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 category||Qualifying ILR period|
|Spouse or civil partner of a British Citizen or person settled in the UK visa||After 2 years for visas issued prior to 9 July 2012, after five or ten years if applied on or after 9 July 2012|
|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 visa||In limited circumstances only, after 5 years|
|PBS visa dependants||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.
Skilled worker visa holders who wish to acquire indefinite leave to remain in the UK are required to meet the minimum salary requirement of £25,600.
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
Additional documents will also be required, depending on your the type of visa you currently have, among other factors. For example:
- 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.
Documents not in English or Welsh must be submitted with a certified translation.
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.
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 fees charged by the Home Office is £2,389.
Last updated: 24 November 2020