- ILR requirements
- Visas for Indefinite Leave to Remain
- Duration requirement for visa holders
- Life in the UK test
- English language requirements
- Continuous Residence Requirement
- Periods of absence
- Application forms & cost
- Crime & immigration law breach consideration
- Spouse Requirements
- Refugee ILR Requirements
- Frequently Asked Questions
Requirements for Indefinite Leave to Remain
As the first stage towards naturalisation and becoming a British citizen, Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is a crucial step on your journey if you are looking to make the UK your permanent home.
Indefinite Leave to Remain means you are able to live in the UK without any restrictions.
When starting the Indefinite Leave to Remain application process, often people can become confused. Therefore it’s important to gain a thorough understanding of the ILR requirements before you begin an application.
Firstly, in order to be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain, you will need to have been living lawfully in the United Kingdom for a specified period of time. How long may differ, depending on your personal circumstances and the type of visa you currently hold.
Our Newcastle immigration lawyers can offer expert advice and guidance, and help you every step of the way with your Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) application. For more information, contact us on 0191 303 8965
Which visas allow you to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain?
You qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain if you hold any of the following visas:
- UK Ancestral visa
- Marriage to an EU National – After five years as the spouse of an EU national, applicants are given Permanent Residence, which offers the same rights and freedoms as Indefinite Leave to Remain
- Tier 1 Exceptional Talent
- Tier 1 Entrepreneur
- Tier 1 Investor
- Skilled Worker Visa
- Long residence stays
If you hold any other visa, then you may not be eligible for Indefinite leave to Remain. These include Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer, Tier 4 Student and Tier 5 visas.
How long will I need to hold my visa to be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)?
Again, this depends on the visa you hold. Here are visa categories eligible to apply and their ILR time requirements:
- Spouse visas or civil partner of British citizen or settled person – 5 to 10 years
- Unmarried partner visas – 5 years
- EEA family permit – 5 years
- Ancestry Visa – 5 years
- Tier 1 Exceptional Talent – Those endorsed under the ‘exceptional promise’ criteria qualify after 5 years. Those endorsed under the ‘exceptional talent’ criteria qualify after 3 years
- Tier 1 Entrepreneur – Depending on the level of business activity, the applicant can apply for ILR after either 3 or 5 years
- Tier 1 Investor – Depending on level of investment, applicant may be eligible after 2, 3 or 5 years
- Skilled Worker Visa – 5 years
- Long residence stays – 10 years
Details about Life in the UK test
Before you can be granted Indefinite Leave to Remain, one of the requirements you must meet is you must pass the Life in the UK test. Sometimes, this is called the British Citizenship test.
The test consists of 24 multiple choice questions concerning the traditions, customs, and history of the United Kingdom. Those sitting the Life in the UK test will have 45 minutes to answer all the questions and will need to score 75% or more to pass.
To sit the test, you will need to pay £50. You must book the test 3 days in advance. Applicants who are either under the age of 18 or over the age of 65 will be exempt from the Life in the UK test, as are those who have a long-term physical or mental health condition.
There are over 30 test centres across the UK, but you will only get to choose from the five closest to your location. The Life in the UK test in any of these places:
Details about the English language ILR requirements
To obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain, you must first demonstrate proficiency in the English language according to the European Framework of Languages. There are two ways you can do this:
- Sit an English language test
- Provide proof you studied for a degree taught in English
If you’re to seat for the English language test, do it at an approved SELT centre. There are several approved providers around the world. When you pass, you will be issued a pass certificate to include in your ILR application.
You will be exempt from the English language knowledge test if you are:
- A dependent living with settlement status in the UK and are between 18 to 64 years old
- A victim of domestic violence and your partner or spouse is a British citizen or has settled status
- A partner or spouse of someone who has died and that person was a British citizen or had settled status before they died
Likewise, if you are from a majority English-speaking country then you will not need to prove you speak English. This includes citizens of the following countries:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- New Zealand
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
Other people who are also exempt from the English language requirement when applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain are refugees, those under humanitarian protection, and anyone aged over 65.
Continuous residence ILR requirements
In order to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain, another requirement is you must have been living in the UK continuously for a specified period of time. How long will depend on the type of visa you hold.
This time period is known as the qualifying period. During the qualifying period, there is a cap on the amount of time you are allowed to spend outside the UK. This is usually a maximum of 180 days.
In some circumstances, it may be possible to obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain regardless of whether or not you have been living continuously in the UK.
Likewise, you can get an exception meaning even if you have spent longer than the allowed time outside the country, you can obtain ILR. However, in this situation, you will have to prove there is a serious and/or compelling reason for your absence.
The most common reasons permitted are:
- Serious illness
- Birth/death of a relative
- Natural disaster
If claiming exceptional circumstances for your absence, you must provide proof with the following documents:
- Medical certificates
- Birth/death certificate
- Proof travel tickets were postponed due to natural disaster
Periods of absence from the UK
The qualifying period is calculated by counting the days/years you have spent in the UK from:
- The day you submitted your ILR application
- 28 days after you submitted your ILR application
- The day you were issued your ILR status
It’s best you calculate your qualifying period to see if you meet the ILR time requirements before your ILR application, to ensure you have a good chance of being granted ILR status. When doing so, factor in any periods of absence.
