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Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)/settlement is the pivotal step and end goal for the number of foreign immigrants including civil partners, spouses, skilled workers, business entrepreneurs, investors, sportspeople, etc. Ultimately, it’s a pathway toward naturalization and getting full British Citizenship.

Individuals will be eligible to apply for the ILR once they are approved for Biometric Residence Permit. They will become entitled to live, work, study, and even own a mortgaged property without any Immigration restrictions and control.

In most circumstances, an individual can apply after five years of continuous residence. In some cases, some can apply even after 2 years depending on the route of immigration an applicant is taking to come to the UK.

Be sure that you are not absent for more than 180-days, especially during the last 12 months of your stay in the UK. If you are unable to fulfil or fail to abide by any of the requirements you may be unable to apply for ILR.

ILR eligibility requirements

Typically, the major requirements to become eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain status are as follows.

You must be able to:

  • Take and pass the Standard English language requirements
  • Lawfully reside in the UK for the minimum qualifying period as set out by the Home Office (UK Immigration policy)
  • Satisfy the ‘character suitability’ requirements—have no criminal record or have not breached any immigration law during your stay in the UK
  • Meet the 180-day limit i.e. you must not stay outside the UK for more than 180-days and in a consecutive 12-month period
  • Pass the ‘Life in UK test

Who can get exemptions for ILR?

Following applicants are exempted to apply for ILR and are automatically considered for and granted settled status in the UK:

  • Refugees with settled status in the UK through the Gateway Protection Program
  • Child dependents of a British citizen or person having settled status
  • Those eligible for Permanent Residency/British Citizenship by descent — UK ancestry
  • An adult-dependent of a person with a settled status/ a British Citizen who requires long-term care from their UK family member
  • These exceptional cases stipulate that it is possible to secure a Permanent Residency without having to hold a specific immigration visa/route

What are the different routes to Indefinite Leave to Remain?

If you have abode by the immigration rules and regulations whilst residing in the UK under a settlement visa, you are entitled to apply for the ILR. The minimum threshold qualifying period depends on the kind of visa or immigration route you are holding and these include:

  • T1 Investor Visa (Tier 1)
  • Tier 1 Innovator Visa
  • Tier 1 Start-up Visa
  • Global talent (Tier1 (Exceptional Talent)
  • Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa
  • Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa
  • Spouse Visa
  • Family Visa
  • Unmarried Civil Partner
  • Long residence
  • Retired Person Visa
  • Returning Resident
  • T2 Ministry of Religion (Tier 2 Visa)
  • Skilled worker (Tier 2 (general)
  • T2 sportsperson (Tier 2 (Sportsperson)
  • Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer Visa
  • Representative of an overseas (Media representative and Sole Representative)
  • T5 (Temporary worker) International Agreement Worker (Private Servant in a Diplomatic Household)

There are lesser traditional routes, that will sanction an applicant to become eligible for ILR without holding any specific category visa. Find out more with our Axis legal advisory package on 0800 048 7573 or feel free to drop an email at contact@axis.lawyer.

ILR qualifying period requirement

The requirements to qualify for the settlement/ILR vary depending on the circumstances of the applicant including the nature of the visa (type of immigration route) they hold. For instance:

  • Applicants with Domestic Worker in a Private Household route qualify to apply after lawfully living in the UK for 5 continuous years
  • Applicants with Entrepreneur — Tier 1 route — the qualifying period to settlement is 3 or 5 years
  • Applicants with Investor — Tier 1 route — can qualify to ILR/settlement after 2,3 or 5 years provided they have met the requirements
  • And the applicants with Retired Person of Independent route — the qualifying period to settlement is after 5 years

ILR after 5 years continuous period

As mentioned earlier, the minimum qualifying period to stand eligible for ILR /settlement depends on your current resident status and the type of visa you are holding in the UK.

In most cases, if you are non-EEA, whether you are residing outside/ inside the UK, then 5-year continuous period of lawful residence is applied. Typically, the following visa holders can apply for ILR UK after five years of continuous period:

  • UK Ancestry Visa
  • Family Visa
  • Spouse Visa
  • Unmarried Partner Visa
  • Business Visas

Contact us for detailed guidance on these visa categories.

ILR with less than 5 years of residency

Following Tiers/visa holders are exempted from a 5-year qualifying period to UK settlement and they are granted permission to live in the UK permanently:

  • Tier 1 Global Talent Visa — applicants can apply for ILR only after three years of continuous residence in the UK, provided that the last endorsement was designated under the ‘leaders’ category and was endorsed by a science body.
  • Innovator Visa — Eligible after 3 years depending on the business achievement
  • Tier 1 Investor Visa — This route is closed as of 17 February 2022. If you were already on this visa as an Investor, you can apply for settlement after 2, 3 or 5 years, depending upon your level of investment.
  • Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa — This route has also been closed as of 29 March 2019. Those already on this route can be eligible after 3 years depending upon the business activity.
  • For citizens of the Commonwealth (those who served in the British Armed Forces), the qualifying period for ILR is after only 4 years.

ILR after 10 years long residency

Once the applicants have completed their 10 years of continuous lawful residence in the UK, they can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. The lawful residence period can be completed with various combinations of visa applications. The applicants must not have more than 540 days of absence from the UK in 10 years period. However, in case of absences over 540 days, the Home office can exercise discretion in some instances.

If your application for Indefinite Leave to Remain is due and you have exceeded the number of days you were allowed to remain outside the UK (under 10 years long residence), contact our legal team at Axis Solicitors to discuss your circumstances in detail.

