Under the UK Immigration Rules, dependant visa holders can become eligible for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK, provided certain conditions are met.
Attaining ILR is an important step for families who have made the UK their home and wish to make their status and future in Britain permanent. Also known as settlement, ILR will allow the successful applicant to live in the UK free from any time and immigration restrictions.
Applying for ILR as a dependant visa holder
There are generally two ways you can apply for ILR as the dependant of someone already in the UK: either as the dependant of a primary visa-holder on one of the many work routes available to overseas nationals, or as the dependant of a British citizen or someone already settled in the UK under the family rules.
In this guide, we explain the rules on applying to settle in the UK as a dependant of a primary visa-holder on one of the immigration routes that leads to settlement.
Which visas lead to ILR?
There are multiple immigration routes on which you can apply for ILR as the dependant of a primary visa-holder, provided you meet the relevant requirements, including:
- the Skilled Worker route (and its predecessor: the Tier 2 (General) route)
- the T2 Minister of Religion route (and its predecessor: the Tier 2 (MoR) route)
- the International Sportsperson route (and its predecessors: the T2 Sportsperson route and the sporting element from the T5 (Temporary Worker) Creative or Sporting Worker route)
- the Global Talent route (and its predecessor: the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route)
- the Innovator Founder route (and its predecessor: the Innovator route)
- the Scale-up route
- the Representative of an Overseas Business route
- the UK Ancestry route.
Who can apply for ILR as a dependants?
You will be able to apply for ILR in the UK as the dependent partner of an overseas national who has already been granted indefinite leave or who will be applying to settle at the same time. The definition of “partner” includes spouses and civil partners. You can also apply to settle in the UK as an unmarried partner, provided you lived together with your loved one in a relationship similar to a marriage or a civil partnership for at least 2 years when you were first granted permission as the dependant of the primary visa-holder.
Additionally, an application can be made to settle in the UK as the dependent child of someone who has already been granted indefinite leave or who will be applying at the same time. A dependent child is someone under the age of 18 on the date of application or over 18 when last granted permission as a dependent child of their parent(s). The rules also require that any dependent children applying to settle in the UK are either jointly, with their dependant partner, or solely the responsibility of either the lead applicant or their partner.
Children aged 18 or older who have not previously been granted permission as a dependant of the primary visa-holder cannot be granted ILR as a dependent child. Similarly, other relatives, such as parents or grandparents, cannot apply as a dependant of someone currently or previously on one of the work routes, although they may qualify for a family visa as the parent of a child or as an adult dependant relative of someone settled in the UK. It is also open to partners or children of a settled person to apply under the family rules.
ILR criteria for dependent partners
As a dependent partner, you must meet the criteria found in each dependant section of the principal applicant or primary visa-holder’s work route under the UK’s Immigration Rules. Below we set out the requirements under Appendix Skilled Worker, one of the most common routes used by overseas nationals to secure long-term employment in the UK.
ILR validity requirements
Before considering the suitability and eligibility requirements, checks will first be made by the UK Home Office to ensure that your application is valid, including whether your application was made using the correct form. A person applying for ILR as a dependent partner of a Skilled Worker must apply online on the GOV.UK website using the following specified form: “Settle in the UK in various immigration categories: Form SET(O)”.
To be valid, applications for ILR must also meet the following requirements:
- you must have paid the appropriate fee
- you must have provided any required biometrics
- you must have provided a valid passport or other travel document which satisfactorily establishes your identity and nationality
- you must be in the UK on the date of your application
- you must be applying as the partner of a person who has made a valid application for settlement in the UK on the Skilled Worker route and that application has not
- yet been decided by the Home Office, or as the partner of someone already settled or who has become a British citizen, provided they had permission on the Skilled Worker route when they settled and you had permission as their partner at that time.
An application which does not meet the validity requirements for a dependent partner of a Skilled Worker will be invalid and may be rejected without further consideration.
ILR suitability requirements
As with any previous application as the dependent partner of a Skilled Worker, you must not fall for refusal under the grounds for refusal as set out in Part 9 of the UK’s Immigration Rules. In particular, you must apply to settle in the UK prior to expiry of your existing grant of leave, and not otherwise be in breach of the UK’s immigration laws, except for any brief period of overstaying which can be disregarded under the Rules.
ILR eligibility requirements
Finally, there are various eligibility requirements that must be met when applying for ILR as the dependent partner of a Skilled Worker, including:
- A relationship requirement: in addition to having last been granted permission as the dependent partner of the principal applicant, or someone who has settled or become a British citizen on the Skilled Worker route, you must also meet the relationship requirements as specified in Appendix Relationship with Partner. This means that, among other things, your relationship must be genuine and subsisting, where time spent living in the UK must have been spent living together with your loved one.
- A qualifying period and continuous residence requirement: you must have spent 5 years continuously living in the UK with permission as the dependent partner of a Skilled Worker and, as set out in Appendix Continuous Residence, you must not usually have been outside the UK for more than 180 days in any 12-month period during that 5 years.
