If you have been in the UK for a qualifying period in an immigration category that leads to settlement, you may be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
With ILR status, you no longer have any conditions on your stay in the UK and you can work, study or engage in business indefinitely. ILR is also a prerequisite to applying for British citizenship.
UK ILR requirements vary depending on your current immigration status. In this guide, we explain the different routes to UK settlement and the criteria you will need to meet depending your current status.
Routes to ILR
Not all visas provide a route to ILR. Visa routes that qualify for UK ILR include the following:
ILR requirements and eligibility are determined by your route to settlement. The options include:
ILR based on a work visa
- Tier 2, T2, International Sportsperson or Skilled Worker visa
- Scale-up Worker visa
- Global Talent visa
- Tier 1 Entrepreneur
- Investor visa
- Innovator visa
- Representative of an overseas business
- Turkish Worker or Businessperson visa
- Private servant in a diplomatic household with an International Agreement visa, or a domestic worker
ILR based on family
It may be possible to be eligible for UK ILR on the basis of a family relationship with someone who is either a British citizen or has UK settled status. Eligible routes include:
- Spouse visa (partner visa)
- Parent visa
- Child dependent visa
- Adult dependent relative visa
- Private life route
- If your partner is deceased
- If your relationship has ended due to domestic violence
ILR based on nationality
Ancestry visa holders can become eligible for ILR after 5 years in the UK.
Commonwealth citizens with the Right of Abode in the UK are able to live and work in the UK free from immigration restrictions, and may be eligiible for citizenship.
ILR based on long residence
If you have lived in the UK for ten years or more, you may be eligible to apply for ILR.
Additional routes to UK settlement include:
- Discretionary leave
- Status as a refugee or humanitarian protection
- Returning residents who have previously held ILR are a refugee or have humanitarian protection or Discretionary Leave
- Armed forces personnel
When can you apply for ILR?
ILR is only available to those who have been in the UK for the necessary period of time. This period of residency is used to satisfy the Home Office that the ILR applicant intends to live here permanently and can show commitment to doing so.
Depending on your immigration status, you will need to show qualifying residence for either 2, 3, 5, or 10 years.
Five year ILR route
The majority of ILR applications are through routes that require 5 years with lawful status and residence. You must have lived in the UK continuously for five years on a valid visa to be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain. After five years, the following visas are eligible for ILR:
- Skilled worker visa, the minister of religion T2 visa or the Tier 2 (minister of religion) visa, the sportsperson T2 visa or the Tier 2 (sportsperson) visa
- Business visas include the Turkish Worker or Businessperson Visa
- Global Talent Visa (in some cases)
- Scale up visa
- Innovator Visa
- Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa
- Family members include spouse, parents, children, and dependent adults
- Tier 5 (International Agreement) visa
- Ancestry visa
In some cases, it is possible to combine time spent in the UK on several visa types to reach the five-year requirement for some visas, such the skilled worker and Tier 2 routes. Take advice on your circumstances.
If you have changed from a different type of visa, you may need to provide proof of more than five years of residency. If the category switch is deemed to have “reset the clock,” you will need to accrue a further five years in the UK on your new visa, depending on the sort of visa you switched from and to (i.e. the time you have already been in the UK may not count towards ILR).
Ten year ILR route
The ILR long-residence route may be available for those who have lived in the UK for at least 10 consecutive years. You can qualify for the ten-year long-residence route regardless of the sort of visa you’ve held as long as you have been residing legally in the UK during that time.
ILR after 2 or 3 years
Accelerated ILR is available to visa holders under certain business routes after only 2 or 3 years. These include:
- Innovator visa
- Entrepreneur visa
- Investor visa
- Global talent visa
Eligibility for fast-tracked ILR will depend on certain conditions being met. For example:
- If a holder of a Global Talent visa has received recognition as an extraordinary talent by the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society, UK Research and Innovation, the Arts Council England, or Tech Nation, they may apply for ILR after three years.
- Innovators may be eligible for ILR after three years, provided they can show sufficient growth in their business.
