Helena Sheizon
Poli Che
Helena Sheizon

Settled status vs permanent residence, indefinite leave to remain and settlement visa

We normally use the word settled in relation to people who have their permanent home in the UK and are not expected or required to leave the country.

However, immigration terminology may become overcomplicated even for lawyers, let alone everyone else. And you may be confused between the words that either sound the same or seem to have identical meaning.

I will try to disentangle some of the confusion without creating more.

Settled status vs ILR

Settled status is an immigration category granted to EU nationals and their family members under the EU settlement scheme.

An important difference between settled status and indefinite leave to remain is that settled status is not lost after two years of absences. You can be absent from the UK for five years and keep your settled status.

It is also important that settled status is granted free of charge and there is no requirement to show knowledge of English or to pass the Life in the UK test.

Indefinite leave to remain applications are costly (£2389 per applicant as at the time of writing) and subject to more onerous requirements, including a higher benchmark for good character.

Neither immigration category bears restrictions on the time you can spend in the UK; both give you the right to work, receive public funds and study in the UK without paying the overseas students fees.

Permanent residence vs Settled Status

Permanent residence is the unconditional right of residence acquired by EU nationals and their family members under the EU Citizenship Directive 2004. The Directive was subsequent transposition into a series of domestic documents, the first of which was called Immigration (EEA) Regulations 2006.

The document confirming permanent residence can be backdated and can show the actual date when this right was acquired.

EU rights will not be recognised in the UK after 1 January 2021. Those who want to keep their permanent residence right after Brexit have to apply for settled status.

Settled status is granted by the Home Office to EEA nationals and their family members after they have lived in the UK for five years. It is granted independently of whether you have a permanent right of residence or not. Importantly, it cannot be backdated.

For EU nationals with children born in the UK, the date on the permanent residence document may be the only proof that the children have a birthright to British citizenship. It is therefore vitally important to keep your permanent residence document safe.

It is not yet clear if settled status will be accepted as proof of lawful residence over the five year period required for naturalisation as a British citizen. If you are planning to apply naturalisation, permanent residence document is also a more reliable proof of status for the next five years.

Settlement visa vs settled status

Settlement visa is a rather misleading term when used for UK partner visa and applications for a family reunion by dependent family members of British citizens.

My guess is, it may be called settlement because of the intention of the applicants to settle in the UK for good. However, family members of the points-based system migrants may have a similar intention, but they do not apply for settlement until they actually apply for indefinite leave to remain.

In any case, a settlement visa does not imply an immediately settled status. On the contrary, it is initially granted for 33 months if the application is made from outside the UK or for 30 months if made in the UK. It is then extended for another 30 months. After that, those who are on the so-called five-year route to settlement can apply for indefinite leave to remain. Those who are on the so-called ten-year route have to extend two more times and then apply for indefinite leave to remain.

In other words, applicants for settlement visa become settled after five years of residence or ten years of residence depending on their circumstances.

I hope this explanation makes the terminology a tiny bit clearer. If not, don’t worry. Just let us speak to the Home Office on your behalf. 


Post Author

Helena Sheizon

Helena Sheizon

Helena is the founder and managing director of Kadmos Consultants. She was called to the bar in 2005 and has been specialising in immigration since 2006. She is registered as Level 3 (OISC top level) immigration advisor with a licence for Judicial Review case management.

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31 Responses

  1. Hallo:
    Living in Germany as a German national since 2006, I am seeking to apply for a second, UK citizenship for my son born there in 2004. My understanding is that I need to prove settlement status for me at that time. As I only lived there since October 2000, I wonder whether it is also sufficient that I have studied there in the 90s, as I do find some reference to it.
    Many thanks, Roman

    1. Your child can become a British citizenship through naturalisation – that will require settled status in the UK and at least 5 years continuous residence. You son may have been born a British citizen if you had a stamp in your passport confirming that you had indefinite leave to remain in the UK at the time he was born. If so, he would be British by birth and would not need to apply for naturalisation. He would only need a British passport.

