In this guide for ILR applicants, we explain the eligibility requirements when applying for UK indefinite leave on the basis of private life and share practical advice on how to apply for settlement.
What is the private life route under the Immigration Rules?
On 20 June 2022, the UK Government introduced changes to the private life route, including the ‘indefinite leave to remain private life’ rules.
The private life route is for those seeking permission to stay in the UK on the basis that they have developed a private life here. The provisions relating to applications on the private life route are now set out in Appendix Private Life to the UK’s Immigration Rules. This replaces the previous private life rules under paragraphs 276ADE-276DH.
The basis of an application on the private life route is to preserve and protect the sense of belonging, and strong connections, that an individual has built up through living in the UK for several years.
For any initial application under this route, this means that the focus is predominantly on the length of residence in the UK. The residence rules for leave to remain under Appendix Private Life are categorised into children, young adults and adults:
UK residence requirement
|Under 18’s||The applicant has been continuously living in the UK for 7 or more years and it would not be considered reasonable to expect them to leave.|
|Aged 18 to 25||The applicant arrived in the UK before the age of 18 and has since spent at least half of their life continuously resident here.|
|Over 18’s||The applicant has been continuously living in the UK for more than 20 years, or where there would be very significant obstacles around integrating into the country where they would have to live if required to leave. This includes young adults, aged 18 to 25, who do not qualify under the half-life rule above.
A new category has also been introduced under Appendix Private Life, where a child born in the UK to someone who has permission on the private life route can apply for permission for the same duration as their parent. This category is specifically for children who are not eligible for permission to stay or for settlement on the private life route in their own right, for example, because they have not lived in the UK for at least 7 years. Instead, they can apply as dependants of their parents, who themselves are, or have last been, in the UK on this route.
Each of these categories of visa-holders under the private life route can go on to apply for indefinite leave, provided they meet the eligibility requirements for settlement.
What is an indefinite leave to remain private life application?
Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) is the permission sought to stay in the UK on a permanent basis. Also commonly referred to as ‘settlement’, ILR will enable you to live, to work and to study in the UK for as long as you like, free from immigration restrictions. Having held ILR for a period of 12 months, you can also use this to apply for British citizenship and a UK passport.
An indefinite leave to remain private life application is an application to settle in the UK on a private life basis. Under Appendix Private Life, you may be eligible for indefinite leave to remain if either you already have a visa on the basis of your private life or you were born in the UK and have continuously lived here up to the age of at least 7 years old. You may also be eligible if you were born in the UK to someone who has permission on the private life route.
What are the residence requirements for ILR private life?
For an indefinite leave to remain private life application, there is typically either a 5-year or 10-year residence requirement. An applicant who has, or last had, permission to stay on the private life route as either a child or young adult who qualified under the half-life rule must have lived continuously in the UK for a period of at least 5 years. For applicants aged 18 or over at the date of application, who do not meet the requirements under the 5-year route, they must have lived in the UK for at least 10 years.
The continuous residence requirements are set out in Appendix Continuous Residence, which includes provisions in relation to breaks in continuous residence and absences from the UK, for example, the applicant must not have been overseas for more than 180 days in any 12-month period throughout the qualifying period for settlement. These new rules represent a change to the previous requirements for indefinite leave under paragraph 276DE(a) of the Immigration Rules, which did not include consideration of absences.
Unless the applicant is a child who was born in the UK, they must also have, or have last been granted, permission to stay in the UK on the private life route. In contrast, a child applicant born in the UK can be granted settlement without having ever applied for or been granted limited leave on this route. For example, a child born in the UK who has been continuously resident here for at least 7 years may qualify for immediate settlement under the rules.
However, even for applicants born outside the UK, leave on other routes can count towards the 5-year or 10-year qualifying period of residence for indefinite leave, including time spent on one of the family life routes, or any combination of these routes. This can include, for example, as a partner or parent under Appendix FM, or as a child of someone with leave as a partner or parent, as well as permission granted outside the rules as either a partner, parent or child, or because of private life, on grounds of Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention.
Permission on any other route that leads to settlement can also count towards the qualifying residence period, provided the applicant did not enter the UK illegally — unless they have permission to stay on the private life route as either a child or young adult — and has had permission under the previous or new private life provisions for at least a year.
What are the other eligibility requirements for ‘ILR private life’?
In addition to meeting the continuous residence requirement, anyone making an ‘indefinite leave to remain private life’ application will also need to meet the following two requirements:
The English language requirement
Unless an exemption applies — for example, where the applicant is under 18 or over 65, or has a physical or mental condition which prevents them from meeting this requirement — the applicant must show an ability in English language on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in both speaking and listening to level B1.
