Apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain

Indefinite Leave To Remain (ILR) confirms your right to live in the UK permanently, without any time limit and free from immigration control. Indefinite Leave to Remain is also sometimes understood as Settlement or Permanent Residence.

In most cases, obtaining Indefinite Leave to Remain is necessary to be eligible for British Citizenship.

What is Indefinite Leave To Remain?

Indefinite Leave to Remain is an immigration status granted to individuals, enabling them to stay, study and/or work in the UK without limitations and restrictions. It is also known as Permanent Residence or Settled Status.

Individuals who obtain this status are able to go in and out of the country as they please and can remain in the UK without restrictions. Various benefits include full access to public healthcare, state education for students below 18 years' old, public funds and more.

Although the term includes the word ‘indefinite', it is important to note that this status is not permanent and can be lost if the individual is absent from the country for an extended period of time of over 2 or 5 years. The only permanent residence status is the British Citizenship.

However, there is the possibility to apply to reinstate or renew ILR, provided you meet the eligibility requirements.

ILR Status and Permanent Residence eligibility

ILR and Settled Status

Under the EU Settlement Scheme, qualifying EU citizens either have Pre-Settled or Settled Status. Having the Settled Status means that you have been residing in the UK for at least five years, thus granting Indefinite Leave to Remain.

EU citizens who entered the UK before 31 December 2020 but failed to apply to the scheme, or EEA nationals who entered after this date, may now need to either submit a late application or apply for a visa before they can be eligible for ILR.

ILR & British citizenship

If you are not a British or Irish citizen, you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), which is a major step towards becoming a British citizen.

Having ILR does not automatically make you a British citizen, but it is usually a requirement for those who want to apply for British citizenship. Many people who obtain ILR later apply for citizenship.

If you are married to a British Citizen, you may be eligible for British Citizenship once you achieve ILR. For other applicants, you may usually apply for British Citizenship after you have been living in the UK for at least twelve months with ILR. This assumes that your circumstances haven't changed significantly since you obtained ILR. To become a full British citizen, you will need to apply for British citizenship by naturalisation and submit your application to the Home Office.

Once you become a British citizen, you can apply for a British passport and enjoy all the benefits of being a citizen.

How can you obtain Indefinite Leave To Remain?

To be eligible for Indefinite Leave To Remain, you must first be in the UK on a category that leads to settlement, the period of your route to settlement depends on the category that your settlement plan falls under. Routes toward Indefinite Leave To Remain can span between just 2 years and a decade depending on your situation. Here are the different categories:

ILR requirements - valid visa routes

2 years' route towards obtaining ILR

Relevant visa category:

This route is only available to investors who are planning on putting £10 million or more into the UK economy, this is the option that best suits business people who want to improve the UK economy and plan on doing so while based in the country.

3 years' route towards obtaining ILR

Relevant visa categories:

A 3-year route is available to those who seek to partake in and help improve the UK, this includes investors who will be putting £5 million or more into UK government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies. The three-year route is also available to entrepreneurs who intend on building businesses that can employ up to 10 people on a full-time basis and run a business with an income (or a net increase income) of at least £5 million. Those under the Innovator Founder Visa and certain Global Talent Visa routes may also qualify.

5 years' route towards obtaining ILR / PR:

Relevant visa categories:

This route is available to investors and entrepreneurs, this time investors who intend on putting at least £2 million into the UK economy and entrepreneurs who will be creating 2 full-time jobs alongside meeting all the requirements while on the respective visa plan. Those under a Skilled Worker Visa, Global Talent Visa, Sole Representatives of an Overseas Business and pre-settled individuals may also qualify.

For those who are planning on coming to the UK to work, there are highly-skilled professional routes such as the Skilled Worker Visa (formerly known as Tier 2 General Visa) available which offer 5-year paths towards Indefinite Leave to Remain.

There are also a number of paths to ILR that can be taken through families that offer a 5-year route, such as visas that cover a legitimate spouse, proposed civil partner or even  unmarried partner of a permanent UK resident. There are also options for  parents and those who are of British ancestry.

We can also help those seeking Asylum in the UK work towards a 5-year route that will grant an eventual Indefinite Leave to Remain.

6 years' route towards obtaining ILR  

There is a 6-year Discretionary Leave to Remain option for those who meet exceptional circumstances, there is government guidance on this matter and it is advisable to work alongside a law team for those considering this path as a strong case will have to be put forth.

