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What is the difference between ILR and British citizenship?

British citizenship and Indefinite Leave to Remain both grant you permanent residence in the UK, but there are differences between the two.

Do you need help with a British citizenship or Indefinite Leave to remain application? Contact our immigration lawyers today on 020 4502 8582 to find out more about how they can help you.


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    The difference between ILR and British citizenship

    Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and British citizenship both give you the right to stay in the UK permanently, this similarity leaves many foreign nationals wondering what the difference is between the two.

    The main difference between holding ILR status and being a British citizen comes down to the rights that you are granted under each. Having ILR allows you to live and work in the UK without time restrictions but it does not grant you the same rights that a UK citizen has. These rights include the ability to vote, hold public office and apply for a British passport.

    With ILR, there is also a limit on how much time you can spend outside the UK. If you leave the UK for more than two years, you will lose your ILR status. To return and continue living in the UK following this, you will need to apply for a Returning Resident Visa to have your ILR status reinstated. However, as a British citizen, you can leave the UK for as long as you want and still retain your UK nationality.

    British passport

    What are the benefits of Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK?

    Many UK immigration routes can lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain, and achieving ILR status is a necessary goal for any foreign national who wishes to make the UK their permanent home. To be eligible to apply for ILR, you will usually need to have lived in the UK under a relevant UK visa for at least five years. You will also need meet other requirements like demonstrating your knowledge of the English language and passing the Life in the UK test.

    The main benefits of ILR are the freedom to live, work and study in the UK free of time restrictions, meaning that you won’t have to worry about applying for visa extensions or having to leave the UK. As well as this, having ILR means that you will have access to the UK’s benefits system and you will also no longer have to pay the immigration health surcharge to be able to access the NHS.

    If you do wish to become a British citizen using the process of naturalisation, then being granted ILR status is a key step as you must have settlement before you can apply for British citizenship.

    The benefits of becoming a British citizen

    Whilst many foreign nationals are content with ILR, applying for British citizenship after ILR comes with many benefits. Once you have naturalised as a British citizen, you will be given the same rights as any other UK national. British citizenship gives you the right to vote in all UK elections and to stand for office. As well as this, you will be eligible to apply for a British passport, which you cannot apply for with ILR. You can use your passport to travel freely in and out of the country and can spend as long as you want outside the UK without being subject to immigration restrictions.

    Becoming a British citizen will also mean that you will be able to apply for citizenship for your children born outside the UK and that any children you have inside the UK will automatically be British citizens.

    The UK government also allows dual citizenship, so you don’t have to give up your original citizenship to also become a British citizen. However, it’s important to note that you can only hold dual citizenship if your original country of origin also gives you the right to dual nationality.

    Do you want to apply for British citizenship after obtaining Indefinite Leave to Remain? Our lawyers can get you started on your application today Contact us

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      When can you apply for British citizenship after getting Indefinite Leave to Remain?

      You can apply for British citizenship after one year of holding Indefinite Leave to Remain status. This means you must have lived in the UK for at least one full year before making your application to become a British citizen.

      If you make your application before having lived full-time in the UK before this time then your application for British citizenship will be automatically refused by the Home Office.

      However, if you are the spouse of a British citizen, you do not have to wait 12 months and can apply for British citizenship once you have ILR status.

      What are the quickest routes to Indefinite Leave to Remain?

      The quickest route to Indefinite Leave to Remain depends on your situation. In the majority of cases if you have a work visa then you must have lived and worked in the UK for at least five years before applying for ILR status.

      However, if you have an innovator or global talent visa then this requirement could be reduced to three years – assuming you meet the other criteria including salary/financial requirements.

      How to apply for British citizenship

      If you have decided that you would like to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen after ILR then you can make your application either online or by post.  Usually, you will need to wait at least 12 months after being granted settled status before you can make a citizenship application.

      The British citizenship application process is very complex, as well as holding ILR, you will need to prove that you can meet several other strict requirements. These include passing the Life in the UK test, being able to understand the English language and meeting the good character requirement.

      As part of your British citizenship application, you will be required to provide a number of supporting documents to prove that you are able to meet the requirements. These could include your English language and Life in the UK test pass certificates and proof that you have been living in the UK for the required qualifying period.

      The final step of becoming a British citizen is the citizenship ceremony. You are required to attend a citizenship ceremony where you will swear the oath of allegiance and make your citizenship pledge. You must book the ceremony within three months of receiving your invitation.

      Once all of these steps have been completed, you will officially be recognised as a British citizen and will automatically have the right to vote and be able to apply for your first British passport.

      Who is eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain?

      There are several routes that offer the opportunity to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. In most cases, you must be in the UK under one of the following visas/routes:

      This is not an exhaustive list, and you can become eligible for ILR through alternative routes that do not require a set visa. You are advised to contact an immigration specialist if you believe you may qualify for ILR under a different route.

      What is the application process from ILR to British Citizenship?

      To be granted British citizenship you will need to make an application – this can be done using a paper form or online. You will need to include supporting documentation, an application fee and your biometric information as part of the process to moving from ILR to British citizenship status.

      In most cases you will need to provide the following alongside your application for British citizenship:

      • Proof of your knowledge of the English language and of life in the UK: If you have passed the Life in the UK test, then you need to include your pass document. Alternatively, you can submit a certificate if you have an English language qualification at B1 CEFR or higher. The qualification must be the list of recognised tests and must have been taken at a approved test centre.
      • Confirmation that you were lawfully resident in the UK during the qualifying period.
      • Proof of previous immigration status. This includes all visas held prior to becoming settled in the UK.
      • Any travel details pertaining to a period of absence outside of the UK.
      • Your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) card, or other proof that you possess Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or settled status.
      • Proof of your identity and permanent residence status such as a passport, birth certificate or any other travel documentation.
      • Confirmation that you are not a Person Subject to Immigration Control (PSIC) and that your leave to remain does not have any time restrictions.

      It can take up to six months for the Home Office to process your application and there is no fast track option available to speed up this timeframe.

      Do you need immigration assistance?

      Deciding on the best immigration route for yourself can be difficult to do, the UK immigration system is notoriously complex and confusing, but our London immigration lawyers are here to help. Our lawyers offer advice sessions where they can discuss your situation with you, find out more about exactly what you want and can advise you on the best immigration options available to you. If you can’t decide whether or not to apply for British citizenship after ILR our lawyers can talk you through the differences and can answer any questions that you may have about the application process.

      If you do want to apply for British citizenship, or if you don’t yet have ILR and wish to apply for this, then our lawyers can also assist you throughout the entire application process. The services they offer range from helping you with filling in the application form and gathering your supporting Indefinite Leave to Remain documents, to liaising with the Home Office on your behalf.