1. Set the UIViewControllerBasedStatusBarAppearance to YES in the .plist file.

  2. In the viewDidLoad do a [self setNeedsStatusBarAppearanceUpdate];

  3. Add the following method:

    - (UIStatusBarStyle)preferredStatusBarStyle

    { return UIStatusBarStyleLightContent; }

Note : This does not work for controllers inside UINavigationController, please see Tyson's comment below :)

Swift 3 - This will work controllers inside UINavigationController. Add this code inside your controller.

// Preferred status bar style lightContent to use on dark background.
// Swift 3
override var preferredStatusBarStyle: UIStatusBarStyle {
    return .lightContent
}

Swift 5 and SwiftUI

For SwiftUI create a new swift file called HostingController.swift

import Foundation
import UIKit
import SwiftUI

class HostingController: UIHostingController<ContentView> {
    override var preferredStatusBarStyle: UIStatusBarStyle {
        return .lightContent
    }
}

Then change the following lines of code in the SceneDelegate.swift

window.rootViewController = UIHostingController(rootView: ContentView())

to

window.rootViewController = HostingController(rootView: ContentView())