Indefinite Leave to Remain Conditions

indefinite leave to remain conditions


Being granted indefinite leave to remain (ILR) is a significant step, giving you the right to live, work and study in the UK for as long as you like. However, even though the grant of ILR will allow you to permanently settle in the UK, there are certain conditions that must be met to maintain your legal status. Below we provide a detailed explanation of the rules around indefinite leave to remain conditions and what steps you can take in certain cases.


What is indefinite leave to remain?

Indefinite leave to remain is how you settle in the UK, where the UK’s Immigration Rules provide that a person may be granted indefinite leave after a certain qualifying period of continuous residence. However, there are different ways to apply for settlement based on your personal circumstances. This could be if you are in the UK on a long-term work visa or if you have immediate family already settled here. It could also be where you have lived in the UK for more than 10 years, known as long residence, as well as if you have permission to stay in the UK as a refugee or person with humanitarian protection.

However, in all cases, on the grant of indefinite leave to remain, there will no longer be any time limit on your ability to stay in the UK. This means that the UK is your permanent home, where you can live, work and study here for as long as you like. You will be able to work in any business, profession or employment, including self-employment. You will also be free to undertake any type of study, and to apply for benefits, if you are eligible.

Additionally, the grant of indefinite leave will give you certain other rights, including:

  • free access to NHS healthcare services in the UK
  • any children born in the UK once you are settled will normally be a British citizen automatically at birth
  • family members who are not British citizens, but want to live with you in the UK, may be able to more easily join you here
  • you can apply for British citizenship, although you must usually have been living in the UK for at least 12 months after the grant of ILR and meet the other requirements.


What are the indefinite leave to remain conditions?

There are a number of ways in which settlement status can be lost, even though the grant of ILR is designed to allow you to live in the UK on a permanent basis. This is because there are certain indefinite leave to remain conditions that must be met to maintain your status.

In broad terms, there are two ways in which indefinite leave can be lost:

  • Loss of indefinite leave to remain due to expiry
  • Loss of indefinite leave to remain due to revocation.


Loss of indefinite leave to remain due to expiry

You will lose your indefinite leave to remain status if you are outside the UK, Ireland or the Crown Dependencies (the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey) for 2 or more years in a row. In these circumstances, your indefinite leave will automatically lapse. Equally, if you have settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) and have lived overseas for 5 or more years, or 4 or more years as a Swiss citizen, your indefinite leave will again end.

There are exceptions to this rule, although these are limited. For example, you will retain your indefinite leave to remain status, even after 2 years of living continuously outside the UK, if you are a member of the British armed forces and have been posted overseas, or your partner is a member of the forces and you have joined them on an overseas posting.

You will also still have your indefinite leave after 2 years outside the UK if your partner is a British citizen or settled in the UK, and either they or you work for certain UK government departments or the British Council. You or your partner must be either a permanent member of the Diplomatic Service, a UK-based British Council employee working overseas, a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office employee or a Home Office employee.


Loss of indefinite leave to remain due to revocation

If you are deported from the UK your indefinite leave to remain will be invalidated. Additionally, your indefinite leave can also be taken away or revoked if:

  • you are liable to deportation but you cannot be removed for certain legal reasons
  • you were granted indefinite leave as a refugee and cease to be a refugee, or are the dependant of someone who ceases to be a refugee, in specified circumstances
  • you obtained indefinite leave to remain by deception.


Liable to deportation but cannot be removed for legal reasons

Revocation of indefinite leave is not reliant on the ability of the Home Office to remove a person from the UK. This means that if you are liable to deportation, but you cannot be removed for legal reasons, your grant of indefinite leave to remain can still be revoked. A legal reason normally refers to where a person’s deportation would breach the UK’s obligations under the Refugee Convention or the European Convention on Human Rights.


Granted indefinite leave as a refugee and cease to be a refugee

When it comes to cessation of refugee status, indefinite leave may be revoked if a person ceases to be a refugee, or if they are the dependant of someone who has ceased to be a refugee, for a number of reasons. These reasons can include if you voluntarily avail yourself of the protection of your country of nationality, voluntarily re-acquire a lost nationality, acquire the nationality of a country other than the UK and avail yourself of its protection, or voluntarily establish yourself in a country in respect of which you were a refugee.


Obtained indefinite leave to remain by deception

Any person who obtains leave to remain by deception will be guilty of an offence. If you are convicted of obtaining leave by deception, it will have been proven to the criminal standard (beyond reasonable doubt). As such, there will be good reason to find that the evidentiary requirement in respect of revoking leave (balance of probabilities) has been met.


Can indefinite leave to remain be reinstated?

If you previously had indefinite leave to remain, but lost your indefinite leave status by living overseas for more than 2 years in a row, you may be eligible to apply to reinstate your status, as long as you did not receive financial support from the Home Office to leave the UK in the first place. You may also need to take certain steps if you have been away from the UK for less than 2 years, but are unable to prove your status on re-entry.


