UK Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is an immigration status held by non-EEA nationals who have applied for and been granted permission to settle and remain in the UK without restriction.
It is the main settlement option for those in the UK on a points-based visa, such as the Tier 2 General visa or the Tier 1 Investor visa.
If you are an EU citizen in the UK, rather than applying for ILR, you have to register under the EU settlement scheme by 30 June 2021 to retain your rights to remain lawfully in the UK.
Applying for UK ILR is rarely a straightforward process. The eligibility requirements are strict, you will to gather and provide a considerable amount of evidence and ‘supporting documents’, and a refused application can not only cause huge disappointment, it will also result in a lost fee.
Difference between ILR and British citizenship
ILR is not the same as citizenship. There is some overlap in the rights attained, but they refer to different legal status and entail different eligibility and application requirements.
With ILR, holders are able to live and work in the UK without immigration restrictions, but they do not hold nationality so they cannot apply for a British passport or vote.
ILR can also be lost after 2 years of absence from the UK, while citizenship is permanent.
Non-EEA nationals must have held ILR for at least 12 months before they become eligible to apply to naturalise as a British citizen. If you are married to a British national or a person with UK settled status, you are exempt from the additional 12-month qualifying period and become eligible to apply for citizenship once you attain ILR status.
When you become eligible for ILR will depend on the type of leave you currently have in the UK.
In most cases, visas lead to ILR after 5 years, such as the partner or spouse visa, Tier 2 general skilled worker visa and the ancestry visa. Other routes such as the Tier 1 investor visa offer fast-tracked eligibility where specific criteria are met.
The continuous residence requirement may be affected by excessive absences from the UK. You will also need to show you have not had any excessive absences of more than 180 days during any 12 month period of your qualifying period.
Where this threshold is breached, the date on which your five-year qualifying period starts will be moved back.
You must also have been lawfully resident in the UK throughout this qualifying period. This means that you must not have spent any of your time in the UK without valid leave to enter or remain, or have breached your leave conditions.
ILR applicants between 18 and 64 years of age have to pass the Life in the UK test and show they meet the required English language standard, either as a national of a majority English-speaking country or by providing evidence of a UK degree that was taught or researched in English, or by obtaining an approved English speaking and listening qualification.
How to apply for ILR
To apply you will need to complete the relevant application form, pay the application fee and bring together your supporting documents, which will need to be submitted online.
Use ILR application form SET(O) if you are in the UK under a ivisa category such as Tier 1 or Tier 2 of the points based system (PBS), or are a PBS dependant visa holders.
Use form SET(M) if you are applying as the partner of a person or parent of a child already settled in the UK.
You would usually make your ILR application 28 days prior to the date you entered the UK. Note that if you submit your application too early, it will be refused.
Pay the ILR fee
If you are a single applicant the normal specified fee is £2389. There is an additional fee for each dependant applying with you. If you opt for the premium service the fee is £2999 per person.
Unless you are exempt from the KoLL requirement, you will need to pay to take the “Life in the UK’ test as part of your application. This costs £50 and you must book your test online at least 3 days in advance.
In most cases you must also pay a fee of £19.20 to enrol your biometric information at a Post Office branch or a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services centre. If you go to a premium service centre, the cost is included in your application fee.
In most cases, you will also need to book and attend an appointment at a UKVCAS centre to submit your biometrics for your Biometric Residence Permit, which will be issued if your application is approved.
You may also be required to attend an interview to verify facts or any supporting documentation, or for the Home Office to request further information.
You will need to provide a valid passport or another travel document for yourself, and any dependants who are applying with you, as well as any biometric residence permit if you have one.
You should also provide the following documentation as a minimum:
- Two recent identical colour passport photographs for each applicant – write your name clearly on the back
- Bank statements, payslips and other documents to prove your finances
- Evidence you meet the English language and Life in the UK requirements – such as your pass certificates and proof of relevant qualifications
- Evidence relating to UK absences during the qualifying period – such as proof of taking annual leave
- If you were required to register with the police on arrival in the UK – your police registration certificate
- For any dependants applying with you – their birth or adoption certificates
Documents provided in support of an application for indefinite leave to remain must be originals.
ILR processing times
Indefinite leave to remain applications can take up to six months to process and for a decision to be made. You can secure a faster decision by using the premium processing service for a fee.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.