If you have an old-style immigration document and want to have your immigration status confirmed on a Biometric Residence Permit, you’ll need to make a No Time Limit application. This may seem like an unnecessary task for overseas nationals who have lived seamlessly in the UK for several years, but there are various benefits to doing so. Since 6 April 2022, the Home Office have also waived the application fee, so the process is now free of charge.
In this guide, we look at what it means to apply for No Time Limit, as well who can apply and how to apply.
What is a No Time Limit application?
A No Time Limit application, or an NTL application, allows overseas nationals in the UK who have either Indefinite Leave to Enter (ILE) or Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) evidenced in an old-style immigration document, as well as those who have lost their documentation or have no proof of their indefinite leave status, to upgrade to a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).
A person who has either ILE or ILR is free of immigration time restrictions and considered to be ‘settled’ in the UK, provided they are ordinarily resident. The BRP can be used to confirm this. A BRP holds an individual’s personal data, biometric information and immigration status.
The UK Home Office is looking to increasingly replace physical and paper-based products and services with accessible and easy-to-use online services, in this way providing a fully end-to-end digital experience for overseas nationals living in the UK. By allowing overseas nationals to upgrade their non-digital proof (or absence of proof) of ILE or ILR to an NTL BRP, this will help them to navigate this transition, where those who qualify are being encouraged to apply.
Who can make an NTL application?
To qualify for an NTL BRP, the overseas national must:
- have ILE or ILR in the UK, including those who were deemed ‘settled’ in the UK on or before 1 January 1973 in accordance with section 1(2) of the Immigration Act 1971, provided they’ve continued to reside in the UK since that date
- have not lost their ILE/ILR, for example, by being absent from the UK for a continuous period of two or more years since 2000
- continue to be entitled to ILE/ILR, where indefinite leave hasn’t been or won’t be revoked.
Qualifying individuals with ILE or ILR can make a No Time Limit application to have their existing UK immigration status transferred to a BRP in the following circumstances:
- they have indefinite leave in an old-style legacy immigration document, such as a vignette in a passport
- their document containing their status or endorsement has been lost, stolen or has expired
- they are settled in the UK but don’t have any documentary proof confirming their indefinite leave status, for example, because they were deemed settled on 1 January 1973
- they need to amend the details on their evidence of UK status, for example, the name on their immigration document, where they have legitimately changed their identity since being granted indefinite leave and want this documented and confirmed on a BRP.
Individuals with limited leave cannot make an NTL application. They must instead make an application to transfer conditions if they wish to have their status confirmed on a BRP. The only scenario in which someone with limited leave can make a No Time Limit application is if they were granted two months’ leave to enter the UK by a Border Force Officer who wasn’t satisfied that the person had indefinite leave on entry following their absence.
What are the benefits of making an NTL application?
It’s not mandatory for an individual to apply for digital confirmation of UK immigration status, but there are various benefits to having an NTL BRP, including the fact that BRP’s:
- have enhanced security features which cannot be found on an old-style vignette, meaning there is far less possibility of it being used fraudulently by someone else
- are evidence that a person has the right to live permanently in the UK, and has a right to work and also access certain benefits, providing the holder with a quick and easy way to show all this information, and peace of mind in terms of their immigration status and rights
- enable individuals to prove their right to work or right to rent using the Home Office online checking services, which are simple and secure and will need to be used by BRP holders from 6 April 2022 onwards
- will facilitate straightforward travel to and from the UK.
What is the process to make an NTL application?
No Time Limit applications must be made from within the UK and online at GOV.UK, using the NTL application form. The applicant will also be required to provide their biometrics and submit supporting documentation, including any existing legacy immigration document, together with photographic evidence confirming their identity, such as a passport, driving licence or national identity card. The photographic identity document is to ensure that any other documentation supplied in support belongs to the person making that application.
The nature of any additional documentation required will depend upon the reasons for the NTL application. For example, evidence of residence may be needed if the applicant is applying because they don’t have any documentary proof confirming their indefinite leave status. Equally, where there has been a legitimate change of identity, the applicant will need to provide proof of their name change, such as a deed poll, statutory declaration or marriage certificate, together with evidence to show that they’re using the new name for all purposes.
Applicants can include their spouse, partner or dependent children under the age of 18 on their NTL application form, although each dependant will be assessed in the same way as the primary applicant. This means that the Home Office must be satisfied that each person has indefinite leave status. Children aged 18 or over must apply separately.
What happens if the applicant has no proof of indefinite leave?
