What is Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)?
Indefinite Leave to Remain is a form of settlement status for non-EEA citizens who have spent a certain period of time living in the UK.
Indefinite Leave to Remain allows a person with entry clearance to live, work and study in the UK without immigration restrictions. It also acts as a prerequisite towards naturalisation and British citizenship.
Typically, a non-EEA person can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after five years of lawful residence in the UK. However, the minimum time an individual must have spent in the UK before applying for UK Indefinite Leave to Remain depends on the particular visa they have been living under and/or their particular living situation.
Those applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain may in turn be eligible to apply for naturalisation to become British citizens in the future or to apply for a British passport, which again, allows a person to live free of UK immigration rules.
What are the Indefinite Leave to Remain requirements?
There are certain requirements which must be fulfilled for someone to become eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
The most fundamental Indefinite Leave to Remain requirement is to have lawfully lived in the UK continuously for a certain period of time. In most instances, a non-EEA person will be able to apply for ILR after five years. That being said, the minimum time requirement is based on the visa the person is living under and their particular circumstances. You should understand your personal circumstances in the UK before submitting an ILR application.
As well as the time requirement, there are other ILR requirements which a prospective applicant needs to fulfil to become eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain. It is important to note that solely meeting the requirements does not guarantee that you will be granted ILR.
The ILR Requirements are as follows:
- No criminal convictions or breach of immigration laws
- A pass in the Life in the UK test
- Ability to prove a B1 level of English as set out by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (unless exempt)
- The applicant must not have spent more than 180 days outside of the UK in a 12-month period during their UK residency
It is important to note that if an applicant is found to have deceived the Home Office in any application or during their time in the UK, they will not be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain and further disciplinary action could be taken.
What are the time ILR requirements?
The amount of time someone must have spent in the UK before they can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (qualifying period) is based on the existing visa category they hold, whether it be a work visa or a family visa, or their living situation. The individual must have been living in the UK lawfully in order for their time in the UK to be counted towards ILR requirements and the ILR application.
The minimum time requirement of five years is the typical qualifying period for most applicants who wish to be granted ILR status. Those who have been living under spouse visas, family visas, unmarried partner visas and certain UK work visas, such as the Skilled Worker visa, can submit an ILR application after five years to live in the UK free of immigration rules.
However, there are a number of visas and living situations which require a different minimum time spent in the UK.
|Visa/immigration status||Minimum time requirement|
|Investor visa||2-5 years (dependant on capital)|
|Global Talent visa||3 years|
|Innovator visa||3 years|
|Skilled Worker visa||5 years|
|Minister of Religion visa||5 years|
|Sportsperson visa||5 years|
|Spouse or Unmarried Person (including civil partner) visa||5 years|
|UK Ancestry visa||5 years|
|Family visa||5 years|
|PBS Dependant visa||5 years|
|Retired Person visa||5 years|
What are the ILR time requirements which are based on immigration status?
There are many other routes which can lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain status which don’t require holding a specific visa. These routes are based on the immigration standing and the living circumstances of an individual.
Some of these routes require a longer period of residence in the UK than the typical five years before becoming eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain status.
|Immigration Status||Minimum Time Requirement|
|Turkish worker or businessperson||5 years|
|Dependant adult or child of someone with settlement status/citizen||No minimum residence|
|Returning resident||May not have any requirement if returning to UK within 3 years of departure|
|Discretionary Leave to Remain||6 years|
|Long residence and under 18||7 years|
|Long residence and over 18||10 years|
|Commonwealth citizen who has served in British Armed Forces||4 years|
|Individuals between 18 and 25 who have lived in UK at least half their life||Up to 22.5 years|
Calculating continuous period requirements
Calculating whether you meet the minimum time requirement for Indefinite Leave to Remain is not always quite as straightforward as it might seem, however, it is an important part of the ILR application process.
Applicants must be aware that only time which is spent lawfully in the UK counts towards the ILR time requirements. Do note that any time which is spent in the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands will not count towards the time ILR requirements and will not effect your ILR application.
The qualifying time period is counted backwards from one of the following: the date of your Indefinite Leave to Remain status issue, the date of your application or any date which is up to 28 days after your application.
Who doesn’t need to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain?
Whilst Indefinite Leave to Remain is a prerequisite for British citizenship, and provides a form of settlement akin to permanent residence, certain individuals will not need to fulfil the typical ILR requirements, or go through the standard ILR process to become eligible for settlement status and/or to become a British citizen.
