Indefinite Leave to Remain Requirements
Indefinite Leave to Remain – or ILR – is a type of settled status. It can be used by non-EEA nationals who have lived in the UK through a valid UK visa. Only certain visa categories can be used as routes to ILR, such as specific Family Visas and Points-based System Visas. Usually, you need to live in the UK for five years to qualify for ILR, but in some cases this is three or ten.
If you meet the ILR requirements you can live, work, study, and travel to/from the UK without restriction. You can also qualify for British naturalisation and become a citizen of the UK once you have held ILR for at least one year.
To find out more about the requirements for ILR, call our team of London lawyers on 020 4502 8582 for specialist advice on how to settle in the UK.
Indefinite Leave to Remain requirements
There are certain eligibility criteria you must fulfill to apply for ILR.
You must first meet the continuous residency period requirement. This means that you have lived in the UK for a set number of years (this varies depending on which visa/immigration route you are using to qualify). Usually, this is five years, but not always.
During your time spent in the UK, you cannot have been resident outside of the country for more than 180 days during the 12 months running up to your ILR application.
In addition to the continuous residency requirement, you also need to meet several others. These include:
- Having no previous criminal offences or immigration law breaches
- Passing the Life in the UK test
- Meeting the English language requirements
- Meeting the financial requirements (you must show that you are able to support yourself and any dependents and, if applying from the work route that you earn at least £35,000 per year unless working in a shortage role)
If you are found to have deceived the Home Office in any way when making your Indefinite Leave to Remain application, you will no longer be eligible for ILR and they may pursue disciplinary action against you (which could include barring you from making any future applications).
ILR time requirements
The amount of time a person can be lawfully resident in the UK before they are eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain depends on the category they are applying from.
The minimum time period is most commonly five years: this is the case for those living on Spouse Visas, Unmarried Partner Visas and Tier 2 Work Visas.
For a full list of the ILR time requirements applicable to the major visa routes, see below:
|Visa||Minimum time requirement|
|Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa (now the Innovator Visa)||Three – five years|
|Tier 1 Investor Visa||Three – five years|
|Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa||Three years|
|Tier 1 Innovator Visa||Five years|
|Tier 2 Visas||Five years|
|Spouse Visas||Five years|
|Unmarried Partner Visa||Five years|
|UK Ancestry Visa||Five years|
|Tier 2 Dependent Visa||Five years|
|Retired Person Visa||Five years|
Continuous residency requirements
To calculate whether you have met the continuous residency requirement, which is needed to apply for ILR, you must first calculate your time spent in the UK. This can be quite complex, as how long you spent outside of the UK during in your time must be taken into account.
Any time that is spent lawfully living in the UK under a certified entrance route can be used to make up the qualifying time. Time spent in the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands does not count towards the ILR continuous residency requirement.
The qualifying period is calculated by counting backwards from one of the following:
- The date your application for ILR was submitted
- 28 days after your application is submitted
- The date your ILR status is issued to you
Who is exempt from meeting the Indefinite Leave to Remain requirements?
In some circumstances, you may be able to gain Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK without needing to meet the requirements and go through the full application process. For example, if you are a refugee who has gone through the Gateway Protection Program to gain asylum in the UK will be granted automatic ILR. The same is true for dependent children of British citizens.
Periods of absence
When calculating your time spent in the UK to find out whether you meet the continuous residency criteria, any periods of absence will be factored in.
In this context, a ‘period of absence,’ is defined as time which is spent outside of the UK. This is calculated annually.
As a general rule, to be eligible for ILR, your period of absence must not exceed 180 days in the 12 months which precede the application. If your days spent outside the UK in the past year exceed the 180-day limit your continuous residence will be broken. If this is the case, you need to wait another 12 months before applying again and have the residence period recalculated.
All periods of absence need to be in line with the applicant’s reasons for being in the UK and must not go against the restrictions of their visa. For example, if you are in the UK with a Tier 2 Visa, then your periods of absence may be linked to you travelling outside of the UK for work.
