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How long can I stay outside the UK with indefinite leave to remain?

If individual ILR holders reside outside of the United Kingdom for 2 or more years, their ILR will be lost.

For more information about possible restrictions, or to have any questions or concerns you might have answered by a legal professional, reach out to us today on 0333 4149244, or contact us online.



Indefinite Leave to Remain holders will lose their ILR status if they have been outside of the UK continuously for 2 or more years.

They may be eligible to apply to reinstate it by choosing a returning resident visa if they have lost their ILR under this circumstance.

There are exceptions to the 2 year time limit, however, for individuals serving in the UK military or UK government, along with their dependants if relevant.


You must be able to prove that:

  • You have a connection to the UK, such as family who reside in the UK
  • You can explain your period of absence or circumstances as to why you left the UK
  • A valid passport
  • Allowed to re-enter the UK


All dependents will be required to apply for a separate returning resident visa if they are travelling with you.

Dependants are usually:

  • A child
  • A partner or Spouse


At present, the fee for applying for a returning resident visa costs £531.

The fee for applying for ILR, is £2,389

Applicants should consider and prepare for the hidden costs when applying for ILR or a returning resident visa, such as paying rent, updating passports, healthcare surcharge fees, tax, and more.

Processing time

The current processing time for a returning resident visa is around 3 weeks.

The current processing time for ILR is around 6 months.

The processing times for your application are dependant on you ensuring all documentation in your files are correct and valid.

If there is a discrepancy within your application, this will hinder the process and could make the waiting time lengthy, which is not ideal if you are relying on your vis to travel.

Required documents

You will need to provide:

  • A valid passport or previous passports
  • A passport sized picture of you in colour
  • Proof of UK income, rental agreements in the UK, mortgage documents, etc to prove you have ties in the UK


Exceptions from the ILR time limit are individuals who are serving in the British Armed forces, working for the British government or British Council employees.

These individuals will retain their Indefinite Leave to Remain after 2 years outside of the UK, including the Spouse or dependants of the individual who is serving.

These individuals are exempt from the requirement of a returning resident visa.

Spouses, partners, or children of the individual who is serving are also exempt if they have joined the individual at their overseas posting.

This also applies to you if they are a British citizen or settled in the UK and they are a:

  • Permanent member of the Diplomatic Service
  • UK-based British Council employee who works outside the UK
  • Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office employee
  • Home Office employee

ILR: Your rights

As someone who holds ILR, you will be granted permission and access to:

  • Public funds such as benefits
  • UK education and higher education such as Universities and tuition loan funding
  • Vote in local and general elections
  • Leave and enter the UK without restriction (providing you do not lapse 2 continuous years outside of the UK)
  • Access to the UK’s healthcare system without paying surcharge fees
  • The right to live and work in the UK
  • The right to naturalise permanently in the UK
  • The right to own or rent property in the UK
  • Any children born in the UK after you have ILR may automatically be considered a British citizen.
  • Family members (dependants such as children or partners) may be able to join you in the UK after you have ILR

When ILR is revoked

ILR can be revoked in certain circumstances.

These are as follows:

  • If you engaged in any criminal activity in the UK or overseas
  • You obtained your ILR or visa fraudulently, such as through as sham marriage
  • You are no longer a refugee, a status you obtained your leave to remain through
  • You are liable to deportation
  • You lapsed 2 continuous years outside of the UK

The ways to document ILR

There are various ways in which Indefinite Leave to Remain can be officially documented:

  • A Biometric Residence Permit
  • A No Time Limit stamp in your passport (this can be expired)
  • An Indefinite Leave to Enter stamp in your passport (this can be expired)
  • An ILR stamp in your passport (this can be expired)
  • An ILR endorsement in your passport (this can be expired)
  • A letter from the Home Office confirming your right to remain indefinitely in the UK

Working in the UK with ILR

Once your application for Indefinite Leave to Remain is approved, you do not need permission from a Government Department to take up new employment, or to change your employment. Moreover, any restrictions that were previously placed on your hours or type of employment are lifted.

You may engage in any kind of business or profession, self-employed or otherwise (as long as you comply with any general or statutory regulations for that business or professional activity).

Once you have Indefinite Leave to Remain, there are no longer any restrictions on your living and working in the United Kingdom.

However, if you are thinking of going to live or work in the Isle of Man or one of the Channel islands, you should first consult the immigration authorities of the Island concerned.

How long can I stay in the UK on a spouse visa?

You can stay in the UK for 2 years and 9 months on this visa. If you’re applying as a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner, you can stay for 6 months.

After this you’ll need to apply to extend your stay.

Spouse visas can be granted for up to 32 months if a spouse is applying outside the UK and 30 months if the application is from outside UK.

You may even be allowed to extend your spouses visa if you want to remain on British soil during this time.

A marriage-related visa extension gives you a further 15 month extension to live in the UK.

If you have settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme

If you have a settlement status as a citizen of the European Union under the European Settlement Scheme, you will need a valid document that confirms your status.

The Home Office will send a link to a website which will allow you to verify a person is registered in the UK.

A guide to the settlement scheme in the EU gives more detail about your options.

To learn more, speak to one of our professional Immigration lawyers who will guide you through the process and answer any questions about settlement schemes.

How IAS can help

Our qualified team of immigration lawyers can provide you with consular advice sessions where they will answer any query you may have about ILR or returning to the UK on a returning resident visa.

Your immigration lawyers can provide you with professional advice and consultation throughout your immigration application.

If you have any questions or concerns about your absences from the UK on your visa, applying for ILR, or any other issue you might have about UK visas and immigration, IAS are here to help.

For more information about the services we offer, and what we can do for you, reach out to us today on 0333 4149244, or contact us online.

Do you need help with an immigration issue? Our lawyers can assist you.

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