If you are away for less than 2 years

If you are away from the UK for less than 2 years, you will still have indefinite leave to remain in the UK. When you travel back to the UK, you should show the stamp, vignette or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) giving you permission to settle. If you travel outside the UK, you should take your BRP with you, otherwise you may be refused re-entry. If your ILR stamp or vignette is in an old passport, you should carry both your old and new passport.

If you do not have your original passport stamp, vignette or BRP on your return to the UK, you will need to apply for a ‘replacement BRP visa’ at a cost of £154. You will need to prove your identity at an overseas visa application centre, where you will usually get a decision within 3 weeks of your appointment. A BRP visa will only allow you to re-enter the UK once, where you must apply for a replacement permit on your return.


If you are away for 2 or more years

If you are away from the UK for 2 or more continuous years, you will automatically lose your indefinite leave status, although you may be able to re-enter the UK and have your indefinite leave to remain reinstated by applying for a Returning Resident visa. However, if you or your partner are in the British armed forces, or work for certain UK government departments or British Council, you may not need to apply for a Returning Resident visa.

You cannot apply for a Returning Resident visa if you lose your settled status under the EUSS. You will be allowed to travel in and out of the UK with settled status. You can also spend up to 5 years in a row outside the UK, or 4 years as a Swiss citizen, without losing your status. However, if you spend in excess of these periods overseas, you will not be able to reinstate your status as a returning resident. In these circumstances, you would instead need to apply for a suitable visa to be able to live and work in the UK again.


How do you apply for a Returning Resident visa?

If you have lived overseas for over 2 years and need entry clearance as a returning resident before coming back to live in the UK, you will need to apply for a Returning Resident visa. Your partner and any dependent children will need to apply separately, provided they are eligible. The cost to apply for a Returning Resident visa is £637 per person.

Importantly, under Appendix Returning Resident of the UK’s Immigration Rules, returning residents cannot bring or be joined by a partner or children on this route, where each individual must qualify as a returning resident in their own right.

To be approved for a Returning Resident visa, you will need to explain your current circumstances and why you have been living outside the UK. This could be for a number of reasons, including to access health treatment overseas, to care for a family member, for the purposes of employment/self-employment, or to study. You must also be able to show strong ties to the UK and that you genuinely intend to return for the purposes of settlement.

The nature of your ties to the UK, and the degree to which those ties have been maintained during your absence, will be taken into account when assessing whether you should be readmitted as a returning resident. Such ties can include family, property and business ties, together with the length of your original residence and time spent overseas.

In most cases, you must apply for a Returning Resident visa online although, if you are living in North Korea, you must instead download the application form and guidance.

In support of your application, you must provide a current passport or other valid travel identification, together with any previous passports, a passport-sized colour photograph and documentation to show the reason for your prolonged absence from the UK, as well as to prove you have strong UK ties. Depending on where you have been living overseas, you may also need to provide a valid tuberculosis medical certificate. Finally, as part of your application, you will need to attend a biometric appointment to give a scan of your fingerprints and a photograph of your face at an overseas visa application centre.


Will you lose indefinite leave to remain on expiry of your BRP?

You will not lose your ILR status if your BRP expires. Your BRP will usually last up to 10 years and will have an expiry date, although newly-issued BRPs are being issued with an expiry date of 31 December 2024. From 1 January 2025 onwards, instead of an applicant being given a physical BRP, a vignette containing a facial image will be issued in the form of an eVisa. This is because the Home Office aims to phase out physical documents by the end of 2024.

If you have a BRP with an expiry date of 31 December 2024, your rights and entitlements as a permanent resident are unaffected. Additionally, you do not need to tell the Home Office if your BRP expires on that date, where you should be able to prove your legal status online. Otherwise, if your BRP is due to expire, you should apply for a replacement. This can be done using the online BRP replacement service at GOV.UK.


Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris are UK immigration specialists. For expert advice and guidance about your indefinite leave to remain status, or to apply for a returning residents visa, contact us.


Indefinite Leave to Remain FAQs

What is the 7 year ILR rule?

The 7-year indefinite leave to remain (ILR) rule is where a child born in the UK, who lives in the UK continuously up to the age of at least 7, will qualify for settlement on the basis of private life.

What are the new ILR rules 2023?

Under 2023 changes to the Immigration Rules around applying for settlement on the basis of 10 years’ long residence, time spent in the UK with leave as a visitor, short-term student and seasonal worker no longer counts as lawful residence.

What is the 180 day rule for indefinite leave to remain?

The 180-day rule for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) provides that, to meet the continuous residence requirement for settlement, ILR applicants must not have spent 180 days or more outside of the UK in any 12-month period prior to applying.

Last updated: 31 October 2023


Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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