  2. Hi, I am an Estonian (EU) and hold a settled status. I have recently been contemplating whether I should apply for British citizenship in case I should decide to be away from the UK for a longer period of time in the future without having to worry about losing my right to live and work in the UK. Should this happen, would entering to the UK, say once every 5 years be enough to retain my rights to work in the UK and I should’t worry or should I consider going to the process of applying for the citizenship?
    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Merilin, naturalisation as a British citizen would certainly be beneficial since you get citizenship for life. But you have to show intention to live in the UK and if you already have plans to break your ties with the UK permanently, citizenship has to be refused. As the law stands now, your settled status lapses if you are absent from the UK for a period of five years. There is no specific guidance as to whether a brief visit is enough to keep your settled status going or you have to resume your residence. The law will certainly evolve and we will get more details eventually. But it may certainly change. It may be worth booking a short consultation to discuss your circumstances in more detail.

  3. hi i submit my application ILR application too early
    [11 day early] . I dont know what gonna happen ? i did try too withdraw the application and make new application . but sent enquiry form for over 10 day and havent received any response from them

    1. Most likely the Home Office will consider the date of the decision as the relevant date but one needs to check the published guidance to give you legal advice on the current position the Home Office takes in such cases depending on the type of application for ILR. Withdrawing the application may actually complicate things. If you are worried about it, please book a 15-minute consultation.

  4. Hi,
    I am married to Latvian national on 2013 with a eea family permit until we separated on 2019. I manage to apply for indefinite leave to remain under eu settlement scheme and got it on 2020. Now i am planning to apply for british citizenship or naturalization, does my application will be affected with the separation? Thank you

  5. Hi Helena,
    I have the settled status but my permanent residence card has expired on the 30th of June 21 and i am unable to renew it as apparently they do not renew them anymore. Can I still submit it as a proof? even if expired?

    1. Yes, this card will be helpful if you apply for British citizenship – it will show the date when you became permanently settled in the UK and you don’t need to wait for 12 months since your settled status was confirmed (if this is applicable).

  6. Hi Helena,
    I’m from Nigeria. Has a British daughter 11years old. I have had 10 yrs route which I later improved to 5yrs because I was qualified. I have had my Leave to remain for more than 5 years now. Is it possible to apply for a settlement under the EU scheme.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Sarah, thank you for leaving a comment. It is best to book a consultation as we need to know more about your circumstances and discuss your case further before giving any legal advice. You can email us your availability on

  7. Hi Helena,

    I am Austrian and I came to the UK in 2015, and live here ever since. My status says: Settled status, also known as indefinite leave to remain. What are the next steps? I know there is a deadline for the
    EU Settlement Scheme, but I don’t really understand what it is for. I started to apply, verified on the app, but I have no proof that I did that. (After you finished using the app, we will send you an email…)
    Will be my settled status in my passport, or how can I prove that?

    Kind regards

    1. Hi Zoey, you should be able to log in to your account and you can also share a personal code with your employer or whoever needs to check your status. There is no stamp in your passport and there are no physical documents for the moment to confirm settled status.

  8. Hi Helena
    With pre-settled status, does one have to count days of absences from the UK and ensure this, in aggregate, is not greater than 180 days in any rolling 12-month period for five years in order to qualify for settled status? The Resolution Centre intimated that one is only required to prove that you were in the country for at least one day per month for six months in every rolling 12-month period.

  9. Hi Helena,

    I have been reading some of the articles on your site with interest but I’m now slightly worried and I would appreciate your advice.

    My wife is a Czech citizen holding a Czech passport. I am a UK citizen from birth and we were married in the UK in 2011. She has an ILR stamp in an old passport and a letter confirming ILR status from the Home Office dating from 1995 when she first arrived in the UK.

