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Indefinite Leave to Remain Conditions (Applying & Retaining ILR)

With indefinite leave to remain, nationals of countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or of Switzerland are granted permission to live and work in the UK free from immigration time restrictions.

ILR is however subject to a number of conditions, both in terms of eligibility requirements when applying and if granted, futher conditions apply on an ongoing basis in order to retain ILR status.

What indefinite leave to remain conditions must I satisfy to obtain ILR status?

While holders of certain types of visas are only granted temporary leave in the UK, such as visitors, and as such are expected to leave the UK before their visa expires, indefinite leave to remain removes any time restriction.

The lawful continuous residence condition

The lawful residence condition is the minimum amount of time that an applicant must spend in employment, or being active in the UK economy on a lawful basis, before being eligible to qualify for indefinite leave to remain.

There are two essential elements to this condition:

  • You must have been continuously resident in the UK for the qualifying period required under your existing immigration category.
  • You must have been lawfully resident in the UK throughout this qualifying period.

Continuously resident

In most cases, to qualify for indefinite leave to remain, you must have been continuously resident in the UK for at least 5 years prior to the date of your settled status application.

To be ‘continuously resident’ you must not have spent more than 180 days outside the UK in a consecutive 12-month period. You may also be required to provide reasons for, as well as evidence of, any absences.

Absences must be for a reason consistent with or connected to the original purpose of entry to the UK, such as a business trip. In some circumstances, absences for which you have a serious or compelling reason, such as the terminal illness of a close relative, may also be accepted as an allowable absence.

While allowable absences will not break your continuity of leave, they do still count towards the maximum limit.

Lawfully resident

You must also have been lawfully resident in the UK throughout the qualifying period. This means that you must not have spent any of your time in the UK without valid leave to enter or remain.

Additionally, you must not have breached your leave conditions, for example, by taking employment other than that permitted by your certificate of sponsorship.

You can submit an application for indefinite leave up to 28 days before the end of reaching your qualifying period of lawful continuous residence. If, however, you submit your application once your existing stay has expired, you may break your continuity, causing your application to be rejected.

You may, however, have a short period of overstaying disregarded if your application is made within 14 days of your previous leave expiring, and there is a good reason beyond your control why the application could not be made in time. 

The knowledge of language and life in the UK condition

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 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.

What indefinite leave to remain conditions must I satisfy to retain my status?

While there is no time limit on indefinite leave to remain in the UK, there are certain circumstances that can result in ILR status being lost.

One of the main risks to ILR is if you leave the UK for a continuous period of 2 or more years. You must be ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK to maintain your settled status, and by spending more than 2 years outside the UK this will cause your leave to lapse.

Further, your indefinite leave will be automatically invalidated if you are deported from the UK, for example, as a result of a criminal conviction. Your leave may also be revoked in circumstances relating to national security or where ILR was obtained by deception.

If you lose ILR due to long term absence and you wish to reenter the UK and resume your previous status, you will need to make an application for a returning resident visa prior to attempting to enter the UK. Without a returning resident visa in place, you are likely to face difficulties, or certainly questions, at the border. Officials will want to be satisfied that if you are entering to remain, that you have the requisite permission in place.

What indefinite leave to remain conditions must I satisfy to obtain British citizenship?

Having been granted indefinite leave to remain, this will put you on the pathway to becoming naturalised as a British citizen. Typically, you will be eligible to apply for British citizenship by way of naturalisation having held ILR for at least 12 months.

The 12 month requirement does not apply to spouses or civil partners of UK settled persons – you can apply to naturalise as soon as you are granted ILR.

You must, amongst other things, also satisfy the citizenship residency requirements. In most cases this means you must not have spent more than 90 days outside of the UK in the 12 months prior to your application, and not exceeding 450 days in the 5 years throughout your qualifying period.

British citizenship, if granted, will give you the full rights of a UK citizen. While indefinite leave to remain can lapse if you stay away from the UK for longer than 2 years, British citizenship is for life.

Are there any indefinite leave to remain conditions for EEA & Swiss nationals?

Indefinite leave is not open to you as an EEA or Swiss national, rather the equivalent status is permanent residency.

If you are a national of an EEA member state or Switzerland, or a family member of a qualified national, you will automatically acquire permanent residence having exercised EEA Treaty rights in the UK for any continuous 5-year period.

As an EEA or Swiss national, or family member of a qualified national, who satisfies the qualifying residence period, you can apply for a permanent residence card to confirm your status in the UK. This is the prerequisite to applying to naturalise as a British national.

Do you need advice on indefinite leave to remain conditions?

DavidsonMorris are specialists in UK immigration, working closely with individuals to provide guidance and support through Home Office applications including Indefinite Leave to Remain. Contact us for advice on your application.

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