For instance, a dependant child of someone who is a British citizen, or has settlement status, could be granted permission to stay in the UK. Also, refugees in exceptional cirsumstances who have gone through the Gateway Protection Program will usually be able to stay in the UK without restrictions.
What are the periods of absence requirements?
As a general rule, to be granted ILR, you must not have spent more than 180 days outside of the UK in a 12-month period during your UK residency to be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
In most circumstances, if you have spent more than 180 days outside of the UK in a 12-month period, your continuous period in the UK will be broken.
Any periods of absence need to be in line with the reason the Indefinite Leave to Remain applicant is in the UK. For example, short visits outside of the UK, as part of work annual leave will be counted towards the 180-day limit.
Periods of absence exceptions
However, there are a number of exceptions and points to be aware of in relation to the period of absence requirements.
If the delay between the date of entry clearance and entry to the UK exceeded 180 days, this will not be counted as a breach of the 180-day 12-month limit.
Individuals classed as innovators under the Innovator visa scheme, and those who were issued with a PBS Dependant visa before 11th January 2018 may not need to explain their periods of absence when they apply for ILR.
Those under the following visa/immigration status will definitely not need to give reasons for their absences if they didn’t exceed the 180-day limit:
- Innovator or Exceptional Talent visa holders
- UK Ancestry visa holders
- Retired person of independent means
- Points-Based System dependant
It is highly likely that the Home Office will require documents detailing your periods outside of the UK during your UK residence, unless you fall into one of the categories mentioned above.
For this reason, it is always best to keep hold of any travel documents which detail time you have spent abroad during your time in the UK, regardless of the duration.
If a businessperson spends more than 180 days outside of the UK in a 12-month period on business, their continuous period in the UK will not be classed as broken.
Also, part-day absences of less than 24 hours will not count as a day spent outside of the UK.
If someone has spent more than 180 days outside of the UK because of a serious physical or mental condition, it is unlikely that their continuous period will be broken and Indefinite Leave to Remain is sacrificed.
What is the English language test?
Most Indefinite Leave to Remain applicants will need to be able to demonstrate that they possess at least a B1 level of English in speaking and listening as set out by Common European Framework of Languages before they can be considered for being granted ILR in the United Kingdom.
The English language test can be taken at a number of different locations in the UK, and throughout the world. The test must be taken at an approved SELT test centre. If you are not exempt, you will need to include a certified UK test pass certificate from an accredited test centre in your application, or be able to show your test result online.
English language test exemptions
It is not an absolute requirement for Indefinite Leave to Remain to take the language test, and a number of individuals will be exempt. For example, if you are a citizen of a majority English speaking country, you will not need to take the required test.
This includes citizens of the following countries:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- New Zealand
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
If an applicant has taken a degree or higher qualification in English at a recognised institution, they will not need to sit the test. Any ILR applicant who is aged 65 or over, or has a long-term physical or mental condition, will also not need to take the test to be granted ILR.
Other exemptions include those in the following circumstances:
- An adult dependant between 18 and 64 who is present and has settlement status in the UK, including those under the UK government EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), formerly permanent residence
- A victim of domestic violence whose partner or spouse is a British citizen/has settlement status
- Partner or spouse of a person who has died who was a British citizen/had settlement status
In addition to the ELT, ILR applicants may be subject to the Life in the United Kingdom test, sometimes known as the British Citizenship Test before they can be granted ILR.
Indefinite Leave to Remain UK application advice
At the Immigration Advice Service, we will do everything we can to maximise your chances of a successful Indefinite Leave to Remain application. One of our experienced immigration lawyers will assess your situation and eligibility and liaise with the Home Office, before completing and submitting your application.
Call us on 0333 363 8577 or make an enquiry online to begin your application.
Indefinite Leave to Remain assistance
At IAS, we are highly experienced in assessing and completing immigration applications. One of our expert immigration specialists can assess your eligibility and circumstances and ensure that you fulfil the Indefinite Leave to Remain requirements to allow you to live a life in the UK free of immigration restrictions. They can also complete your application to the highest standard, and submit it to the Home Office.
Call us on 0333 363 8577 or make an enquiry online to begin the process of Indefinite Leave to Remain status.
What is the Life in the UK test?
The Life in the UK Test is a 45-minute examination consisting of 24 multiple-choice questions which are based on British culture, customs and history. The majority of Indefinite Leave to Remain applicants must pass this test in order to be considered for ILR status.
The best way to prepare for the Life in the UK Test is to study the official Home Office Life in the UK Handbook.
There are over 30 centres in the UK where you can take the test. However, you can only book the test at one of the five centres nearest to you. You must book the test no later than three days in advance of the test date. When you arrive at your test you must bring identification, which must include a letter stating your UK address.