However, under Appendix English Language, the applicant can show that they meet the language requirement in one of a number of ways, including:
- if they have already met the requirement, at the level required for their settlement application, in a previous application for either entry clearance or permission to stay
- if they are a national of a listed majority English-speaking country
- if they have a UK bachelor’s degree or master’s degree, or UK doctorate, or an equivalent academic qualification taught in a university or college in an English-speaking country
- if they have a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification at level 4 or 5 or, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher, in either English language or English literature that was awarded by an Ofqual (or SQA, Qualifications Wales or CCEA) regulated awarding body following education undertaken in a UK-based school which began while they were aged under 18.
The knowledge of life in the UK requirement
Again, unless an exemption applies, the applicant must meet the knowledge of life in the UK requirement as specified in Appendix KOL UK. An applicant will meet the KOL requirement if they provide a valid reference number from an educational institution or other body approved for this purpose showing that they have passed the Life in the UK test.
There are more than 30 test centres across the UK, where you can choose where to take your test when you book. You must book your test online at least 3 days in advance at a cost of £50.
What are the private life requirements for a child born in the UK?
For children born in the UK of a person on the private life route, under the new Appendix Private Life category, there are very specific eligibility requirements, including a relationship requirement, an age requirement, and a care and accommodation requirement.
Under the relationship requirement, the applicant must be the child of someone who is being granted indefinite leave on the private life route, or is already settled in the UK or has become a British citizen — provided the parent had permission on this route when they settled, and the applicant either had permission as their child at that time or was born before they settled.
Additionally, the applicant’s other parent must be being granted settlement at the same time, or be settled or a British citizen, unless the sponsoring parent is the applicant’s sole surviving parent, has sole responsibility for their upbringing, or there are serious and compelling reasons to grant the child applicant settlement.
To qualify under this new category, the applicant must be aged under 18 at the date when they apply, unless they were last granted permission as the dependent child of their parent(s), and there must be suitable arrangements for both their care and accommodation in the UK. If the child is 16 or over, they must not be leading an independent life. Applicants aged 18 or over may also need to satisfy the English language and KOL requirements.
How do you make an ILR private life application?
To make an ‘indefinite leave to remain private life’ application, you must apply online to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and pay the £2,404 fee for each person applying. You must be in the UK at the date of the application. You must also attend a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) centre to enrol your biometric information and provide your supporting documentation, unless this has already been uploaded into the online service.
If the UKVI caseworker dealing with the application is satisfied that the requirements under Appendix Private Life have been met, you and any family members will be granted settlement. If the requirements for settlement are not met, but you are likely to meet the requirements for limited leave, the application will be varied to a leave to remain application instead. If successful, this means you will be granted leave for either 30 or 60 months. No additional application fee will be required in these circumstances, although the higher settlement fee will not be refunded. You may also be liable to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.
It can take up to 6 months for a decision to be made on a settlement application, during which time you must not travel outside of the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man. By travelling outside of these areas, you risk your application being withdrawn.
You may be able to pay for a decision by the end of the working day following your UKVCAS appointment, or two working days if your appointment is at the weekend. This will cost an additional £800. However, there is no guarantee of a speedy outcome to a ‘indefinite leave to remain private life’ application, where a decision could take longer if your documentation in support needs to be verified or you need to attend an interview.
It is always best to seek expert legal advice before applying for settlement on the basis of private life, to help maximise your chances of a successful outcome, with minimal delay.
DavidsonMorris are recognised experts in 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 private life FAQs
What is a private life route?
The private life route is for those seeking permission to stay in the UK on the basis that they have developed a private life here, as set out under the new Appendix Private Life to the UK’s Immigration Rules.
What is the 10 year private life route?
The 10-year private life route is a route to UK settlement for over 18’s who do not meet the requirements on the 5-year route and have lived in the UK for a continuous period of 10 years.
Do you need life in the UK for indefinite leave to remain?
When applying for indefinite leave to remain, unless exempt, you will usually need to satisfy the knowledge of life in the UK requirement, otherwise known as the KOLL requirement. You may also need to satisfy an English language requirement.
What does indefinite leave to remain entitle you to?
Indefinite leave to remain, otherwise known as settlement, will allow you to live, work and study in the UK free from immigration restrictions. After a further qualifying period with ILR, you may also be able to apply for British citizenship.
Last updated: 21 August 2022