Given that an applicant will be eligible to apply for an NTL BRP if they are deemed settled in the UK but don’t have any documentary proof of this, or their document containing their indefinite leave status has been lost or stolen, specific provision is made within the Home Office guidance for caseworkers to check all available systems and files for evidence to show that the applicant has indeed been granted indefinite leave.
This means that being unable to provide a previous passport, BRP or immigration status document (ISD) is not a bar to making an NTL application, nor to being granted an NTL BRP, provided the caseworker is able to establish in some way that the applicant had been granted ILE or ILR. The caseworker must also be satisfied that the applicant hasn’t lost this status, is not otherwise ineligible and that they’re the same person previously granted indefinite leave.
However, if the applicant claims that their previous passport, BRP or ISD was either lost or stolen, they must be able to provide the Home Office with a crime reference number or police report. In cases where the passport, BRP or ISD has been provided by the applicant, but it doesn’t show that they have indefinite leave status in the UK, the caseworker will again need to check all available systems and files for evidence of indefinite leave status.
In the case of those who were deemed settled in the UK on or before 1 January 1973, they’ll need to satisfy the Home Office that they have continued to reside in the UK since that date. This could include any official correspondence received during this timeframe, although if the applicant is struggling to provide sufficient evidence of residence, the caseworker dealing with the application must take into consideration any circumstances that may indicate, on the balance of probabilities, that the applicant was settled in the UK on 1 January 1973. In such cases, the evidence will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, where the caseworker may exercise discretion in the applicant’s favour over any small gaps in any evidence of residence.
When will indefinite leave be lost due to absences from the UK?
There are various circumstances in which leave can be lost due to absences from the UK, for example, applicants who were deemed to have acquired indefinite leave through being settled in the UK on 1 January 1973 may have lost their indefinite leave if they’ve since been outside the Common Travel Area (CTA). Before 30 July 2000, if a person left the CTA, their leave would usually automatically lapse and they would require a further grant of leave upon re-entry to the UK to resume settlement. However, an individual would normally have met the returning residence requirements if they’d been ordinarily UK resident within the previous two years.
Under section 3(4) of the 1971 Act, and articles 13 to 13B of the Leave to Enter and Remain Order 2000, a person will now lose indefinite leave status where they’ve been outside the UK for more than a continuous period of two years unless any of the following apply:
- they’re the dependant of a member of HM Armed Forces and have been accompanying them overseas
- they’re the dependant of a British citizen or settled person in permanent employment within either the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development, Home Office or British Council and
- they’ve been accompanying them overseas
- they return to the UK in circumstances where they don’t require leave to enter.
As it may not always be clear whether a person has been outside of the UK for more than two years and has lost their indefinite leave, the Home Office may request additional evidence of residency. This could include council tax letters, letters confirming tenancy or mortgage payments, utility bills, letters from employers that confirm employment, wage slips or P60s, attendance records from an educational institution, or letters that confirm registration with a doctor and/or dentist which also show dates of appointments.
How much is an NTL application?
Prior to 6 April 2022, the cost of making a No Time Limit application was £248.20, including a £229 application fee and a £19.20 biometric enrolment fee. However, this fee has been removed, meaning NTL applications are now completely cost-free. In this way, it’s hoped by the UK Home Office that more qualifying overseas nationals will apply for an NTL BRP.
How long do NTL applications take to process?
Once an NTL application has been submitted, and all supporting documentation has been received by the Home Office, the applicant may have to wait up to six months for a decision. This may be the case if requests are made for additional information, although the majority of applications for an NTL BRP should be decided within six to eight weeks.
Can an application be made for citizenship without an NTL BRP?
To be able to apply for British citizenship, the applicant will need evidence that they’re free from immigration time restrictions. By already having in place an NTL BRP, this will provide clear proof of ILE or ILR in support of an application for naturalisation.
No Time Limit Application FAQs
What is a no time limit application?
A No Time Limit application allows those with old-style immigration documents, or have lost these, to upgrade to a biometric residence permit which can be used to confirm their existing UK immigration status and other rights in the UK.
Can I apply for citizenship without BRP?
To apply for British citizenship you’ll need proof that you’re free from immigration time restrictions, so without documentary proof of indefinite leave status, you may need to have your immigration status confirmed on a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).
How long does an NTL application take?
A No Time Limit (NTL) application will usually take several weeks to process, although the benefits of having an NTL Biometric Residence Permit can make this worth the wait.
How do I apply for a NTL card?
An application for a No Time Limit (NTL) Biometric Residence Permit must be made in the UK and online at GOV.UK, using the NTL application form. This form can also be used to update, replace or transfer your BRP.
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.