10 years' route towards obtaining ILR

Parents and partners (as covered in the 5-year route) can also opt for a 10-year route towards Indefinite Leave to Remain in certain cases. Again, a strong case will be needed for a 10-year route so it is advisable to take on legal professional advice.  

There is also an option available for those who have legally resided in the UK for 10 years as well as those who have accumulated at least 20 years of residence in the UK (this includes periods of unlawful stay). You may be able to gain a visa that will allow for an Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK based on your  Private Life.  

Commonwealth Citizens and Indefinite Leave to Remain

Commonwealth citizens who have been living in the UK for five years on a UK Ancestry visa can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) under the UK immigration rules.

However, even if you do not have a UK Ancestry visa, you may still be eligible for ILR through other means, such as the work visa or spouse visa.

It's important to note that some Commonwealth citizens have the 'right to abode' in the UK, meaning they can live or work without immigration restrictions. Additionally, some may even be able to apply for British citizenship without obtaining ILR first.

In addition, Commonwealth citizens who have served in the British Armed Forces can apply for ILR after serving for a qualifying period of four years.

Rules changes to Private Life

The UK Government has introduced the Appendix Private Life, which came into force on 20 June 2022. These changes aim to benefit children and young adults in the UK so that they may be able to access Indefinite Leave to Remain earlier and more easily.

Previously, a probationary period of 10 years was needed for ILR through Private Life. The changes coming into force should allow children and under-25s to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after 5 years of qualifying residence, usually on the Private Life route.

Another key change includes the possibility for children born in the UK to apply for ILR after the first 7 years of their life to avoid having to repeatedly apply for extensions and face uncertainty about the future.

ILR status requirements after continuous residence

After completing your continuous residence period in the UK, you are not automatically eligible for ILR. You must submit an application and provide evidence of your eligibility. The criteria and evidence required for qualifying for Indefinite Leave to Remain include:

  • Continue fulfilling the relevant requirements of your current visa route
  • Continuous lawful residence in the UK for the required qualifying period
  • Demonstrate knowledge of language and life in the UK (unless exempt)
  • Pass the Life in the UK Test
  • Meet the English language test or qualification requirements

Other specific ILR requirements will depend on which route applies to your situation.

ILR Qualification Criteria - Life in the UK Test for Permanent Residency

English language requirements for ILR status

To meet the English language requirement, you can show proof in the following ways:

  • Holding an English qualification at B1, B2, C1, or C2 level
  • Obtaining a degree taught or researched in English
  • Being a citizen of a majority English-speaking country (refer to the list of exempted nationalities below)
English Language ILR Requirements

Note that the English language requirement is waived for applicants:

  • aged 65 or over
  • who are nationals of an English-speaking country
  • unable to meet the requirement due to a physical or mental condition
English speaking countries for UK Visa application

ILR exemptions

There are certain individuals who do not need to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain to obtain settled status in the UK. These include:

  • Those who are eligible for British citizenship by descent, registration or other forms of automatic citizenship
  • Those who have a claim to the Right of Abode
  • Adult dependents reliant on long-term care from a family member who is a British Citizen or who has settled status
  • Child dependents of a British citizen or a parent(s) with settled status
  • Refugees who have been resettled in the UK through the Gateway Protection Programme

When can I apply for ILR?

The general rule of thumb is that you can usually apply for ILR upon completion of your residential period before your visa existing permission expires or within 28 days before the completion of your residential period, whichever is sooner.

If you require any help with your application, please contact us and our Advisor will get in touch to discuss your case.

Documents required to apply for ILR

For ILR applications, you may need to provide additional documents based on your individual circumstances. Nonetheless, there are some documents that will always be required.

A valid form of ID is a key requirement. This is usually a current passport. Certain form of alternative identification may sometimes be accepted under special circumstances.

Additionally, you will need to provide all previous passports you have held while you have been staying in the UK.

If you have a Biometric Residence Permit, you will also need to provide this.

If you are required to prove that you passed the Life in the UK Test, you only need your unique reference number. The Home Office will use this number to check whether you have passed the test, and should not need any additional documentation.

There are usually also other documents needed showing eligibility and suitability, such as:

  • Birth or adoption certificates
  • A history of your immigration
  • Any conviction, bankruptcy, or debt with NHS
  • Residence, work, family life information
  • Financial information, such as bank statements
  • Documents which account for any time spent outside of the UK during your residency, for example travel documents
  • Passport and travel documents, including any old passport which was valid during your time in the UK
  • Pass confirmation of Life in the UK test
  • Pass certificate (if not exempt) to prove B1 level of English (if not from an English speaking country)

Other documents you may need

If any of your documents are not in English or Welsh, you may be required to provide certified translations. Passports, bills or bank statements are all examples of documents that may be translated.

