If you are currently in the UK on one of the various family visas available to overseas nationals, you may be looking to extend your stay. How you apply for an extension will depend on your existing status; whether, for example, you are the spouse, partner or dependent child of a British citizen or settled person.
In this guide to further leave to remain, we explain the Home Office rules and requirements when applying to extend your visa and stay in the UK with your loved ones.
What is further leave to remain (FLR)?
There are several terms used by the Home Office when processing applications and determining immigration status, such as leave to enter, leave to remain and further leave to remain. ‘Leave to enter’ (LTE) is the outcome of a successful application for entry clearance, allowing an overseas national to cross the UK border and enter the country, while ‘leave to remain’ (LTR) is the permission granted to stay in the UK for a specific period of time, subject to a number of immigration restrictions.
‘Further leave to remain’ (FLR) is an extension of any initial limited grant of leave. FLR is essentially permission to stay longer in the UK as an overseas national with limited leave under one of various different immigration routes, including the immediate family of those settled in the UK, provided they meet the relevant ongoing requirements of their route.
All visas have an expiry date, so if you are planning to stay in the UK for longer than your original permitted length of stay, you must either apply to switch to a different visa under another immigration route or for further leave to remain under your existing route.
What is the difference between FLR and ILR?
FLR, or further leave to remain, is an extended grant of leave to enable a visa-holder to stay in the UK for a longer, but still limited, period of time. If your application for an extension is granted, the amount of time that you will be able to stay will depend on the grant of leave that you hold, for example, under a spouse visa you will be granted an extension of 2.5 years.
In a number of cases, having been granted further leave, this will then allow you to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after a qualifying period of residency. You can usually apply for ILR after you have lived continuously in the UK for a period of 5 years. This means that if you came to the UK on a spouse or partner visa, with an initial grant of leave of 2 years 9 months (if you applied from overseas), or 2.5 years (if you were already in the UK when you applied), you would only need to apply for FLR once before being eligible for ILR.
ILR is where you have permanent lawful status in the UK as a settled person. This will provide you with the right to live, work and study on an indefinite basis and without restriction. If you plan to settle in the UK, then you will need to apply for indefinite leave, as this will allow you to stay in the UK permanently, without having to apply for another visa. If an application for settlement is successful, and you are granted ILR, your position in the UK will be secure.
There are also other differences that go beyond just time restrictions. Limited leave to remain is typically granted on the condition that you maintain and accommodate yourself in the UK, and any dependants, without recourse to public funds. This means that, throughout your stay, you are unlikely to be able to apply for any welfare benefits, and will be excluded from most types of local authority housing and homelessness assistance. As the holder of limited leave, other conditions may also be imposed as part of your permission to remain in the UK, such as specified conditions restricting your employment or studies.
In contrast, as an ILR holder, you will be free from any immigration restrictions in the UK and, broadly speaking, will have the same rights and entitlements to services and welfare benefits as a UK citizen. Having held indefinite leave for an additional qualifying 12-month period, you may also be eligible to apply for British citizenship by way of naturalisation.
Who should apply for further leave to remain?
If you are currently in the UK under a spouse or partner visa, you will need to apply for further permission to be able to stay beyond the expiry date of your visa. You must also ensure that any dependent children apply at the same time, in this way enabling your family to stay together. The fact that you may be living with someone who has the permanent right to live in the UK, free from immigration restrictions, does not automatically entitle you or any children to the same. You must still make a valid application, and be able to satisfy the Home Office caseworker dealing with your application that you meet the relevant requirements.
In the context of immigration, family situations can be more complex than standard visa routes, where the UK Immigration Rules provide specific immigration routes for family members to remain in the UK with their loved ones, including FLR(M) and FLR(FP). The acronym FLR (M) stands for ‘further leave to remain in the marriage category’, while FLR (FP) refers to the ‘family’ and ‘private life’ provisions under UK immigration law.
If you are applying to extend your stay in the UK as the partner or dependent child of someone settled in the UK, or who is a refugee or under humanitarian protection, you can use the FLR(M) route. If you are applying on the basis of your family life in the UK as a partner, parent or dependent child, or on the basis of your private life, you will need to use the FLR(FP) route.
What is the difference between FLR(M) and FLR(FP)?
Further leave to remain in the FLR ‘M’ category can be used to apply for an extension as the spouse, partner or dependant child of a British citizen, or a person present and settled in the UK, or someone in the UK with refugee leave or humanitarian protection.
To qualify for FLR(M), an applicant must currently have valid leave to be in the UK and be able to evidence a relationship requirement, for example, they must be able to show that their relationship with their partner is genuine and continuing, and that they intend to live together permanently, or that they are still a dependant child living with their British or settled parent. A financial requirement and an English language requirement must also be met.
