Have you been in the UK lawfully for 10 continuous years or more? If so, you may be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK under the 10-year long residence route.
The benefit of holding ILR status means you are free from immigration and time restrictions on your stay in the UK. ILR is also the next step towards naturalising as a British citizen.
What are the ILR 10-year requirements?
To apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK under the Long Residence route the following criteria must be met:
- You must have permission to stay in the UK, commonly known as Leave to Remain, this can be in the same category or through various eligible immigration categories.
- You must have been in the UK legally for 10 continuous years.
- You must have kept to the terms of your visa and not breached any immigration laws or have any criminal convictions.
- You must have passed the Life in the UK Test.
- You must prove you have English Language ability if you are not from a majority English speaking country. You can do this by passing an approved English Language test at B1, B2, C1 or C2 level or if you have a degree taught or researched in English which is recognised by UKVI.
ILR continuous residence
Continuous residence is time you have spent in the UK lawfully without any major breaks or gaps in your residence.
The 10-year long residence period starts from either:
- The date you arrived in the UK on a valid visa; or
- When you were given permission to stay in the UK.
You can leave the UK during the qualifying period, provided the absences do not exceed:
- 180 days per calendar year
- 540 day in total over the full 10 year qualifying period.
UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) will also take into consideration if you leave the UK on a valid visa and re-enter the UK on a new visa which is valid, providing you entered within 180 days.
For example, if you entered the UK on a Tier 4 (General) Student visa which is valid until 1st April 2021, you leave the UK on 25th March 2021 and re-enter the UK on a Spouse visa on 15th July 2021, this would not be considered as breaking continuous lawful residence in the UK.
Continuous residence is considered to have been ‘broken’ when you have:
- Been absent from the UK for a period of more than 6 months at any one time;
- Spent a total of 18 months outside the UK throughout the period;
- Left the UK with no valid leave to remain on departure from the UK and did not apply for entry clearance within 28 days of that leave expiring.
Only full days count as absences and you do not need to include any days on which you entered or departed the UK.
In addition, you will need to have valid leave both when you leave the UK and when you return. A month constitutes 30 calendar days and you only have to count full days out of the country, not days spent travelling.
Where you are deported from the UK or you leave the UK with obvious intent at that time not to return, this would also break your period of residence. Continuous residence is also broken if an applicant is sentenced to a period of detention in prison, a young offenders institution or a secure hospital.
ILR lawful residence
Your 10 years in the UK must be both continuous and lawful. This means you should generally have no periods of ‘overstay‘, where you were in the UK without valid leave, however brief or unintentional. A period of unlawful stay would effectively reset the clock on your 10-year qualifying period.
ILR & English Language and Life In the UK
For applicants aged 18 to 65 years old, you must also prove your knowledge of language and life in the UK, ie; the KoLL requirement. This means that you must be able to show you have sufficient English language skills, as well as passing a ‘Life in the UK’ test at an approved test centre.
You can satisfy the language requirement by either:
- obtaining an approved English speaking and listening qualification
- providing evidence of a UK degree, or other suitable academic qualification deemed to be equivalent to a UK qualification taught or researched in English.
If you are a citizen of a majority English speaking country you will not be required to obtain any qualification, although you will still have to pass the Life in the UK test. Further, you may be wholly exempt if you are aged 65 or over, or have a long-term physical or mental condition that prevents you from meeting the KoLL requirement. You must, however, provide a completed exemption form from a doctor confirming your condition.
In the event that you are unable to satisfy the KoLL requirement at the time of your application for indefinite leave to remain, you may be able to extend your stay for another 2 years, known as further leave to remain.
General grounds for refusal
In addition to eligibility under the residence requirements, all applicants will be assessed against public interest criteria. This will cover areas such as criminal convictions, immigration breaches, false representations, amongst other areas.