Under particular circumstances, it is possible that the minimum threshold to qualify for ILR is less than 5 years of residency in the UK, and these include:

  • Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa—applicants can apply for ILR only after three years of continuous residence in the UK
  • For citizens of the Commonwealth (those who served for the British Armed Forces), the minimum qualification period for ILR is after only four years of continuous residence in the UK
  • A dependant of a British citizen can settle in the UK without needing to qualify for the ILR requirements

Documents for Indefinite Leave to remain application

Generally, the following evidence must be provided for your Indefinite Leave to remain application:

  • A valid passport or a travel document including the old passport provided it was valid during the time of your Residency in the UK during/ before the date of ILR application.
  • A travel history if any, if you have immigrated to the UK in the past under any Visa category.
  • A certified pass certificate of ‘Life in the UK’ test
  • A certified pass certificate of English Proficiency (B1 level as specified by the CEFR).
  • Adoption/birth certificates (if applicable)
  • A police registration certificate, for those who are required to register with the police during their arrival in the UK.
  • A travel proof, confirming any time spent outside the UK during your residency period.
  • Financial information such as bank statements, etc.
  • Any other relevant documentation that would be relevant to your specific visa category.
  • Immigration history.

English Language Requirements for ILR

It is required to satisfy UK immigration rules and regulations including meeting the standard English language (B1 level specified by CEFR) requirements to stand eligible for the Permanent Residency/ Indefinite Leave to Remain UK.

You can fulfil the English language requirement in the following ways:

  • A B1 certificate of English Proficiency issued by the certified and approved test centre OR
  • Accredited English taught degree (Bachelors/Masters/Ph.D.) recognizable by UK ENIC (previously known as UK NARIC) OR
  • Having completed a degree (Bachelors/Masters/Ph.D.) in the UK

Being outside the UK longer than 180 Days

In order to be able to apply for ILR, you must not be outside the UK for more than 180-days in any given consecutive 12 month period. Under exceptional cases, it is recommended for all the applicants to attach a document of evidence stating a sound reason for their absences exceeding 180 consecutive days. These could include the following:

  • Birth/death certificates
  • Medical certificates
  • Evidence of travel crisis about the delays in entry to the UK

It is advised to keep a strong record of absences (period) spent outside the UK when applying for the ILR. The number of days can be counted backwards in the following ways: whichever is beneficial for the applicants:

  • From the date of ILR application
  • Any date up to 28 days after the application date or
  • Date of decision

180 Days limit for settled workers

UK Annual paid leaves for settled workers

It is also mandatory to duly note for any applicant belonging to the ‘settled work/Employment Visa category’, the evidence (in the form of a letter) is required regarding the ‘paid annual leave’ must be ‘in line with UK annual paid leaves entitlement to settled workers’. For some, the employers provide the legislative paid annual leave of up to 5.6 weeks paid holiday each year which for those working 5 days a week is 28 days of paid leave. While for many, the employer’s contract offers 25-30 days paid leave per year (including National Bank Holidays), so it must clarify in the letter with the ILR application.

As per immigration policy, to qualify for ILR status, any stays outside the UK during the ‘weekends or non-working period’ do not break the continuity of leave. However, these reasons must be stipulated clearly within your employment contract/ letter to be provided with the ILR application in case of absences from the UK during the minimum qualifying period to UK settlement. This will validate that any absences under the ’employment category’ are considered normal working paid leaves and that it does not disturb the pattern of the minimum qualifying threshold (180- days limit).

It is also important to understand that if the business no longer exists, any extended period of stay out of the UK is not permissible, and applicants shall lose the right to apply for the UK settlement status.

If your Indefinite leave to remain application was rejected

As daunting and painstaking news it can be for the applicant for getting the refusal of Indefinite Leave to Remain, you can still secure your chances of getting a permanent residency in the UK regardless. Usually, your refusal letter states the reasons for this rejection. Alternatively, there are a number of options (also indicated in the rejection letter) to make an ILR appeal in the following manners:

  • Fresh start the ILR application to rectify any mistakes/missing information previously made
  • Seek a Judicial Review or
  • Administrative Review — if the important shred of evidence was not thoroughly reviewed by your immigration officials
  • Official legal Appeal against the Home office decision if the refusal was unjust and you have sound grounds to back your appeal

It is important to note, that your ILR rejection letter should indicate the information whether or not you are eligible/entitled to make a refusal appeal or resubmit the application with fresh evidence through the aforestated options.

Was your ILR application rejected?

It is advisable to always seek legal help, especially when dealing with the refusal and relaunching appeals against the decision of the Home Office. Our bespoken legal professionals can offer you an ILR appeal package. We are only a call away so don’t hesitate to reach out to discuss your case.

Are you looking to submit an ILR application for the first time?

We make sure that our clients are successful in securing British Citizenship and ultimately, enjoy the privileged life of a typical UK citizen. ILR is the first step towards naturalisation. Our legal team backed with years of experience with settlement matters will make sure you do not have to face rejection due to incomplete evidence or mistakes in the application.

Settlement in the UK - FAQs

What is the validity of ILR?

Your settled status / ILR does not expire. However, you are at the risk of losing it if you do not follow the rules concerning it. For example, being outside the UK voluntarily beyond the allowed period.

How long can I stay outside the UK after getting ILR?

Once you have become an ILR holder, you should not be outside the UK for a continuous period of more than 2 years. Failing to do so, you are likely to lose the status.

What is the processing time for ILR applications?

It can take between 8 weeks to 6 months for the applicant to receive a response on their ILR application.

You may be able to expedite the process by using the super priority service which can be availed by paying an extra £800.

What is the minimum continuous residence requirement for ILR?

This varies depending on the visa, however, for most immigration routes, the minimum ILR requirement is continuous residence of at least 5 years.