Leave to remain is the permission granted to non-UK nationals to enter and stay in the UK for a limited period of time. After a qualifying period of residency in the UK, you may then become eligible to settle and apply for indefinite leave to remain.
What is limited leave to remain?
Limited leave to remain refers to the status of UK visa holders who have been approved to enter the UK and to remain here until their visa expires. Under limited leave to remain, you will have to meet the conditions of your visa throughout your stay, such as having a valid certificate of sponsorship if you have a Skilled Worker visa, and having no recourse to public funds while in the UK.
Limited leave to remain requires you to depart the UK at the end of the specified visa period, or to make a further application to the Home Office to retain lawful status. Depending on your circumstances and eligibility, this could mean applying for a visa extension, further leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain.
What is indefinite leave to remain?
While holders of certain visa types, such as visitors or short-term students, will be expected to eventually return home, some categories of limited leave may lead to settled status in the UK. Settled status gives the holder permission to stay in the UK on a permanent basis. This is known as indefinite leave to remain (ILR).
Note that ‘settled status’ with ILR is different to the EU settlement scheme for EEA nationals in the UK.
Individuals with ILR are not subject to immigration restrictions in the UK. You can leave and enter the UK at will. ILR does not expire, unless you have been absent from the UK for more than two years.
If you hold ILR status, you may also become eligible to certain entitlements, such as welfare benefits and tax credits. The exception is if your right to remain was awarded as a result of another person formally agreeing to maintain and accommodate you. In this case, you will be excluded from some benefits for five years.
What is the difference between limited and indefinite leave to remain?
Limited leave to remain allows you to enter and stay in the UK for a specified period of time, while indefinite leave to remain will provide you with permission to permanently live and work in the UK. There are, however, other differences that go beyond time restrictions.
Limited leave to remain is usually granted on the condition that you maintain and accommodate yourself, and any dependants, without recourse to public funds. This means that for the duration of your stay in the UK you are likely to be excluded from any welfare benefits, as well as most forms of local authority housing and homelessness assistance.
As the holder of limited leave to remain, other conditions may also be imposed as part of your permission to remain in the UK including, for example, a condition restricting your employment or your studies.
In contrast, ILR holders will be free from immigration restrictions, and will broadly have the same rights and entitlements to services and welfare benefits as a UK citizen.
Furthermore, having held indefinite leave to remain for an additional qualifying period, an applicant with settled status may be eligible to apply for British citizenship by way of naturalisation.
What categories of leave are available?
There are several different categories of leave to remain depending on your eligibility and why you want to come to or stay in the UK. The main immigration routes for individuals wanting to work, train or study in the UK are under the points-based system and include:
- Tier 1 routes of the points-based system for investors, start up entrepreneurs and established, ‘innovator’ business owners
- Work sponsorship visas such as the Skilled Worker visa and Intra-Company Transfer visa for skilled workers with a job offer in the UK.
- Global Talent visa for those with exceptional talent or promise in their field.
- Student visa for international students.
- Tier 5 enables young overseas nationals to experience life and culture in the UK. It also permits workers to undertake short-term or temporary employment.
Am I eligible to apply for leave to remain?
To be eligible to apply for limited leave to remain, you must meet the full requirements under the Immigration Rules and those required for the visa you are applying for. For points-based visas, this will mean accruing the minimum number of points determined by your particular visa category.
For example, you will be required to satisfy both an English language and maintenance requirement:
- The English requirement – unless you are a national of a majority English-speaking country, typically you will need to satisfy the Home Office of your knowledge of English. You will either need to provide evidence of an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised as being equivalent to a UK bachelors degree, masters degree or PhD, or you will need to pass an approved English test.
- The maintenance requirement – you will also need to satisfy the Home Office of your ability to accommodate and support yourself on arrival in the UK. Here, you will either need to prove that you have a certain amount of personal savings in your bank account for a specified number of days before you apply, or have your work sponsor guarantee financial support on your behalf.
To be eligible for indefinite leave to remain, applicants must have resided in the UK for a qualifying period of time. The length of qualifying time will depend on an applicant’s existing immigration category and ability to meet all other relevant rules in place. In most cases, applicants will also be required to demonstrate their knowledge of English language and life in the UK.
When can I apply for further leave to remain?
If you are applying for further leave to remain you should do so prior to expiry of your existing permission to stay. It is an offence for any holder of leave to remain to ‘overstay’ and knowingly stay in the UK beyond the time limit permitted by their visa. It is also an offence to fail to comply with a condition or requirement imposed as part of your permission to be in the UK.
By staying beyond the expiry of your visa, or otherwise breaching your leave to remain conditions, you will be at risk of removal from the UK, refusal of further leave or even criminal prosecution. Both these types of offences are punishable by way of a fine or a term of imprisonment.
If, on the other hand, you submit a valid application prior to the expiry of your existing leave, the terms and conditions of that leave will continue until a decision is made on your application for further leave to remain.
How do I apply for limited leave to remain?
How you submit your application for leave to remain will depend on whether you are applying from outside or within the UK. In most cases, you will submit your application online.
If you are applying from within the UK, in most cases you will need to attend a UKVCAS centre. The purpose of a leave to remain interview is for the Home Office to request further information, verify facts or documentation and check that you meet all of the visa requirements. For some visa categories, fast tracked processing is available for an additional charge.
The visa processing times for leave to remain applications can vary dramatically and guidance should be sought at the time of making your application for your specific visa category.
There are a number of practical considerations when applying for leave to remain, from how much the visa application fee is and which supporting documents you will need to provide, to what questions you may be asked during interview.
When applying for leave to remain, reference should always be made to any specific Home Office guidance relevant to your visa category, in conjunction with the relevant provisions of the Immigration Rules. However, these provisions are subject to constant change and expert legal advice from an immigration specialist may be required.
Indefinite leave to remain after 10 years long residence
Another way to qualify for ILR is through the long residence route. If you have at least 10 years of continuous, lawful residence, you may be eligible to settle. In addition to being able to prove 10 years of unbroken status in the UK, you will also need to show you meet the English language and life in the UK test, and that there are no general grounds to refuse your application, such as a criminal record or a breach of the Immigration Rules.
DavidsonMorris are specialists in UK immigration, working closely with individuals to provide guidance and support through Home Office applications including all types of leave to remain and Indefinite Leave to Remain applications. Contact us for specialist advice.
Leave to remain FAQs
What is the meaning of leave to remain?
When you are first granted a visa, this will come with permission to enter the UK for a specified period of time. You will have to leave the UK before this visa expiry, unless you apply for further leave to remain. After a qualifying period in the UK with lawful status, you may become eligible for indefinite leave to remain.
Is there a difference between leave to remain and indefinite leave to remain?
Leave to remain means you have permission to stay in the UK for a specific period of time and your activities are limited to the restrictions of your visa. Indefinite leave to remain is where you have permanent lawful status in the UK as a settled person, and you are no longer subject to immigration control.
How much is it to apply for leave to remain?
Applications for leave to remain are £1033, and the ILR application fee is £2,389.
Can I apply for leave to remain in the UK?
Depending on your visa category, you may be able to apply for further leave to remain by extending your visa or switching to a different visa category. If you have been in the UK for five years, or the relevant qualifying period under your visa, you may be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
Last updated: 19 January 2021