What is ILR

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) allows foreign nationals to settle in the UK without restrictions. This status is also known as permanent residency (PR), and it is a prerequisite to apply for British citizenship or naturalisation.

Since you will need to submit evidence of your eligibility, applying for ILR may be complicated. It is often assumed that you must only spend a certain amount of time in the UK to get an Indefinite Leave to Remain. However, there are other ILR requirements to be met.

The key to making this process less stressful is to understand what the ILR requirements are and if you meet them. Our expert immigration advisers have put together an exhaustive guide of all the ILR requirements. If you have further doubts and enquiries about your ILR, one of our lawyers will be happy to help.

ILR requirements: current residence status

To be eligible for ILR, you must have already spent some time in the UK on lawful immigration status. The amount of time required depends on your residence status, and it starts from either when you arrive in the UK or when you receive permission to stay.

Visa Tiers Minimum required period
Tier 1 Investor Visa Up to 5 years, depending on the amount of capital you invested
Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa Up to 5 years, depending on the activity and the size of your business
Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa 3 years
Tier 2 Visa 5 years (only in exceptional circumstances)
Spouse Visa 5 years
Fiancé(e) or Unmarried Partner 5 years
EEA Nationals Family Visa 5 years
UK Ancestry Visa 5 years
PBS Dependant Visa 5 years

Living in the UK on an immigrant visa is not the only way to apply for the Indefinite Leave to Remain. There are also other immigration statuses that can open a path to permanent residency in the UK.

Other Immigration Status Minimum required period
Long residence (over 18 years old) 10 years
Long residence (under 18 years old) 7 years
Individuals aged between 18 and 25 who have lived in the UK for at least half of their life Up to 22.5 years
Returning Resident If returning in the UK within 3 years from the settlement date
Dependent Adults or Children of a Settled Person No minimum residence required
Commonwealth citizens who served in the British Armed Forces 4 years

Commonwealth citizens and EEA nationals who have been lawfully resident in the UK for a long time may be eligible for the Windrush scheme. If you have lived in the UK before 1973 and you are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, you may have been given ILR status automatically. The same applies to children of Commonwealth citizens settled in 1973 and who were born or arrived in the UK before the age of 18.

Additional ILR Requirements

Permanent residence in the UK is not the only condition to meet to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Before submitting your ILR application, you must prove to UKVI that you meet the following criteria:

  • Evidence of your written and spoken English proficiency. UKVI requires non-EEA nationals to pass an English test for ILR eligibility. You should achieve at least CEFR level B1 in Speaking and Listening and attach your certificate to your ILR application form;
  • Documentation proving you have passed the Life in the UK Test. The ILR Life in the UK Test involves 24 multiple choice questions about British life, politics, and customs. You have 45 minutes to complete the test, and your pass mark should be at least 75% to meet the ILR requirements;
  • To apply for ILR, you must meet the General Grounds for Refusal. You must submit a valid criminal record certificate from a relevant authority in your home country.

How to calculate the residency period for ILR eligibility

The continuous period requirement sets the minim amount of period in the UK needed to apply for ILR.

Time spent in the Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man or Channel Island does not count to reach the minimum residency requirements. The continuous period in the UK must be lawful, meaning that you must not have breached your leave conditions. This includes taking employment other than that permitted by your sponsor or abroad. The same applies to the time spent in prison or any other unlawfully status.

To calculate your relevant qualifying period, you can count backward from one of the following:

  • The date of your ILR application;
  • The date of your ILR status issue;
  • Any date up to 28 days after your application that is most beneficial for you.

As a general rule, you may lose your Indefinite Leave to Remain if you stay outside the UK for a continuous period of more than two years. For this reason, you should not spend more than 180 days in any 12 months of your qualifying period outside the country. If you violate the residency obligations, you may need to submit a new ILR application.

ILR Requirements: Periods of absence

It is important to note that settling in the UK may not be sufficient to meet the residency requirements. When processing your ILR application, the UKVI focuses on how many days of absence from the country you have accrued.

Your absence from the country must not exceed a certain amount of time, that is often estimated as 180 days per year. It is advisable to keep a detailed record of any absences from the UK over your qualifying period.

Long absences may jeopardise your application, and the UKVI may ask to review all your recent travel history. Nevertheless, you may be exempt from providing evidence of your absences if you are in one of the following categories:

  • Tier 1 Visas holder;
  • A PBS dependant whose visa was issued before 11 January 2018;
  • Businesspersons who need to go abroad for more than 180 days under exceptional circumstances.

You are granted no more than 180 days as your allowed absence period. However, the following absences will not break continuity in your ILR qualifying period:

  • The period between the issue of your entry clearance and your entry the UK. If this date is delayed, it will still count towards the 180-days allowable period of absence. However, if the delay is more than 180 days, your qualifying period is calculated only after the day you entered the UK;
  • Part days absences that are less than 24 hours;
  • Entry to the UK through Ireland without passing through immigration control. You are required to demonstrate your date of entry with a copy of your travel ticket or other documentation;
  • Any absence due to compelling circumstances, such as serious illness. You must provide written evidence of the reason for your absence. This includes medical certificates or letters from your employer.
  • If you are in the UK on a Worker Visa, your absences must be consistent with your activity, such as business trips. Short visits outside the UK on non-working days or paid annual leaves do not break your continuous period.

When can I apply for ILR?

If you are in the UK on different immigration status, you must apply for ILR before your visa expires. If you fail to submit your application at a proper time, you may not qualify for the ILR requirements yet and risk to lose your current status.

However, the UKVI will not accept any ILR application submitted more than 28 days before the end of your authorised stay. You must not apply earlier, or your request will be rejected.

You can have a short period of overstaying if your ILR application is delayed for reasons beyond your control.

ILR application process

Before you apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, you must assess if you meet the ILR requirements.

Once you have gathered your supporting evidence, you can submit your ILR application form. You must not forget to attach your biometric information. This includes:

  • Your complete and signed application form;
  • Two passports sized photos;
  • Your valid passport and a copy of any expired traveling document.

When you submit your application online, you will be asked to pay your ILR fees. For single applicants, the Indefinite Leave of Remain fee is £2389. If there are dependents involved, you must add £50 per person. This cost does not include the Life in the UK test fees, which is £50 and should be paid when you book your exam.

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