citizenship/naturalisation

Applications for British citizenship can be made 12 months after the date on which applicants are granted settled status or were deemed to hold permanent residence under EU law. Consequently, for those EU citizens who have already spent more than five years in the UK and are looking to obtain British citizenship as soon as possible, they may wish to consider applying for a DCPR. This is because it is possible to backdate the DCPR to any date after the individual has spent five continuous years in the UK exercising one or more EU Treaty Rights.

General Medical Council

The GMC has also issued information for doctors on its website which you may find useful and you can find here:

Page published 11/02/20

DISCLAIMER: This communication has been prepared by Holt Doctors Limited for general information only. It is not intended to constitute professional or legal advice and you should not rely on its contents. Please seek independent professional advice.