Applying for permanent residence
If you are planning on applying for permanent residence in the UK, it is important to note that there are a number of requirements you must meet. You may be questioning whether you are eligible or wondering which route to take; thankfully, we can provide some clarity.
Perhaps you are currently a Spouse Visa holder hoping to eventually naturalise in the UK, or perhaps you moved to the UK as a skilled worker and would like to remain permanently. Whatever your personal circumstances, you may qualify for permanent residency.
Being a permanent resident of the UK means that you are no longer subject to immigration controls. Since Brexit, many EU citizens have had to secure their status in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme. Even those with a permanent residence card have had to apply for settled status to confirm their status.
It is important to note that settled status and permanent residence are not the same.
What is the difference between UK permanent residence and EU settled status?
Prior to the UK leaving the European Union, EU/EEA citizens who had been residing in the UK for a continuous 5 year period would automatically receive the right to permanent residence in the UK, without having to apply for a permanent residence card.
However, since Brexit, EU citizens can no longer apply for a permanent residence card in the UK and those who already have a permanent residence document have been informed that this will no longer be valid from 1st July 2021.
Instead, EU citizens who are already residing in the UK must apply for pre-settled status or settled status via the EU settlement scheme by 30th June 2021 in order to remain here lawfully. Any EU national arriving to the UK after 1st January 2021 must apply for a relevant visa.
How can I get permanent residence in the UK?
In the majority of cases, you will be able to apply for permanent residence (also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain) after 5 years continuous lawful residence in the UK. You may qualify for ILR after a shorter period of time if you are married to a British citizen.
In order to be eligible for permanent residence, you must have been either working, a job-seeker, studying or a self-sufficient person for the 5 years that you have lived in the UK. These are considered ‘qualifying activities’.
You must demonstrate that you are ordinarily resident in the UK, meaning you have not been absent from the country for more than 6 months in a year. To apply for ILR, you must provide the sufficient level of documentation to prove that you are eligible and that you have been residing lawfully in the UK for the specified period of time.
Are non-EEA nationals eligible for permanent residence?
Non-EEA nationals and their family members may make an application for permanent residence in the form of Indefinite Leave to Remain.
There are various routes to Indefinite Leave to Remain; several UK visas will allow you to apply for this once you have been residing lawfully in the country for the required period.
Typically, the required period of lawful residence before applying for ILR is 5 years. However, under some circumstances, you may apply sooner.
For example, if you are residing in the UK as a Tier 1 Investor Visa holder and have invested at least £5 million into UK businesses, you can apply for ILR after just 3 years of UK residence.
Additionally, if you are married to a British citizen or settled person in the UK and are a Spouse Visa holder, you may also qualify for ILR after living in the UK for just 3 years.
To qualify for ILR, you must meet a number of rigorous requirements. These include:
- You must meet the English language requirement
- You must not have spent time outside the UK that exceeds 180 days in a 12-month period during the qualifying period
- You must not have breached any immigration laws whilst living in the UK
- You must have passed the Life in the UK test
Can I apply for British citizenship after securing ILR?
Indefinite Leave to Remain is often considered the final step to acquiring British citizenship.
Many people naturalise as British citizens once they have spent the necessary qualifying period with ILR.
Once you have lived in the UK for 12 months with ILR status, you may apply for British citizenship. This will mean completing the relevant application form and proving that your circumstances have not changed significantly since you acquired ILR.
It is often advised that you seek the expert guidance of an OISC-accredited immigration lawyer who can help you through the process of applying for UK citizenship.
Thankfully, those applying for citizenship after acquiring ILR will have already passed the Life in the UK test – you will not be required to resit this test when applying for to naturalise.
It is important to note that you will not automatically be granted citizenship in the UK when your ILR expires. You must apply for this and ensure that you are not living in the UK without immigration permission.