A period of absence is a time you spent outside the United Kingdom. To be eligible for ILR status, your periods of absence must not be more than 180 days in the 12 months before you submitted your ILR application.
If your periods of absence exceed the 180-day limit, your continuous period is broken; you will have to wait for another 12 months of continuous lawful residence before you can apply again.
If you have periods of absence, they need to be in line with your visa. For example, if you obtained a Tier 2 visa to work in the UK, your periods of absence may be around travelling for work outside the UK.
In addition, you can submit documents to prove you met the continuous lawful residence requirements. Such documents may include tenancy agreements and utility bills.
We offer immigration advice sessions concerning absences from the UK. If you were away and are not sure you qualify, reach out to us for advice and support to ensure you are positioned right.
ILR application forms
There are two categories of ILR application forms. One is the Form Set (M) and the other is the Form Set (O).
You are to complete the Form Set (M) ILR application form if you are applying for ILR as a dependent partner or child of a person with the UK settled status. If that does not apply to you, you are to use the Form Set (O) as your application form.
As of February 2023, the cost to apply for ILR is £2,404, but this can change at any time. IF you are attaching dependents to your application, each one incurs the same cost.
There are other costs as well. Those costs depend on the other ILR requirements and tests you need to take. For example, the Life in the UK test costs £50.
Criminal records and breaches of immigration law consideration for ILR application
When making an Indefinite Leave to Remain application, another thing the Home Office will take into consideration is any criminal convictions you have.
If you have had a prison sentence of four years or more, then your application will be refused.
If you have any conviction that resulted in a prison sentence of between 12 months and four years, then, again, your application will be denied, unless more than 10 years have passed.
Any offence committed within two years of your application being made will also result in refusal.
If your record has any offences related to immigration then this may also lead to your application being denied.
Requirements for Indefinite Leave to Remain under spouse visa
If your make an application for ILR under a spouse visa, there are some additional requirements you must meet.
Firstly, you must prove to the Home Office that you are still in a relationship.
In addition, you must also meet the financial requirements for Indefinite Leave to Remain under a Spouse Visa. The financial requirements are as follows:
- £18,600 for couple with no dependent children
- Additional £3,800 for first non-British child
- Additional £2,400 for any additional child thereafter
There are a number of ways you can meet the financial requirement. These include the following:
- Income of you and/or your partner
- Income from self-employment of you and/or your partner
- Cash savings of £16,000 or more (this can be used to make up shortfall if your income is insufficient)
Unfortunately, income-related benefits cannot be counted towards the financial requirement for this type of application.
Similarly, some of the sources of income cannot be combined. For example, it’s not possible to combine self-employment with cash savings.
Requirements for refugees in the UK applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain
As part of the ILR requirements for refugees, refugees or those living in the UK under the humanitarian protection for at least five years can apply to settle in the country.
For refugees or those under humanitarian protection, the requirements that must be met in order to obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain are also different.
Those granted refugee status or humanitarian protection are usually granted leave to remain for five years. Once those five years expire, they must then apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain or exit the country.
It isn’t possible for refugees to apply for ILR from outside the country. They must instead apply online while they are in the country.
In order to be granted ILR as a refugee, a safe return review needs to be carried out. This means the Home Office will carry out an assessment of the applicant’s home country’s situation to see whether or not protection is still required.
To prove eligibility, refugees must present a residence card that proves their continued residence in the UK and they will also need to show they have no criminal convictions on their record.
Once these requirements have been met, a refugee is usually granted ILR status.
Refugees are not required to pass the Life in the UK or English language tests.
Last modified on February 24th, 2023 at 12:45 pm
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If the continuous period of your visa category is 5 years, you may be able to start your ILR application process if you have completed 4 years and 11 months in the UK.
Reach out to our immigration experts for assistance with your application.
The ILR documents that applicants must provide vary depending on which visa route they are applying from. In general, most ILR applicants will need to prove that they were in the UK during their continuous period. In addition, they will need to prove their identity and that they have been in the UK lawfully with a clean immigration history.
The ILR documents you may be required to provide include:
- Biometric Residence Permit (if one was issued to you)
- A valid passport (or another valid form of ID)
- Travel documents (to explain periods of absence)
- English language test certificate or degree
- Certificate for Life in the UK test
- Financial information to prove you meet the financial requirements (like bank statements)
- Proof of adequate accommodation
- Continuous residence proof (such as utility bills, council tax bills, and tenancy agreements)
We can help you prepare your Indefinite Leave to Remain application forms and all your documents. Contact us for assistance.
Although most ILR applicants get their decision in 8 weeks, the general processing time is six months. If you want it faster, you can select priority service or super-priority service; next working day for super-priority service.
We can assess your ILR application to ensure you meet all the eligibility requirements, so that your application is not delayed.
To keep your ILR settlement status, you must not stay outside the UK for more than two years. If you leave the UK and return, even for a day, you can retain your Indefinite Leave to Remain status, but if you are outside the UK for a continuous period of more than two years, your ILR status becomes invalid.
If that happens, you will still have your Biometric Residence Permit or stamp in your passport that indicates you have ILR immigration status, but the ILR is no longer valid.
The home office may restore your Indefinite Leave to Remain status if it becomes invalid if you follow the right processes. Contact our UK law firm for assistance. Call 0191 303 8965 or chat with us online.