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What is the difference between permanent residence and indefinite leave to remain?

What is the difference between permanent residence and indefinite leave to remain?

Permanent residence, settled status and Indefinite Leave to Remain are all forms of UK settlement, this leaves many foreign nationals wondering what the difference is between them. Whilst they may sound similar, these status’s are not the same. Find out more about how they differ.

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Are permanent residence, settled status and Indefinite Leave to Remain the same?

Permanent residence, settled status and Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) all give foreign nationals a right to live in the UK without being subject to time restrictions and can each be used as a stepping stone to British citizenship. However, they are not all the same. These status’s vary in who is eligible for them, the rights that they give you and how you apply for them.

If you want to make the UK your permanent home, it’s important for you to understand the differences between them, and which is a more suitable option for you depending on your circumstances. This guide will take you through each of the forms of UK settlement and will explain what they are and how they differ.

EU and UK flag

What is permanent residence?

Permanent residence is a status that can be granted to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who have resided in an EU member state for a continuous 5-year period. Now that the UK has left the EU, applications for permanent residence cards have closed.

Before freedom of movement between the UK and EU ended, EU citizens weren’t required to apply for a card to prove their permanent residence status but it was needed for some types of applications. Now, EU citizens will need to prove that they have a right to permanent residence in the UK and can do this by applying for the new EU Settlement Scheme.

If you are currently an EU citizen with permanent residence, this status won’t be valid from 1 July 2021, so you must apply for the EU Settlement Scheme if you want to remain in the United Kingdom.

EU flags

What is settled status?

Settled status is an immigration status that can be granted to EU nationals under the EU Settlement Scheme. Free movement between the UK and the EU officially ended on 31 December 2020, the EU Settlement Scheme was designed to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK prior to the 1 January 2021.

Settled status will give you the right to live and work in the UK permanently, and allows EU citizens to hold the same rights that they did before freedom of movement ended, meaning that those with settled status can also access public funds and use the NHS. Once you are granted settled status, any children that you have that are born in the UK whilst you are living here will automatically have British citizenship.

Unlike Indefinite Leave to Remain, settled status is free to register for. Another difference between settled status and Indefinite Leave to Remain is that you can leave the UK for up to 5 years without losing your settled status, whereas Indefinite Leave to Remain holders will lose their ILR status if they leave the UK for more than two years.

To be eligible for settled status you will need to prove that you have had at least five years continuous residence in the UK. However, if you had permanent residence before applying for settled status then you will not need to prove this. The deadline to apply for settled status is the 31st of June 2021.

If you have not lived in the UK for 5 years then you can still apply for the EU Settlement Scheme as you may be eligible to receive pre-settled status. This allows you to stay in the UK for a further 5 years and once you have lived in the UK for 5 years, including from the time before you were granted pre-settled status, you can apply to switch to settled status.

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What is Indefinite Leave to Remain?

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is a form of settlement that is available to both non-EU and EU nationals. To be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain you will usually have needed to have lived in the UK for a continuous period of 5 years under a relevant visa category, although this can be reduced to three years in some circumstances. As well as this, there are other requirements that you will need to meet to be granted Indefinite Leave to Remain, they include:

  • Passing the Life in the UK test
  • Demonstrating knowledge of the English language
  • Proving that you have not spent more than 90 days outside the UK in the 12 month qualifying period
  • Not breaching any immigration rules

If you are an EU citizen and you already have Indefinite Leave to Remain, then you do not need to apply for settled status to be able to remain in the UK. However, you may still wish to apply for settled status as it allows you to spend more time outside the UK without losing your status. If you are an EU citizen and you moved to the UK after the 31st December 2020, then you will not be eligible for settled status but you will still be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain after 5 years of continuous residence.

Applying for British citizenship after settlement

To be eligible to apply for British citizenship by naturalisation, you will usually need to have held some form of settlement for at least 12 months, although if you are married to a British citizen you can apply as soon as you are granted settlement. Permanent residence, settled status and Indefinite Leave to Remain can all be used to meet this requirement and are vital steps for foreign nationals who wish to become a British citizen.

As well as meeting the permanent residency requirements, the Home Office will expect you to prove that you can meet a number of other citizenship requirements, these include:

  • Passing the Life in the UK test
  • Meeting the good character requirement
  • Demonstrating knowledge of the English language
  • Not being in breach of any immigration rules

If you have already taken and passed the Life in the UK Test as part of a previous Indefinite Leave to Remain application, you will not be required to sit it again.

When you submit your application, you must provide supporting documents to prove that you are able to meet the above criteria. Failure to do so could result in the Home Office delaying or rejecting your application.