Where such issues are present, caseworkers are directed to consider other factors in determining whether the facts constitute a general ground for refusal, such as the applicant’s age, character, history, employment record, strength of connections in the UK, domestic circumstances, compassionate circumstances and any representations on the person’s behalf.
When can you apply for Indefinite Leave to remain under the Long Residence option?
You can submit your application as soon as you meet all the eligibility criteria, rather than waiting until your current visa expires, but the earliest you can submit an application is 28 days prior to completing the qualifying period.
Applying any earlier will lead to your application being refused and the fee paid to UK Visas and Immigration will not be refunded.
How to apply for ILR after 10 years
You must be in the UK to apply and you must not leave the UK until a decision has been made.
You will need to submit your application for indefinite leave to remain under the long residence route online via the Home Office website. You will also need to pay the application fee.
When you apply, you will be asked to make an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to submit your biometric information, ie; a scan of your fingerprints and a digital photograph of your face, for which there is an additional fee here of £19.20.
You can also have your documentation in support of your application scanned at your UKVCAS appointment or, alternatively, upload this into the online service.
You will need to provide various documents to support your application including a current, valid passport or other valid travel ID, your biometric residence permit (if you have one) and all passports you have held during your time in the UK.
ILR supporting documents
It is also likely you will need to provide additional documents to evidence your eligibility. These will depend on your circumstances and the nature of your 10 year residence.
Given the qualifying period is so long, applications typically involve providing extensive supporting documents to prove your continuous and lawful status during the 10-year long residence period. This is likely to include bank statements, proof of employment/work/education, proof of accommodation, utility bills, bank statements and travel receipts and tickets.
ILR long residence processing times
Standard ILR processing can take up to six months.
If you use the super priority service a decision will be made by the end of the next working day following your UKVCAS biometric appointment where your appointment is on a weekday, or 2 working days if your appointment is at the weekend. The cost of the super priority service is an additional £800. Using the standard service you should receive a decision within 6 months.
In some cases an application for indefinite leave to remain can take longer, for example, where documentation needs to be verified or you need to attend an interview because of your personal circumstances, for example, you have been convicted of a criminal offence. You will be contacted, however, if this is the case.
Extend your stay
If you do not meet the eligibility requirements under the long residence route, you may be able to apply to extend your stay with limited leave to remain for a further period.
Long residence guidance: 20 year route
If you have been in the UK continuously for 20 years, including periods of overstay or incarceration, you may be eligible to apply for limited leave to remain. If approved, you can be granted leave for up to 30 months. You will then be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain once you have accumulated 10 years continuous lawful residence.
In addition to showing 20 years’ unbroken residence, you will also need to pass the suitability grounds, which are typically measured against the threshold of the ‘public good’ and ensure your application itself is valid, had been completed correctly and the relevant fee paid. There is no English language requirement under the 20 year application.
The UK long residence rules are complex, and for applicants, it is important to understand what the caseworker will be looking for in a successful application. This means ensuring you understand the eligibility criteria, and how to evidence your suitability under the route.
Attaining UK indefinite leave to remain is a significant milestone. DavidsonMorris are specialists in UK immigration. As a team of lawyers and former Home Office personnel, we can guide you through your application and help prepare an application that best represents your case. For long residence guidance and support with your application, speak to us.
Applying for ILR after 10 years FAQs
Can I apply for ILR after 10 years?
You may be eligible for ILR if you can evidence at least 10 years continuous and lawful residence in the UK.
When should I make the ILR application?
You are not permitted to apply for ILR more than 28 days before completing your 10 years' residence, but the application should be before the expiry of your current leave to remain.
How long ILR is valid for?
ILR does not expire, but it can be lost or withdrawn in limited circumstances, such following an absence from the UK of more than two years.
Can I apply for British citizenship straight after ILR?
Unless you are married to a British citizen or a person with UK settled status, you will have to have held ILR for at least 12 months before you become eligible to naturalise as a British citizen.
Last updated: 2 January 2021