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.
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 benefit to ILR is 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.
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.
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 documents, to liaising with the Home Office on your behalf.