- Depending on the amount of investment made, holders of investor visas may apply after two or three years in the following ways:
- 2 years: £10,000,000
- 3 years: £5,000,000
- 5 years: £2,000,000
ILR requirements for different immigration status
To be eligible for ILR, you must first be in the UK with lawful status under a category that specifically leads to settlement, for a time period stipulated under the category:
|Current category||Qualifying ILR period|
|Spouse or civil partner of a British Citizen or person settled in the UK visa||After 5 years|
|Unmarried partner||After 5 years|
|EEA Family Permit||After 5 years|
|UK Ancestry visa||After 5 years|
|Tier 1 (Investor) visa||After 2, 3 or 5 years depending on level of investment|
|Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)||After 3 or 5 years depending on the business activity|
|Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa||After 3 years|
|Tier 2, T2, International Sportsperson or Skilled Worker visa||After 5 years|
|Scale Up visa||After 5 years|
|Innovator visa||After 3 years|
|Global Talent visa||After 3 or 5 years, depending on your visa and endorsement type|
|PBS visa dependants||After 5 years|
|Representative of overseas business visa||After 5 years|
|Turkish Worker of Businessperson visa||After 5 years|
|Retired Person visa||After 5 years|
|Discretionary Leave to Remain||After 6 years|
|Long residence||After 10 years continuous legal residency in the UK|
|Returning resident||If settled in the UK prior to departure and returning to the UK within 3 years of departure, they may be able to apply immediately on return|
|Turkish worker or businessperson||After 5 years|
ILR requirements & eligibility
You do not automatically qualify for ILR on completion of your continuous period of lawful residence in the UK.
You must submit an application for ILR to UKVI to consider. You will also need to submit evidence of your eligibility for ILR:
- Continuous lawful residence in the UK for the required qualify period
- Absences from the UK not exceeding 180 days in any 12 months of the qualifying period
- Evidence you have passed a Life in the UK Test
- Evidence of your ability to speak English to the required standard
- Evidence that your application meets the General Grounds for Refusal – for example, addressing if you have any criminal convictions or breaches of your immigration status
Calculating your continuous period of residence
Evidencing that you meet the residency requirement by calculating your continuous period and absences from the UK is not always straightforward. We provide a basic outline of current Home Office regulations in this area, but note that it is subject to change. We recommend taking professional advice to ensure you are in compliance with this stringent eligibility requirement.
The continuous period requirement is the minimum amount of time you must spend either in employment or active in the UK economy before being eligible to qualify for ILR. This involves calculating how many days absence from the UK you have accrued.
Importantly, for the full duration of the period, you must have held valid leave to enter or remain.
To calculate the relevant qualifying period, count backward from whichever of the following is most beneficial to you:
- the date of application
- the date of decision
- any date up to 28 days after the date of application
You will need to provide reasons and evidence for all of your absences. Some absences will not be considered as ‘breaking’ continuity and as such will not affect your continuous period or reset the clock:
- The period between the issue of your entry clearance and entering the UK
- Part day absences – only whole days (ie the full 24 hours) out of the country are counted.
Tier 1 visas
Evidence of absences is not required if you are in the UK on a valid Tier 1 (Investor), Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) or Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) visa.
The 180 day residence requirement for ILR applies to both the main applicant and their PBS dependants who were issued their visa before 11 January 2018.
Absences from the UK during periods of leave granted before 11 January 2018 are not included towards the 180 days allowable absences for PBS dependants.
Many people think business related travel does not count towards the permitted 180 days outside the UK when qualifying for Indefinite Leave to Remain. This is not the case. The 180 days are made up of all international travel including business-related travel as well as personal travel.
Exceeding the number of absences allowed would mean the continuous residence period is broken, and therefore, disqualification from being eligible for settlement.
There are allowances if you exceed the number of days spent outside the UK, however these are for compelling and serious circumstances, and advice should be sought before proceeding with your application.
Knowledge of English language and life in the UK
Applying for settled status involves a commitment to respect the laws, values and traditions of the UK. Your knowledge of the English language and life and in the UK forms an integral part of this commitment. This is known as the KoLL condition.
All those applying for indefinite leave to remain under a route which requires KoLL, must meet both parts of the condition, unless they are exempt. These two parts can be broken down as follows:
- Knowledge of English language
- Knowledge of life in the UK
If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country, so as to demonstrate your knowledge of the English language you must either provide evidence of a UK degree that was taught or researched in English, or obtain an approved English speaking and listening qualification.
You can satisfy the knowledge of life requirement by passing the ‘Life in the UK’ test. The test must be taken at a UK test centre where you will need to confirm your identity, for example, by way of a passport or other travel document.
You may be wholly exempt from the KoLL condition if you are aged under 18 or over 65, or have a long-term physical or mental condition that prevents you from meeting these requirements.
There are also other categories of applicant who may be exempt from the KoLL condition when applying for indefinite leave to remain. These include victims of domestic violence, bereaved spouses or partners of someone present and settled in the UK, or retired persons of independent means.
