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ILR requirements

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.

ILR requirements: Current immigration status

To be eligible for ILR, you must first be in the UK on a category that specifically leads to settlement for a time period stipulated under the category:


Current categoryQualifying ILR period
Spouse or civil partner of a British Citizen or person settled in the UK visaAfter 2 years for visas issued prior to 9 July 2012, after five or ten years if applied on or after 9 July 2012
Unmarried partnerAfter 5 years
EEA Family PermitAfter 5 years
UK Ancestry visaAfter 5 years
Tier 1 (Investor) visaAfter 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) visaAfter 3 years
Tier 2 visaIn limited circumstances only, after 5 years
PBS visa dependantsAfter 5 years
Retired Person visaAfter 5 years
Discretionary Leave to RemainAfter 6 years
Long residenceAfter 10 years continuous legal residency in the UK
Returning residentIf 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 businesspersonAfter 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 

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.

PBS dependants

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.

Business travel

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.

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 application process

Your application will comprise of a:

  • Signed application form
  • 2 x passports sized photos
  • Application fee
  • Valid passport and any expired passports
  • All supporting documents you seek to rely on to support your application

In most cases, you will need to schedule and attend an appointment at a UKVCAS centre to submit your application and supporting documents, and to provide your biometric information.

ILR assessment

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.

Do you have a question about ILR requirements? DavidsonMorris can help!

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.


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