It costs £50 to sit the Life in the UK test, and you must achieve a score of at least 75% to pass. On the day of the test, you need to bring some official identification such as your passport or driving licence.
If you fail the test, you can retake it seven days after the test date. The test can be retaken as many times as is needed.
There are certain individuals who will be exempt from the Life in the UK Test. Those who are under 18 or over 65 will not need to sit the Life in the UK Test. If a prospective ILR applicant has a long-term physical or mental condition, they will also be exempt.
Which documents do I need to provide?
If you are applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain status, you must include a number of documents with your Indefinite Leave application. The specific documents which need to be provided when you apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain will be dependant on the individual case.
It is important to note that if you cannot provide any specified document, it is highly likely that your Indefinite Leave to Remain/settlement visa UK application will be rejected. If it is requested that you provide any additional documents, for example a police registration certificate, you must do this in a timely manner to avoid any delays to your application.
Also, bear in mind that the documents should be in their original form. If you cannot provide the original documents for reasons beyond your control, the Home Office will take this into consideration.
Some of the documents and information which you may need to include in your application:
- Passport and any passports which expired during your UK residency
- Two identical passport-sized photos
- Pass certificate of Life in the UK test (if not exempt)
- Pass certificate of English language test (if not exempt)
- Birth or adoption certificates
- Documents detailing any time spent outside the UK during your UK residency
- A history of your immigration
- Financial information, including bank statements
Which form do I need to complete?
Once you have all your documents together, you will need to complete your application form and submit it to the Home Office.
If you are applying as the partner of a person or the parent of a child who already has a form of settlement status in the UK, you need to complete Form Set (M). For all other Indefinite Leave to Remain applications, Form Set (O) is the form which needs to be completed.
It is imperative that you complete the application form fully and accurately, exactly as stated. The Home Office will automatically reject applications which don’t satisfy administrative ILR requirements.
Also, it is worth noting that in certain circumstances, the Home Office might ask for you to attend an interview after the application has been submitted.
Call us on 0333 363 8577 for a professional legal check of your application.
What is the Biometric Residence Permit?
The Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) is a form of identification which you will receive if your ILR application is successful. You do not need to apply for the BRP separately.
The BRP details your name, date of birth and place of birth, as well as immigration status information. The BRP will also include a photo of your face and your fingerprints.
What is the ILR application fee?
The next step is to pay the fee for the application which currently stands at £2,404. You will need to pay an extra £50 per person for any dependants who are part of the application.
However, there are other costs to bear in mind. The Life in the UK test costs £50 and the English language test will cost in the region of £150. Also, you need to take into account any charges of the professional translation of documents and information.
When will I receive an Indefinite Leave to Remain decision?
For standard Indefinite Leave to Remain applications, the Home Office states that a decision will be reached within six months from the date the application is received.
This timeframe does not take into the account the time that it will take to process your Biometric Residence Permit. If your application has been successful, you will receive your BRP within seven days after the decision on the application has been made.
If you are seeking a quicker decision or you need to speed up the process, there are two options available:
- The priority service will process your application within five working days, and costs an additional £500
- The super priority service will process your application within one working day, costing a further £800
Last modified on July 16th, 2023 at 7:52 pm
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ILR is not the same as citizenship. For most people, Indefinite Leave to Remain is the major step towards British citizenship. ILR can lapse if you leave the UK for a certain period, whereas citizenship is a permanent status for life. As a British citizen, you are not under any restrictions, and you can live, work, study, vote and buy assets in the UK.
The earliest you can apply for British citizenship is 12 months after your ILR status is granted.
More information on how to apply for British citizenship
There are certain circumstances in which you may lose your ILR status. These include:
- If you leave the UK for a period of two or more year; and
- If you commit an offence or crime which could lead to you being deported from the UK
Our team of highly-qualified immigration lawyers can help you with your ILR eligibility and requirements. If you are unsure of whether you meet the ILR requirements, your lawyer will:
- Assess your circumstances to find out if you meet the requirements for ILR
- Advise you on the documents you will need to make a successful application
- Advise you on your next steps if you want to meet the ILR requirements in the future
If you choose to apply for ILR, IAS will:
- Source, organise and compile all your documents into an evidence portfolio for Home Office officials to consider
- Write a Letter of Representation to accompany your application
- Liaise with the Home Office during your application
- Help you prepare for the Life in the UK test
- Complete and submit your full application
Contact us on 0333 363 8577 or make an enquiry online to arrange a meeting with one of our lawyers now.