If this applies to you, you will need to make sure that the services you are choosing are official and will be accepted by the Home Office.

Biometric Residence Permit

When applying for ILR, you may be asked to provide biometrics as part of your application, even if you have done so for a previous visa or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). Once your ILR application is approved, you will receive a new BRP showing your ILR status, which is valid until the stated expiry or when the Home Office changes to digital status in future.

Once your BRP expires, you will need to renew it unless you have left the UK for more than two years or have already become a British citizen. When you receive your BRP, ensure that all details, including the expiry date, are accurate. If there are any errors, contact the Home Office immediately.

Note that due to changes in encryption technology, new BRPs may have an expiry date of 31 December 2024. This will not affect your status, and the Home Office will provide guidance on updating early-expiring cards.

How to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain

All applications can be made online through the Home Office website.

Applying online

The Home Office has different forms available, depending on the circumstances of your application:

  1. You are applying as the Partner or the Parent of someone already settled in the UK:
    https://visas-immigration.service.gov.uk/product/set-m
  2. You are applying under the 10-year Long Residence route:
    https://visas-immigration.service.gov.uk/product/set-lr
  3. You are applying under certain categories for shorter ILR routes:
    https://visas-immigration.service.gov.uk/product/set-o
  4. You are applying for ILR as a refugee or have discretionary leave:
    https://www.gov.uk/settlement-refugee-or-humanitarian-protection

You must ensure that you are applying through the correct form that suits your situation. If you require help to successfully submit the correct application form, please contact our experienced team to discuss your case.

Indefinite leave to remain application form

There are two main forms used for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) applications: Form Set (O), Form Set (M) and Form Set (LR).

Form Set (M) is for those who are applying for ILR as a partner or parent of a child who is already settled in the UK.

Form Set (O) is for all other ILR applications, including those who have been living under different types of visas such as Investor and Global Talent visas, Long-term Worker visas, Skilled Worker Visas PBS dependants, and UK Ancestry visas.

Form Set (LR) is for those who are applying for ILR as after 10 years' Long Residence under a combination of various visas. For example, an applicant on Student route which on its own does not lead to settlement, but may be eligible for ILR with a combination of visas for the continuous period of 10 years.

Filling the application form

Applications can be filled out online, and the Home Office gives you the option to save your progress, so you can continue at a later time if required. This ensures you have the time to finish gathering documents and provide the full answers. It is vital to ensure the form is filled as accurately and clearly as possible, to increase your chances of success.

The online form will take you through multiple steps and questions, first with introduction questions and queries related to your application, followed by the opportunity to upload documents. The final steps include a declaration, and you will need to pay your ILR application fee at this point. Any further actions will be highlighted before the Home Office confirms that your ILR application has been received.

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Life in the UK Test

You will need to show that your Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK (KOLL) by taking the  Life in the UK Test (LUK) and producing an English test certificate or qualification above the CEFR Level B1. Once you have passed the Life in the UK test, you do not need to retake it to qualify for British Citizenship.

If you are under the age of 18 or over the age of 65, you are exempt from this requirement,

What happens after you are granted ILR.

If you are granted Indefinite Leave to Remain, you are able to leave and re-enter the UK without any immigration restrictions.

Circumstances where you may lose ILR

valid residence and absences

Leaving the country for a continuous period of 2 years or more may lead to the loss or revocation of your indefinite leave to remain status. If this is the case, you may have to apply for a Returning Resident Visa to resume or reinstate ILR again.

There are exceptions to the 2-year rule. For example – you may still retain Indefinite Leave to Remain if you hold Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme, if you have been away for over 2 years but under 5 years. For more information, please check out our pages on absences from the UK.

How to renew your Indefinite Leave to Remain

You may apply for a Returning Resident Visa if you meet the eligibility criteria, which are:

  • You previously had ILR before you left the UK
  • You have not received any financial help from the Home Office

Additionally, you may have to show why you had to leave the UK and the circumstances around your departure, as well as what ties you to the UK (such as a family member or having resided in the country for an extended period of time).

Supporting documents may include those showing that

  • you have maintained strong ties to the UK while you were absent
  • UK connections or assets you are returning to
  • any exceptional reasons why you were absent for the extended period

All ILR applications are made online on the Home Office Website.

Application Fees for ILR Renewal

Paying the ILR renewal fee

When applying to renew your Indefinite Leave to Remain through a Returning Resident Visa, you will be asked to pay a fee of £637.