Documents which prove continuous residence
There are several documents you can submit alongside your application that will prove you have met the continuous residency requirement. These include, but are not limited to the following:
- Utility bills
- Tenancy agreements
- Bank statements
- Mortgage payments/agreements
English language criteria
You will need to show that you can speak and understand English to the required level to be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
This level is at least B1 in speaking and listening, according to the Common European Framework of Languages.
The ILR English language test can be taken in several places in the UK and around the world. It must be taken with an approved provider, and at an approved SELT centre. You will need to show that you have passed this test by including your certificate in your ILR application.
English language requirement exemptions
You may not have to take an English language test in certain circumstances. For instance, if you are national of a country where English is the official majority language, you will only need to prove this to meet the English language requirement.
If you’re a citizen of any of the following countries you are exempt from having to take the official test:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- New Zealand
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
Also, if you have taken an English-taught degree or higher qualification at a recognised institution, you will also not be required to take a test to prove your capability. You will need, instead, to produce your degree.
You will also be exempt in the following circumstances if you are:
- An adult-dependent between the ages of 18 and 64 currently living with settlement status in the UK
- A victim of domestic violence whose spouse or partner is a British citizen/has settled
- A partner or spouse of a person who has died who was married to a British citizen/person with settled status
The Life in the UK test
The Life in the UK test is an essential requirement for an ILR application. You must submit proof that you have passed the test when you submit your application, which means you must take the test before you apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
The Life in the UK test is comprised of 24 questions about British traditions and customs. The questions range from topics such as British history through to food and popular culture.
To pass the test you need to answer at least 18 answers correctly; the test has a pass rate of 75% or higher. You have 45 to answer all 24 questions.
You should book your test at least three days in advance of taking it. You can take the test at any of the 30 test centres in the UK. The Life in the UK test fee is £50.
You do not need to take the test if you are under the age of 18 or over the age of 65.
A person may also be exempt from taking this test if they have a permanent, debilitating disability that impact their ability to complete everyday tasks or care for themselves. This may be either mental or physical.
Where you can take the test
There are 30 test centres around the UK. You can take your Life in the UK test in any of the following places:
There are two different categories of ILR application forms. These are Form Set (O) and Form Set (M).
Form Set (M) needs to be completed by anyone who is applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain as the dependent partner or child of a person who already has settled status in the UK.
For all other types of application, Form Set (O) should be completed.
The ILR cost has increased annually over the last 10 years. It currently sits at £2,389. Each dependent applying alongside you incurs the same cost.
As well as this, there are other costs to consider when you are making an ILR application and considering if you’re able to meet all the requirements. For example, if you need to sit an English language test, this usually costs £150 and the Life in the UK test costs £50.
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The required documents for ILR are extensive, as you are required to prove your continuous residency in the UK, as well as demonstrate you have a clean and legitimate immigration history. The ILR documents vary depending on which visa route you are applying from.
The following is a list of all the forms of documentation you may need to provide to prove that you meet the ILR requirements:
- A valid passport (or another form of ID, such as a birth certificate or driver’s licence)
- A birth certificate (if applying as a dependent)
- A travel document (if no passport is included)
- Biometric Residence Permits (if issued)
- Evidence of cohabitation (if applying through the spouse/partner route)
- Evidence of adequate accommodation
- Bank statements, payslips, or job contract (to prove you meet the financial requirements)
- Documents explaining any periods of absence (such as travel documents)
- English language certificate or degree (unless exempt)
- Life in the UK Test certificate
- Evidence to show continuous residence (such as tenancy agreements, mortgage statements, council tax bills, and/or utility bills)
- Documents pertaining to any change in personal circumstances
You must hold Indefinite Leave to Remain status for at least one year before you are eligible to make an application for British citizenship.
There are certain circumstances in which you can have your ILR revoked. These include:
- If you leave the UK for a period of two years or more
- If you commit any crimes or offences which are deemed not conducive to the public good (in this circumstance you may be deported)
These vary depending on which route you are applying from. Those applying from the Tier 2 Worker route must show that they are earning at least £35,000 in most circumstances to be eligible, while those applying from the Spouse and Partner route must show that they and their partner have a combined income of at least £18,600.