ILR salary requirement
ILR applicants may need to show they meet the relevant minimum income requirement, depending on what type of leave they currently hold.
For example, Skilled Worker visa holders who wish to acquire indefinite leave to remain in the UK are required to meet the minimum salary requirement by earning the higher of either:
- £25,600 per year
- £10.10 per hour
- the ‘going rate’ for the role
ILR application process
Provided you are eligible and meet the relevant ILR requirements, you can make your ILR application to the Home Office.
You will need to complete the appropriate application form and submit supporting documents.
Most applications are made using SET (O) or SET (M).
Once you have submitted your form, you can book an appointment at a UKVCAS centre, where you will submit your biometric information. Your supporting documents can also be submitting during this appointment, if you have not submitted them already online.
You may be invited to an interview if UKVI requires further information about you and your application.
ILR supporting documents
Your application will need to be supported by documents that evidence your identity and that you meet the ILR requirements. As a minimum, you will need to provide:
- Your current, valid passport or other valid travel ID
- Your biometric residence permit, if you have been issued one
- All passports that you have held during your time in the UK
- Proof of accommodation
- Proof of continuous residence
- Documents relating to absences during your qualifying period
- Proof of English language ability
- Evidence of cohabitating residence if applying from a spouse or partner visa
- Other official document such as letter from a medical professional, a police registration certificate
- Life in UK and English language proof
- If dependants are applying with you, you will need to provide their birth certificates.
Additional documents will also be required, depending on your the type of visa you currently have, among other factors. For example, if you are applying for ILR as a Skilled Worker, you will need to provide details about your employment, while if you have an Ancestry visa, you will need to provide the birth and/or marriage certificates of your grandparents as proof of nationality. Unmarried partners have to show proof of cohabitation. Taking professional advice will ensure you are providing a comprehensive submission to avoid issues, delays or even a refused application.
Travel & ID
You have to show your current, valid passport or travel document. You must also provide proof if you entered the UK using a different passport. Additionally, any additional passports you may have had while residing in the UK must be produced.
Alternatively, you will need to present a legitimate travel document of another sort if you don’t have a passport and haven’t had one since you were in the UK.
If you have a BRP, you must submit it with your ILR application.
Accommodation & financials
You will have to give specifics about your financial situation and accommodation in the UK. If you own or rent a property in the UK, you should provide documentation to prove this, such as the rent or mortgage agreement.
A letter from the landlord should be included if you are renting a property.
A letter verifying that you are authorised to reside there should be submitted if you are living in housing that is owned or rented by family or friends.
Documentation proving any benefits you may have received while living in the UK should also be included.
Documents not in English or Welsh must be submitted with a certified translation.
The minimum residence requirement is possibly the most important condition with an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain. You must be qualified if you have resided in the UK for a predetermined period of time.
This time period must be deemed to be continuous.
You must provide proof proving your residency in the UK together with information regarding any periods of absence from the UK. A rental agreement, mortgage statement, council tax bills, and utility bills are typically included in this.
Absence from the UK
ILR requirements stipulate that during your qualifying resident time in the UK, you may not leave the country for more than 180 days in a calendar year, unless there were exceptional circumstances.
A period of absence is any time spent away from the UK while you are still in your qualifying residence period. You will be required to present proof that explains your absences. For example, you should provide a letter from your employer stating that your absence was in compliance with your annual leave entitlement if your leave of absence was connected to your work and included annual leave.
If your absences were caused by exceptional circumstances, such as major travel interruption brought on by a natural catastrophe or conflict, you should supply information, such as travel records and letters from travel firms to support your reasoning.
If your leave of absence was for compassionate reasons, you will need to provide a letter for you outlining those reasons. You may be asked to submit further proof.
Another important aspect of ILR applications is the necessity for English proficiency. You will need to provide evidence that your English language proficiency is at CEFR B1 level, which is the minimum requirement.
The majority of ILR applicants will need to take an English language exam to demonstrate their language proficiency. Only approved secure English language tests (SELT) are acceptable.
If you are from a country where the main language is English, you are exempt from taking this test. Additionally, if you have completed a degree-level or higher course offered in English at an accredited academic institution, you won’t need to take an English language exam.