Under this route, you will be on what is referred to as the ‘5-year path’ to ILR. This means that after a continuous stay in the UK for a period of at least 5 years under the same visa category, you can apply for permanent residency, free from any further immigration restrictions.
FLR in the ‘F and P’ categories is used for applications based on either family or private life. A family life application will cover partners of a British national or settled person in the UK, where the applicant does not meet the requirements for FLR(M) but qualifies for an exception under the FLR(FP) rules. However, financial, accommodation and English language requirements must still be met. The ‘F’ category will also cover parents of a British or a settled child in the UK, such as the parent of a non-British child who has lived in the UK for 7 years.
The ‘P’ category relates to very specific scenarios based on the applicant’s age. To qualify on the basis of private life, an applicant must be, for example:
- under 18 at the date of application, have lived in the UK for at least 7 years and be able to show that it would not be reasonable to expect them to leave
- aged between 18-24 and have lived continuously in the UK for half of their life
- aged 18 or over, but not meet the half-life test if under 25, and have lived in the UK for more than 20 years, or there would be very significant obstacles to their re-integration into the country where they would have to live if required to leave.
An extension of stay under FLR (FP) will last for 2.5 years, just as with FLR(M). The main difference, however, is that applicants will usually be on a 10-year route to settlement, requiring multiple applications for further leave to remain to be eligible for ILR. It is possible to qualify for the 5-year route as a parent, but you must satisfy all of the requirements. Switching from the 10-year route to the 5-year route will also reset the clock when it comes to the qualifying residence requirement, where time previously spent in the UK will not count.
When should you apply for further leave to remain?
When applying for further leave to remain, especially under FLR(M), you must apply prior to expiry of your existing leave. If your visa expires before you have submitted an application to extend your permission to stay, you will be classed as an overstayer. As an overstayer, you will be in breach of UK immigration laws, leaving you at risk of removal. Depending on when you leave, and whether you do so voluntarily, you may also face a ban on re-entry.
However, there is an exception under the rules, known as the 14-day rule. Under this rule, you may still be able to make an extension application, provided you make the application within 14 days of expiry of your previous grant of leave ‘and’ you have a good reason as to why the application could not be made in time. This must be something that was outside your control. Examples of good reasons include being admitted to hospital for emergency treatment or a close family bereavement. If you forgot about your deadline, or you were too busy with work or studies, these are unlikely to be considered a good reason which was beyond your control.
The Home Office does not routinely notify or remind visa-holders of their visa expiry date, where it is your responsibility to monitor how much time you have left on your visa and when an application should be made to extend your stay.
How do you apply for further leave to remain?
When applying for further leave to remain, an application must be made online, using the relevant form: FLR(M) or FLR(FP). You must also submit extensive documentation in support to prove that you meet all of the ongoing requirements of the relevant route.
It is vital that you complete the form correctly, and submit the necessary documents, as your ability to remain in the UK with loved ones will depend on this application being approved by the Home Office. Legal advice should always be sought, where your advisor can help you to collate the necessary evidence in support, maximising your prospects of a successful outcome.
When applying from within the UK, you will also usually need to attend a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) centre to provide your biometric information. Having attended an UKVCAS centre, the processing times for FLR can vary, depending on the nature of your further to leave to remain application. However, if your leave expires while a decision is being made, your permission to stay in the UK will usually be extended pending a final decision, provided you applied prior to expiry of your existing visa.
How much does a further leave to remain application cost?
DavidsonMorris are specialists in UK immigration, working closely with individuals to provide guidance and support through Home Office applications including all types of leave to remain and Indefinite Leave to Remain applications. Contact us for specialist advice.
Further leave to remain FAQs
What does further leave to remain mean?
Leave to remain is permission granted by the Home Office to overseas nationals to stay in the UK for a specific period of time, while further leave to remain refers to an extension of an existing grant of leave.
How long does further leave to remain last?
The length of any extension of stay will depend on your existing grant of leave, for example, if applying as the spouse of a British citizen or someone settled in the UK, further leave will be granted for 2.5 years.
Can I extend my leave to remain?
In most cases, it will be possible to extend your leave to remain in the UK, provided you apply prior to expiry of your existing visa and you meet the requirements for further leave to remain under the relevant route.
How can I extend my leave to remain visa?
To extend your leave to remain, you will need to make an online application, pay the relevant fee and submit documentation in support to show that you meet any ongoing requirements. You must also apply before your existing visa expires.
What is the difference between indefinite leave to remain and further leave?
While ILR is permanent and confers settled status, further leave to remain grants a time-limited period to stay in the UK.
Last updated: 4 August 2022