Indefinite leave to remain grants you the right to live and work in the UK free from immigration restrictions. It also puts you on the pathway to becoming naturalised as a British citizen.

To apply for indefinite leave to remain, you will need to submit the relevant form with evidence supporting your eligibility to the Home Office. It’s rarely a straightforward process, given the stringent ILR requirements and since a refused application can cause huge disappointment and will result in a lost fee.

We look at each of the stages of the ILR application process, with tips on how to approach making a successful application.



Apply for indefinite leave to remain step 1: Check you are eligible!

ILR is available to individuals from non-EEA countries who have lawful leave to remain in the UK for the relevant qualifying period in an immigration category that leads to settlement.

Under the lawful continuous residence requirement, the minimum amount of time that an applicant must spend in employment, or being active in the UK economy, before being eligible to qualify for indefinite leave to remain.

For most visa categories, such as Tier 2 (General), spouse and civil partnership visas, this is a period of 5 years. Other permitted visa categories may require different qualifying periods.

The continuous residence requirement may be affected by excessive absences from the UK. To preserve your qalifying period, you must not have been absent from the UK for a total of more than 180 days in any 12 month period during the qualifying period. Where this threshold is breached, the clock will effectively be reset.

You must also have been lawfully resident in the UK throughout this qualifying period. This means that you must not have spent any of your time in the UK without valid leave to enter or remain, or have breached your leave conditions.

In addition to residence, you will also have to demonstrate you have sufficient knowledge of language and life in the UK (KoLL). This means passing the Life in the UK test and either be a national of a majority English-speaking country, provide evidence of a UK degree that was taught or researched in English, or obtain an approved English speaking and listening qualification.

How to apply for indefinite leave to remain – Step 2: Complete the relevant form 

The form to complete when applying for indefinite leave to remain will depend on which visa category you are currently under.

The two main forms are SET (M) and SET (O).

Form SET(M) is if you are applying as the partner of a person or parent of a child already settled in the UK, while form SET(O) is for various other visa categories, for example, under Tiers 1 and 2 of the points based system (PBS), as well as for PBS dependants.

In most cases you must apply for indefinite leave online.

How to apply for indefinite leave to remain – Step 3: Compile supporting documentation

You will need to provide a valid passport or other travel document for yourself, and any dependants who are applying with you, as well as any biometric residence permit if you have one.

You may also need to provide the following documentation, although this list is by no means exhaustive:

  • Any previous passports or travel documents you have held during your stay in the UK.
  • Any birth or adoption certificates for any dependants applying with you.
  • Any police registration certificate where you have been required to register with the police after arriving in the UK.
  • Evidence of your finances, for example, bank statements and wage slips.
  • Your pass certificate for the life in the UK test and any relevant English language qualifications.
  • Evidence in support of any absences from the UK, for example, a letter from your employer or travel documents for annual leave.
  • Any other supporting evidence relevant to your specific visa category.
  • Two identical colour passport-sized photographs of each applicant with full names clearly written on the back of each photo.

Documents provided in support of an application for indefinite leave to remain must be originals.

How to apply for indefinite leave to remain – Step 4: Pay the fee

If you are a single applicant the normal specified fee is £2389. There is an additional fee for each dependant applying with you. If you opt for the premium service the fee is £2999 per person.

Unless you are exempt from the KoLL requirement, you will need to pay to take the “Life in the UK’ test as part of your application. This costs £50 and you must book your test online at least 3 days in advance.

In most cases you must also pay a fee of £19.20 to enrol your biometric information at a Post Office branch or a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services centre. If you go to a premium service centre, the cost is included in your application fee. 

How to apply for indefinite leave to remain step 5: Submit your biometric information

After you submit your application for indefinite leave to remain you will be asked to provide your fingerprint, a digital photo of your face and your signature. This is known as your biometric information.

This information will be used to provide you with a biometric residence permit. You do not have to apply separately for a permit, rather you will get one automatically if your application is approved.

You can use your biometric residence permit to confirm your right to work or study in the UK, or to confirm your right to any public services or benefits you are entitled to. Indefinite leave to remain will give you broadly the same rights and entitlements to services and welfare benefits as a UK citizen.

How to apply for indefinite leave to remain step 6: Attend the interview

In the event that your application is complex, you may be required to attend an interview to verify facts or any supporting documentation, or for the Home Office to request further information.

An application for indefinite leave will be based on your individual circumstances. Even if you meet the eligibility criteria and all other relevant rules, your application may not be approved.

When can I apply for indefinite leave to remain?

Applications for indefinite leave to remain are time sensitive. You must apply prior to the expiry of your current leave and while you are still in the UK.

However, you should not apply more than 28 days before the end of your current leave. If you apply any earlier, your application may be refused and your fee will be non-refundable. You would then be required to resubmit your application and pay a further fee.

Applications for indefinite leave may be refused if you have overstayed beyond the end of the last period of leave. You may, however, have a short period of overstaying disregarded if your application is made within 14 days of your previous leave expiring, and there is a good reason beyond your control why the application could not be made in time.

By staying beyond the expiry of your visa you will be at risk of removal from the UK, refusal of further leave or even criminal prosecution.

 ILR Processing times 

t can take up to 6 months to be told whether or not your application has been successful. If you need a decision more quickly you may be able to book an appointment to attend in person at a premium service centre for same day consideration.

Do you need advice on your ILR application?

DavidsonMorris are specialists in UK immigration, working closely with individuals to provide guidance and support through Home Office applications including Indefinite Leave to Remain. Contact us for advice on your application.