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Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)

For those looking to acquire Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, we have a highly experienced team of London immigration lawyers who will guide you through every step of the ILR application process. 

Call us on 020 4502 8582 (local rate) for immediate assistance with your situation. We can speak to you in whatever way best suits you: in person, at our offices, over the phone or online. 

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What is Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)?

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or permanent residency, is an immigration status granted to a person who wishes to apply to settle in the UK on a permanent basis.

In most circumstances, an individual is able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after five years of continuous residence in the UK.

A number of different visa types can lead to ILR status. For example, you might be able to apply from a Skilled Worker Visa to ILR, or you can settle in the UK on a Spouse Visa if you meet the ILR financial requirements.

Those granted ILR status are able to live in the UK free from immigration restrictions. This means there is no time limit on how long you can stay in the UK.

ILR also permits you to work in the UK via a job, business or self-employment, and to take up a course of study.

Indefinite Leave to remain is a pivotal step in the journey towards full British Citizenship.

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Indefinite Leave to Remain requirements

ILR requirements are dependent on an individual’s specific circumstances, particularly the type of visa they hold.

As a minimum, an individual is required to have been lawfully living in the UK for a certain length of time.

However, there are other ILR requirements that must also be satisfied in order to settle in the UK.

To be deemed eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, you must:

  • Have been lawfully and continuously resident in the UK for a certain period of time
  • Have passed the Life in the UK Test which tests a person’s knowledge of British history, culture and traditions
  • Not spend more than 90 days outside the UK in any 12 months during the qualifying period
  • Not have been in breach of any immigration rules during your time in the UK
  • Not have a criminal record
  • Prove that you have acquired a Level B1 in English, as per the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)

Who can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain?

You can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK through various routes. In most cases you will be in the UK with permission as one of the following:

• A partner
• A family member
• A certain type of worker (e.g Tier 2/Skilled Worker)
• On continuous and long-term lawful residence
• A person with Ancestry ties

Dependent children of a British Citizen or of a person who is a settled resident in the UK may be given immediate permission to remain in the UK indefinitely. Also, refugees who are resettled in the UK through the Gateway Protection Programme are granted immediate permission to remain automatically.

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Which visa types can lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain?

Being eligible for ILR is dependent on having lived in the UK on a visa that can lead to settlement. Once the minimum time period for that particular visa has elapsed, you will be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. Other requirements for ILR will also need to be met. You can find more information on the different UK visa types.

Visas that can lead to settlement

The visa types that allow you to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain include:

Indefinite Leave to Remain exemptions

There are certain circumstances where a person will not need to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in order to be granted settled UK status. These are:

  • If you are eligible for British citizenship by descent (or another form of automatic citizenship)
  • A child dependent of a British citizen or of a person with settled status
  • An adult-dependent who needs the long-term care of a family member who is a British citizen or who is a person with settled status
  • A refugee who is resettled in the UK through the Gateway Protection Program

You can find out more about the requirements for Indefinite to Remain here: Indefinite Leave to Remain requirements

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Required documents to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain

There are a number of supporting documents you will need to submit with your ILR application.

Documents are required to be submitted both for yourself and any dependents that are also applying with you.

Original copies

It is vital that the documents you submit are original copies.

In cases where this is not possible, you will need to explain the reason.

The Home Office will exercise some leniency if you can show genuine reasons why originals cannot be provided.

It is possible to upload your documents electronically.

Documents required for ILR application

In most circumstances, you will need to provide the following documents:

  • Your current passport
  • Any old passport that was valid during the time you have been in the UK
    Any travel documentation relating to any time spent outside of the UK during your period of residency
  • Financial documents such as bank statements, wage slips
  • Any relevant birth or adoption certificates if dependents are involved in your application
  • Your Life in the UK Test pass certificate (if not exempt)
  • An English language proficiency level of B1 pass certificate (if not exempt)
  • A police registration certificate if you had to register with the police upon arrival in the UK
  • Your immigration history
  • Any other relevant documentation that relates to your specific visa category
  • Two identical passport-sized photographs in colour, with your name clearly written on the back

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Residency requirements to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain

Your ability to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain depends on your circumstances. Most people from overseas can apply for ILR after lawfully living in the UK for five years.

Visa categories requiring 5 years’ residency

Visa categories that require five years of UK residence include the following:

Visa categories requiring less than 5 years’ residency

There are visa categories with which it is possible to successfully apply for ILR with less than five years of UK residence.

  • Innovator Visa – eligible after three years. Depending on business achievements
  • Global Talent Visa – eligible after three years. If the last endorsement was granted under ‘exceptional talent’ or ‘exceptional promise’, or under the UK Research and Innovation fast track criteria
  • Tier 1 Investor Visas – eligible after two or three years. Depends on business activities
  • Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa – eligible after three years. Depends on business  activities. (This visa is no longer available. )

For citizens of the Commonwealth who have served in the British Armed Forces, it is possible to apply for ILR after four years of residence.