- An English language requirement: unless an exemption applies, for example, where you are aged 65 or over, or have a physical and/or mental condition preventing you from meeting this requirement, you must show your English language ability on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for Languages in speaking and listening to level B1. You must also show that you meet this requirement as specified in Appendix English Language, such as by having an academic qualification of at least degree level taught or researched in English or by taking a secure English language test.
- A knowledge of life in the UK requirement: again, unless you are aged 65 or over, or have a physical and/or mental condition preventing you from meeting this requirement, you must meet the knowledge of Life in the UK requirement as set out in Appendix KOL UK. This will again require you to take a test with an approved test provider.
ILR criteria for dependent children
When an application is made for ILR by or on behalf of a child, the criteria found in each dependant section of the relevant immigration route must again be met. As such, using the above example of Appendix Skilled Worker, the criteria below must be satisfied.
ILR validity requirements
As with an application for ILR made by a dependent partner, checks will be made to ensure that a child’s application has been made using Form SET(O) and is otherwise valid.
In particular, the applicant must be the child of a person who has made an application for settlement on the Skilled Worker route and that application has not yet been decided, or the child of someone already settled or who has become a British citizen, provided that person had permission on the Skilled Worker route when they settled and the applicant had permission as their child at that time or was born in the UK before that person settled.
ILR suitability requirements
As with any previous application as the child of a Skilled Worker, when applying for ILR the applicant must not fall for refusal under the grounds for refusal as set out in Part 9 of the UK’s Immigration Rules. In particular, an application must be made prior to expiry of their existing grant of leave on the Skilled Worker route to avoid any period of overstaying.
ILR eligibility requirements
There are also various eligibility requirements that must be met when applying for ILR as the dependent child of a Skilled Worker, including:
- A relationship requirement: in addition to having last been granted permission as the child of the principal applicant, or someone who has settled or become a British citizen on the Skilled Worker route, the applicant must meet the relationship requirements for settlement as set out in Appendix Children. This means that the applicant’s other parent must be applying for ILR at the same time, or be settled or a British citizen, unless the principal applicant is the applicant’s sole surviving parent or has sole responsibility for the applicant’s upbringing, or there are serious and compelling reasons to grant settlement.
- A care requirement: if the applicant is under 18, there must be suitable arrangements for their care and accommodation in the UK which must comply with relevant UK law.
- An age and independent life requirement: if the applicant is 18 or over but was last granted permission on the Skilled Worker route as the dependent child of their parent or parents, they must not be leading an independent life when they apply for ILR.
- An English language requirement: an applicant will be exempt from this requirement if they are under 18, while over 18s, unless otherwise exempt, must show English language ability on the CEFR for Languages in speaking and listening to level B1 (as above).
- A knowledge of life in the UK requirement: again, under 18’s are exempt from this requirement, while over 18’s, unless otherwise exempt, must pass a KOL test.
Dependent children are not subject to limits on any absences from the UK.
How do you apply for ILR as dependants?
When applying for ILR as dependants, you and your children must apply online to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). UKVI is the department of the UK’s Home Office responsible for the issuance of visas and decisions relating to both limited and indefinite leave.
As part of your application, you may be required to re-enrol your biometric information. You will also be required to provide a number of documents in support and pay the relevant application fee. You will be told which documents you need to provide when you apply.
How much does it cost to apply for ILR as dependants?
The cost to apply for ILR as dependants is currently £2,885 each. However, when applying to settle in the UK, there will no longer be any Immigration Health Surcharge to pay. If approved, you will have permission to live in the UK with many of the same rights and entitlements as British citizens, including free access to the UK’s National Health Service.
How long do ILR applications for dependants take?
The earliest you can apply for ILR is 28 days before you have lived in the UK long enough, where your application may be refused if you apply any earlier. There is no standard processing time, but you will usually get a decision from UKVI within 6 months.
How long after securing ILR can you apply for British citizenship?
On the grant of ILR, you can apply for British citizenship after a further 12 months.
DavidsonMorris are UK immigration specialists. For expert guidance on an application for UK settlement, contact us.
ILR for Dependants FAQs
Can dependants apply for ILR?
Provided certain conditions are met, it may be possible for dependants to apply for ILR; for example, if you are the dependant spouse of a Skilled Worker visa holder.
Can I apply for ILR for my child?
You can apply for ILR for your child, also known as indefinite leave to remain, if they are in the UK with permission on an eligible route to settlement and they meet, among other criteria, the qualifying relationship requirements.
Can I apply for ILR after 2.5 years on spouse visa?
To apply for ILR (indefinite leave to remain) in the UK on a spouse visa, you must satisfy a 5-year continuous residence requirement. This means, following the grant of your initial visa, you must first apply for further leave.
What is Tier 2 dependent visa leave to remain?
Tier 2 dependent visa leave to remain refers to time-limited permission to be in the UK as the dependant of a Skilled Worker (formerly known as a Tier 2 Worker), where you can apply to settle after 5 continuous years.
Last updated: 24 December 2023