Each dependant (partner or children) will need to apply separately if they are eligible. If this applies to family members, you will need to pay the fee for each application.

You should apply for the Returning Resident Visa outside of the UK, prior to returning to the UK.

Want assistance from an immigration specialist?

Our team of immigration lawyers has extensive experience providing immigration advice for Indefinite Leave to Remain cases and other UK visa matters.

You can meet our immigration specialists in person, or we can provide a fully online service for all UK immigration matters.

The immigration rules often get updated, so if you would like to discuss your UK Visa options with our immigration lawyers, please get in touch.

Decision times for ILR Applications

The decision time for Indefinite Leave to Remain applications varies depending on the route, visa category, and individual circumstances. Applications that require further enquiries typically take longer to process than usual.

UKVI publishes processing times for ILR applications on their website, which can provide an estimated timeframe for your application.

The general processing time for ILR applications is up to 6 months, but most are decided in 8 weeks. You can expedite certain ILR applications using the super-priority service, which costs an additional £800. With the super-priority service, your ILR application will usually be decided within 24 hours.

Can I vote in the UK if I have Indefinite Leave to Remain?

If you have ILR, you can only vote in national and local elections and referendum in the UK if you are a qualifying Commonwealth citizen. To find out if you are a qualifying Commonwealth citizen, you can refer to the definition on the Electoral Commission's website

What is the difference between ILR and EU Settled Status?

See the table below:

Can family members join me in the UK once I have been granted ILR?

If you have been granted ILR, your family members who are not British citizens may be able to join you in the UK, subject to different rules depending on their relationship to you. These rules vary for partners, spouses, fiancé(e)s, children, parents, and adults who come to be cared for by a relative.

Is the Life in the UK test required for the ILR application?

Yes, the Life in the UK test is required for most ILR applications unless:

  • you are applying for Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme
  • you qualify for exemption

How long does my ILR status remain valid?

Your status is valid indefinitely, and can only lapse if you have been outside of the UK for 2 consecutive years, or 5 years if you hold Settled Status under the EUSS.

What is the list of English Language countries?

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • Republic of Ireland (for citizenship only)
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA

Will I be eligible for a British Passport once I have ILR status?

Not immediately. You will first have to apply for British citizenship (Naturalisation), and once that is granted you may apply for your first British passport.

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FAQ

Is the Life in the UK test required for the ILR application?
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Yes, the Life in the UK test is required for most ILR applications unless:

  • you are applying for Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme
  • you qualify for an exemption.

I have lost my Indefinite Leave to Remain, how can I get back into the UK?
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If you have lost your Indefinite Leave to Remain, you must apply for a Returning Resident Visa before attempting to enter the UK.

Will I be eligible for a British Passport once I have ILR status?
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Not immediately. You will first have to apply for British citizenship (Naturalisation), and once that is granted you may apply for your first British passport.

How do I know what route offers me the best chance to obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain?
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Obtaining ILR is a different process for everybody and finding the route that best suits you is key to your success. In order to make sure you put forth the right application with all of the essential information on it, you should consult with a team of legal professionals who can help advise you on your best options and allow you to put forward the best possible case for an Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Can I vote in the UK if I have Indefinite Leave to Remain?
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If you have ILR, you can only vote in national and local elections and referendums in the UK if you are a qualifying Commonwealth citizen. To find out if you are a qualifying Commonwealth citizen, you can refer to the definition on the Electoral Commission's website

What happens after you are granted ILR status?
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If you are granted Indefinite Leave to Remain, you are able to leave and re-enter the UK without any immigration restrictions.

Can family members join me in the UK once I have been granted ILR?
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If you have been granted ILR, your family members who are not British citizens may be able to join you in the UK, subject to different rules depending on their relationship with you. These rules vary for partners, spouses, fiancé(e)s, children, parents, and adults who come to be cared for by a relative.

What is the list of English Language countries?
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What is the list of English Language countries?

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • Republic of Ireland (for citizenship only)
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA
How long does my ILR status remain valid?
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Your status is valid indefinitely, and can only lapse if you have been outside of the UK for 2 consecutive years, or 5 years if you hold Settled Status under the EUSS.

The path to ILR that I have chosen has been rejected, what next?
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If your visa application has been refused you must act swiftly. The Home Office may reconsider but you will need a strong case if you want to convince them to overturn their decision. You may be given the option to submit an appeal or administrative review. It is essential that every argument has been considered and every relevant piece of evidence has been filed to give you the best chance possible, because of this it is recommended that you work with a team of lawyers.

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