A dependant of a British citizen or an individual with settled status will usually not need to satisfy any time requirements in order to become settled in the UK.

When more than 5 years’ residency is required

There are also circumstances in which the time period needed to qualify for ILR will be longer than five years. An example of this is the ILR requirements for Long Residence. For those over the age of 18 on a Long Residence Visa, you will need to have been resident in the UK for 10 years before you can apply for ILR. For those under the age of 18, you will need to have been resident in the UK for seven years.

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How does the Life in the UK Test work?

A mandatory part of the Indefinite Leave to Remain application process is the Life in the UK test.

Test overview

The test is made up of 24 questions relating to the history, culture and customs of the United Kingdom. It is sometimes referred to as the British Citizenship test. The 24 questions are randomly generated on the day.

How long is the Life in the UK test?

The test is 45 minutes long and contains 24 questions.

What is the minimum score to pass the test?

Do make sure you are fully prepared, as you need a score of at least 75% to pass it.

How much does the Life in the UK test cost?

The test must be booked three days in advance and costs £50.

Where can you take the test?

There are over 50 test centres in the UK where you can take the test. You can choose one of the five closest centres to where you are located. Note that if you book a test centre that is not close to where you are located, you will not be permitted to sit the test nor will you receive a refund.

How many times can you re-take the test?

In the event of failing the Life in the UK test, you are able to re-sit it as soon as seven days after the date of your test. There is no limit on how many times you are able to re-sit the test.

Who is required to sit the test?

Only those between the ages of 18 and 65 are required to sit the test. If an individual has a long-term mental or physical condition and has written proof of this from a medical professional, they will usually be exempt from the test.

Booking the test

When booking the test, you will need an email address, a credit or debit card and an accepted form of identification.

Attending the test

When you attend to sit your test, you must bring:

  • Some identification (such as a driving licence or passport)
  • Some form of correspondence sent to your UK address and addressed to you. It must be dated within three months of the date of your test.

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Pass certificate

Upon successfully passing the test, you will be issued with a Life in the UK pass certificate which needs to be included when submitting your ILR application.

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English language requirements for ILR

It is necessary for you to demonstrate proficiency in the English language in order to gain permanent residence in the UK.

English B1 level requirement

You need to prove that you meet level B1 as certified by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

Applicants will require a certificate from their test provider. This must be submitted alongside all other supporting documentation when you apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

English language criteria exemptions

There are some applicants who will not need to satisfy this criterion. Those from Commonwealth or English-speaking countries are usually exempt.

These include citizens of the following countries:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • Ireland (for citizenship only)
  • Malta
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA

If you’re from a country not on the list you’ll be required to prove your knowledge of English, even where English is an official language.

When the English language criteria does not apply

The English language criteria does not apply if you are:

  • Aged 65 or over
  • Unable to prove your knowledge of English due to a long-term physical or mental condition. In this case you are required to provide a completed exemption form to confirm your physical or mental condition.
  • A holder of a degree or higher-level qualification from an accredited educational establishment where the course was taught in English
  • A victim of domestic abuse as the partner or spouse of a British citizen or settled person
  • The partner or spouse of someone who has died who was a British citizen or someone settled in the UK
  • An adult-dependent relative between the ages of 18 and 64 of someone who is settled in the UK, is a refugee or has humanitarian protection
  • A refugee living in the UK
  • Someone living in the UK with discretionary leave
  • Someone living in the UK under humanitarian protection
  • A retired person of independent means and who has permission to reside in the UK
  • A Commonwealth citizen on discharge from HM Forces, including Gurkhas
    someone in exceptional circumstances, for example an orphan, widow or over-age dependant

Note that if you are applying for British Citizenship, there are no such exemptions. You are required to have a relevant English language qualification even if you were exempt when you were granted ILR.

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Your rights under ILR status

If you are successfully granted ILR, which is a form of permanent residence, you will be able to work and/or study in the UK without restrictions.

The rules pertaining to your ability to work and study will be the same as those that pertain to British citizens.

You will be able to work in any role/industry. You can also take up self-employed work and work in the voluntary sector.

You will be eligible for free healthcare on the NHS.

Possessing Indefinite Leave to Remain affords you the ability to access benefits if you need to.

What are the rules regarding travel outside of the UK for those with ILR?

For those with ILR, it is important to understand the restrictions imposed on time spent outside of the UK.

In this respect, this is an area where your rights are different to those with British citizenship, for whom there are no restrictions on time spent outside the UK.

If you hold ILR, you cannot spend a period of time that exceeds two years outside of the UK. If you do, your ILR status will be revoked.

Can ILR status be revoked?