    We had thought that she did not need to apply for settled status under the EUSS due to her ILR but, after reading some of your responses to other queries, I’m not sure that this is in fact the case. Please could you advise us.

    Thanks very much!

    1. Hello Will, your wife will need a BRP card to confirm her ILR or she can apply for a settled status. The advantage of settled status is that it allows longer absence from the UK (up to five years) than ILR (which is lost after two years of absence).

  10. Hi Helena
    Very very helpful. My husband Venezuelan citizen and he has ILR permanent resident document
    We was very confused because our lawyer told us he needs to apply EU settled scheme.. Other people said he doesn’t need
    So after your information I think he doesn’t need to apply just if he want….
    Tell me if I am right
    Thank you so much

    1. Hi Katalin,
      If your husband has ILR under another part of the rules he cannot apply for settled status. But if he has ILR as a family member of a person from the EU then he should apply for settled status. If you are not sure or have concerns, it maybe worth booking a 15-minute consultation so that we could look into it and give you legal advice.

  11. Hello Helena,
    I’m an Italian citizen holding only an Italian passport. I have lived, and worked and paid tax solely in the UK since I arrived here in 1967.
    I have an ILR stamp in at least two of my previous Italian passports which I produce when returning to the UK after traveling outside the EU.
    If I intend to remain here do I need to register for the EUSS or are my ILR’s sufficient?
    Thank you for your help in this matter.
    Kindest regards,
    Giuliano Sparvoli

    1. Hi Giuliano, definitely apply for settled status! Although ILR is not invalidated by Brexit, you will have an uphill struggle with it and proving that you have been continuously in the UK all these years and you will need a Biometric Residence document to replace the old stamp – you can avoid all this by getting settled status.

  12. I have 5 years EU resident family permit my girlfriend is Romanian national my 5 years going to complete next month July 2021 . I want to know after this what application I need to submit my permeant residence . I am Indian passport holder

    1. You will need to apply for settled status, and so will your girlfriend. Let us know if we can help.

  13. Hi Helena, hopefully this msg finds you all well.
    I have a permanent resident card visa vignette on my passport as I live in UK since 2007, I can’t use this document in the app for the settle status.
    I phoned the home office and I was told I don’t need to do that( settle status) however I have Brazilians friends who have the permanent resident card and the biometric card(I don’t) and with the biometric card can be scanned.
    I’m confused, do I need to do the settled status?

    1. Yes, you do. If you had Indefinite Leave to Remain endorsement in your passport it won’t be necessary, but with permanent residence you do need settled status. Remember your deadline is 30 June.

  14. I have lived and worked in this country since 1994 as a Spanish doctor for the NHS. I got my ILR in 2016 , backdated only to April 2006, not before. My daughter was born in December 2005 but can not get her passport. How can backdate the ILR further back?

  15. Hallo there. Thank you for the information provided. So, I am trying to understand why would you go with ILR option and not merely Settled Status? I will be in the country for 5 years (June 2021) but I am still unsure which route I should take. If I apply for my settled status is ILR still needed? Or vice versa?

    1. Settled status is indefinite leave to remain granted in the context of EU Settlement Scheme. It has some advantages over ILR granted under other parts of the immigration rules – for example, it is free and you don’t lose it if you leave the country for up to five years, whereas in other circumstances ILR is lost if you have been out of the country for two years.

  16. Hello there,

    My question is what is the actual Indefinite leave to remain document in an EU Citizen’s passport? I know it can come in form of a stamp and a letter from the home office but what about the vignette in the passport? Is it the one which says Residence Permit (Indefinite leave to remain in the UK) which also has the person’s picture on the vignette?

    If yes, was it still being issued to EU Citizens before the Brexit vote in 2016? Thank you

    1. There isn’t one. You don’t get a physical document but you will get a letter from the Home Office confirming your status and login details to the government portal where it is confirmed. You need to apply for settled status online and you will be guided through the process.

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