Additional exceptions include:
- Anyone over the age of 65 who has a persistent physical or mental ailment
- Adult dependent between the ages of 18 and 64
- Domestic abuse victims whose partners are British citizens or have permanent residency in the UK
- Partner or spouse of a deceased British citizen or anyone with legal status in the UK
Life in the UK
If you wish to apply for ILR, you must pass the Life in the UK test. The multiple-choice questions on the Life in the UK test are focused on the history, customs, and culture of the UK. To pass the test, you must have a score of at least 75%.
You will receive a unique reference number if you pass the test, which you use when making your ILR application.
How much is UK ILR?
The ILR processing fee is £2,404 as of 6 April 2022 per applicant.
You will also have to pay a fee to submit your biometric information, which is £19.20.
When is the earliest date you can apply for ILR?
You may be able to apply for ILR earlier than you think. It is generally thought you can apply 28 days prior to the date you entered the UK, but this is not always the case. If you entered the UK within 3 months of your visa being issued, you might be eligible to apply 28 days prior the issue date on the visa.
For example, if your entry clearance visa was issued on 1st November 2015, you entered the UK 30th December 2015; you could apply for naturalisation on 3rd October 2020 provided you meet all the eligibility requirements.
ILR for dependants
You may also file for ILR on behalf of your dependent family members, such as your husband, partner, and children.
Dependents can include:
- Partner – spouse, civil partner, or any romantic partner (partners must either be in a civil partnership or marriage or, if not, have been living together for at least 2 years)
- Children that are younger than 18
- Children who are above 18 and financially reliant on the primary visa holder
Additionally, they must meet the criteria for Life in the UK test and the English language requirement where relevant, and the continuous residency requirement.
Some ILR routes require a financial threshold to be met. For the Skilled Worker five-year route, you as the main applicant and your partner must usually have a combined income of at least £18,600 a year, with additional money if you have children who are not British or Irish, do not have pre-settled status and are not permanently settled in the UK. If you need to prove the additional money, you have to earn the following over and above the £18,600 threshold:
- £3,800 a year for your first child
- £2,400 a year for each child you have after your first child
Most of the time, family members can apply for ILR simultaneously since they received their visas at the same time as the primary visa holder and for the same period of time. They may, however, have to wait until they attain the ILR qualifying time if they arrived in the UK later. If a member of your family is ineligible for an ILR as a dependent, there may be alternative ways for them to live in the UK, such as the EU Settlement Scheme, family visas, or the 10-year residency route. Take advice on your options.
Please know that even if your ILR application is rejected (or if your dependent family member’s application is rejected), you may usually gain settlement in the UK with the right guidance. First off, if you were able to prove that your application for indefinite permission to remain was based on grounds protected by human rights, you may appeal the decision. If this applies to your application, an immigration lawyer can provide advice. However, because the majority of ILR applications are not based on respect for human rights, they cannot be challenged. However, there are still alternative choices. You can appeal an ILR denial in the following ways:
If you feel that UKVI made a mistake by rejecting your application, you may request a judicial review.
An administrative review is necessary to contest the refusal’s legal justification.
It would be desirable in some circumstances to submit a new application for ILR.
Before you make an application for ILR, it is crucial to understand the ILR requirements and assess whether it is likely to succeed. If there are any areas of concerns, you can weigh up whether there is any merit in asking the Home Office to exercise discretion in your favour, or if there is little hope for them to do so, whether you ought to consider submitting for an extension of leave instead, which many clients can meet the requirements of, if there are issues or concerns with their proposed ILR application.
We’re a UK law firm focused solely on UK immigration. We help individuals with all UK visa, settlement and immigration needs including applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain. If you have a query about ILR requirements, contact us today.
ILR requirements FAQs
What are the requirements for ILR?
For most immigration routes, such as the Skilled Worker Route and spouse visa, the minimum ILR requirement is continuous residence of at least five years.
Can I apply ILR before 28 days?
It is possible to submit your ILR application up to 28 days before the end of your qualifying period. If you apply earlier, you will not be eligible and your application is likely to be refused. You will however need to ensure you apply you should apply before the end of your permitted stay in the UK.
How long is ILR valid for?
ILR is indefinite, however it may expire after 2 years absence from the UK, regardless of the expiry date on your proof of ILR, such as the BRP or passport stamp.
How much does ILR cost?
The Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) application fee charged by the Home Office is £2,404 per applicant as of 6 April 2022.
Can I apply for ILR after 3 years?
If you have an Innovator or Global Talent visa, you may become eligible for ILR after 3 years if certain conditions apply.
Can I apply for ILR after 5 years?
For most eligible visa routes, holders can apply for ILR after five years.
Last updated: 4 November 2022