Yes, ILR status can be revoked under certain circumstances, as follows:

  • You were granted ILR as a refugee and you are no longer classed as a refugee
  • You are liable to deportation but, for legal reasons, you are not able to be deported
  • You are found to have gained ILR status by deception
  • You are absent from the UK for longer than 2 years

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What options do I have if my application for Indefinite Leave to Remain is unsuccessful?

Rest assured, our London immigration lawyers will guide you through the ILR application in order to fully maximise your chances of success. However we understand that rejections can be very distressing and can present a major setback in your journey towards permanent residence in the UK. However, in circumstances where an ILR application is not successful, these are the options available to you.

Options after ILR refused

  • Appeal the decision
  • Pursue a Judicial Review
  • Pursue an Administrative Review
  • Start the application process again, ensuring that all mistakes made in the previous attempt are rectified

Your rejection decision will provide information pertaining to reasons for the rejection, and whether or not you have the right to appeal the decision or to pursue an administrative review.

In a case where you feel your application was unfairly rejected, you can choose to challenge the decision of the Home Office.

The process involved in a Judicial Review is somewhat different. It usually constitutes the final attempt at reversing the Home Office’s decision. The process is often complex, as it concerns whether or not the Home Office’s decision to reject your application was just and lawful.

If there was an obvious mistake made in your ILR application, the best option is usually to resubmit the application having rectified the mistakes.

If you feel there was a mistake made in your ILR application such as an important piece of evidence not being taken into account, you can opt for an administrative review. This is where your application will be reconsidered by a different immigration official.

If you wish to explore your options following refusal of your ILR application, or wish to challenge the Home Office’s decision, our immigration lawyers can support you throughout the entire process with our appeal package. Contact us now to discuss your application.

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If I possess ILR, will I automatically receive British citizenship after the qualifying period?

You will not automatically receive British citizenship when ILR ends, however it is a major step towards becoming a British citizen.

Once you have lived in the UK for 12 months under ILR status, you will be able to apply for British citizenship, as long as your circumstances have not changed significantly.

In order to do this, you will need to submit all necessary documentation and submit it alongside your application form to the Home Office. Find out more about applying for British citizenship here: Apply to become a British citizen.

As a British citizen, you will be able to enjoy the full benefits of citizenship including applying for a British passport.

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What do I need to know about the Indefinite Leave to Remain application form?

There are two main forms used in ILR applications- Form Set (O) and Form Set (M). The one you need to fill in depends on your specific circumstances.

For those who apply for Indefiniet Leave to remain as someone’s partner, or as the parent of a child that already holds settled status in the UK, Form Set (M) needs to be filled in.

In all other circumstances, Form Set (O) is the one to complete. This includes ILR applicants on Tier 1, Tier 2, UK Ancestry and PBS Dependant Visas.

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Who does not need to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain?

There are certain circumstances in which an individual can be classed as ‘settled’ in the UK without having to apply for ILR.

Children of those with British citizenship or settled status may be permitted to remain in the UK indefinitely. Further to this, refugees who have found sanctuary in the UK via the Gateway Protection Program may be granted clearance to remain in the UK indefinitely.

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Do I need a Biometric Residence Permit to apply for ILR?

A Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) is a form of biometric identification. It contains your name, date of birth, fingerprints and a digital photograph of your face. It contains information pertaining to your immigration status, any conditions on your leave to remain and information concerning your ability to claim benefits and access services.

You do not need to obtain a Biometric Residence Permit in order to apply for Indefiniet Leave to Remain. If you submit an application and ILR is granted, you will automatically receive a BRP.

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What are the Indefinite Leave to remain fees?

There are three levels of ILR fees, depending on how fast you would like your application processed.

What are the Indefinite Leave to Remain fees and the processing timeframes?

  • 6 months – This is the standard timeframe which currently costs £2,389 per applicant, including any dependents.
  • 5 working days – This is an expedited service for those who need a quick decision on their ILR application. This costs an additional £500.
  • 1 working day – An even faster service at an additional cost of £800.

UK ILR

An additional £50 will be charged for every extra person you apply on behalf of.

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ILR rules regarding periods of absence

In usual circumstances, if you are applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain, you must not have spent more than 180 days outside of the UK in any 12-month period in order to be eligible.

There are exceptions to this rule where absence is considered to be permissible. If you were outside the UK for the following reasons, it will generally be accepted as permissible absence and will not break continuity for the purposes of meeting the continuous period requirement.

Which exceptions are permissible in respect of ILR absence rules?

  • A conflict
  • Serious illness of the applicant or a close relative
  • A natural disaster
  • A holder of a Skilled Worker Visa who is sponsored to work in a PhD level occupation
  • Work undertaken overseas by certain HM armed force reserve members
  • Some absences where the applicant holds a Global Talent Visa
  • Absences of applicants assisting with a national or international economic or humanitarian crisis

It is important to note that your reasons for absence are relevant to maintain your ILR. If you leave the UK for business reasons, this time will not be factored into your overall period of absence.  Similarly, if you have to leave the UK due to exceptional circumstances,

It is advised that you keep a record of the amount of time and the dates that you spend outside of the UK. This will enable you to keep track of time spent outside the UK, and help ensure that you do not lose your ILR status.

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Spouse Visa route to Indefinite Leave to Remain

The Spouse Visa is one of the most applied for visas. It is for those who wish to join their partners in the UK.

In most cases, if you are a spouse of a settled partner, you can apply from a Spouse Visa to Indefinite Leave to Remain after five years of continuous lawful residence in the UK.

Initially, the Spouse Visa lasts for 30 months, and can then be extended for an additional 30 months. Once the Spouse Visa extension expires, the Spouse Visa holder will be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, providing the Marriage Visa requirements and all other requirements can be met.

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Tier 2 to ILR

To apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain from Tier 2 after 5 years of lawful residence in the UK, you must:

  • Meet the minimum ILR financial requirements under your Tier 2 sponsorship (£36,200 for those applying for ILR on or after 6th April 2020)
  • Demonstrate your knowledge of English language and Life in the UK (at least B1 level or above of the CEFR)

Fulfil the maximum ILR absence conditions ie no more than 180 days’ absence from the UK during any consecutive 12-month period within the last 5 years.

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Frequently Asked Questions

You can get Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK through a number of routes. Most applicants will be in the UK with permission as one of the following:

  • A partner
  • A family member
  • A certain type of worker (e.g Skilled Worker / Tier 2)
  • On continuous and long-term lawful residence
  • A person with Ancestry ties.

A dependent child of a British citizen or of person who has settled status in the UK may be given immediate permission to remain indefinitely.

A refugee who is resettled in the UK through the Gateway Protection Programme will automatically be granted immediate permission to remain.

As soon as you meet the eligibility requirements for ILR you can submit an application. You do not need to wait for your visa to expire.

To apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, you need to complete Form SET (O) or Form SET (M), depending on your circumstances.

For those who are applying for ILR as someone’s partner, or as the parent of a child that already holds settled status in the UK, Form Set (M) needs to be filled in.

In all other circumstances, Form Set (O) is that which needs to be completed.

The ILR forms can be found on the gov.uk site.

You must already be in the UK at the time of your application.

In most cases, you will need to show knowledge of the English language and British history and culture by passing an English language test, and the Life in the UK test, respectively.

To prove your eligibility, you will need to submit a substantial portfolio of evidence with your application form. These documents form an essential part of your ILR application, which could be rejected by the Home Office without the proper documents. Our immigration lawyers will guide you all the way so that you can provide as strong a body of evidence for your ILR eligibility as possible.

Once you have completed your ILR application, you can expect to receive a decision within 6 months. For expedited processing times click here.

You must be based in the UK when you submit your form. It is also vitally important that you demonstrate your knowledge of British culture, history and customs through passing the Life in the UK Test. You must also meet the English requirements. There are circumstances in which an individual will be exempt from these, however if they apply to you, you submit your certificates alongside your form.

The Home Office’s fee to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain is £2,389 per applicant. There is an additional £50 for each dependant you include on your application.

It also costs £19.20 to register biometric information.

To find out about the costs for faster ILR processing times click here.

Once you have become settled in the UK, your status may be lost if you spend more than two years outside the country.

For those with ILR who do spend more than two years outside of the country, you may be able to re-enter the UK on a Returning Resident Visa. When determining your eligibility for this, there are a few factors that an immigration official will look at.

  • You must have had Indefinite Leave to Remain when left
  • You must not have relied on public funds in order to finance your travel outside of the country
  • You must intend to re-enter for the purpose of settlement
  • There must be good reasons for you to be classed as a returning resident

Our team of experienced London immigration lawyers understand the immense importance of securing Indefinite Leave to Remain. It is a pivotal step in the journey towards British citizenship, and we can guide you every step of the process.

We have a great track record of securing ILR approvals. Here are some of the services we provide:

  • Determining your eligibility for ILR
  • A thorough document check that ensures that all necessary materials are in place to support your application
  • The completion of your application form to the highest possible standard
  • A Letter of Representation that outlines the strengths of your case to the Home Office, drawing attention to relevant immigration laws
  • Frequent contact with you throughout the process – over the phone, in person or online
  • Maintaining contact with the Home Office throughout the process on your behalf
  • The submission of your application to the Home Office
  • Assisting you with your Life in the UK Test preparation
  • Assisting you with your English language test preparation

If you want to ensure your application has the best chance of success first time, contact our London immigration lawyers today on 020 4502 8582. We offer Advice, Application and Appeal Packages- tailored for your specific situation.