The UK’s rules on long residence recognise that individuals will have ties to Britain built over a lengthy period of residence. In this long residence guidance, we explain the criteria you will need to meet to be eligible under this settlement route and the procedure to follow to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Long residence guidance: eligibility criteria
By settling in the UK, otherwise known as indefinite leave to remain, you can live and work in the UK without time limitations. However, you must first satisfy the eligibility criteria:
- You must have valid leave to remain in the UK. This can be in any immigration category, or a combination of different immigration categories, for example, as a spouse or under a points-based category.
- You must be able to show you have been in the UK for at least 10 years on a lawful and continuous basis. Your 10-year qualifying period starts from either when you arrived in Britain with a UK visa or when you were given permission to stay in the UK.
- You must have complied with the terms of your UK visa.
- There must be no reason why granting leave is against the public good.
- You must not fall for refusal under the general grounds for refusal.
- You must meet the English language requirement and pass the Life in the UK test (known as the KoLL requirement).
The continuous residence requirement
Continuous residence is the time you have spent in the UK without any significant periods of absence. You can leave the UK for up to 6 months at any one time, but no more than 18 months in total (or 540 days), without affecting your continuous residence. In addition, you will need to have valid leave both when you leave the UK and when you return. A month constitutes 30 calendar days and you only have to count full days out of the country, not days spent travelling.
Absences of more than 6 months will in most cases be considered to have broken your continuous residence unless the Home Office exercises discretion where you can show exceptional or compassionate circumstances.
Where you are deported from the UK or you leave the UK with obvious intent at that time not to return, this would also break your period of residence. Continuous residence is also broken if an applicant is sentenced to a period of detention in prison, a young offenders institution or a secure hospital.
Your 10 years in the UK must be both continuous and lawful. This means you should generally have no periods of ‘overstay’, where you were in the UK without valid leave, however brief or unintentional. A period of unlawful stay would effectively reset the clock on your 10-year qualifying period.
However, there are limited exceptions to this rule, for example where there are gaps between periods of valid leave on or after 24 November 2016 but leave was subsequently granted or for any overstay of 28 days or less that ended before 24 November 2016.
Taking advice on your circumstances can ensure you confirm your eligibility before making your application.
The KoLL requirement
For applicants aged 18 to 65 years old, you must also prove your knowledge of language and life in the UK, ie; the KoLL requirement. This means that you must be able to show you have sufficient English language skills, as well as passing a ‘Life in the UK’ test at an approved test centre.
You can satisfy the language requirement by either:
- obtaining an approved English speaking and listening qualification
- providing evidence of a UK degree, or other suitable academic qualification deemed to be equivalent to a UK qualification taught or researched in English.
If you are a citizen of a majority English speaking country you will not be required to obtain any qualification, although you will still have to pass the Life in the UK test. Further, you may be wholly exempt if you are aged 65 or over, or have a long-term physical or mental condition that prevents you from meeting the KoLL requirement. You must, however, provide a completed exemption form from a doctor confirming your condition.
In the event that you are unable to satisfy the KoLL requirement at the time of your application for indefinite leave to remain, you may be able to extend your stay for another 2 years, known as further leave to remain.
Extend your stay
If you do not meet the eligibility requirements under the long residence route, you may be able to apply to extend your stay with limited leave to remain for a further two years. This application costs £1,033 (as at October 2019).
Long residence guidance: The application process
You will need to submit your application for indefinite leave to remain under the long residence route by way of an online application. You will also need to pay the Home Office application fee, £2,389.
You can apply up to 28 days before you complete the 10 year qualifying period.
When you apply, you will be asked to make an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to submit your biometric information, ie; a scan of your fingerprints and a digital photograph of your face, for which there is an additional fee here of £19.20.
You can also have your documentation in support of your application scanned at your UKVCAS appointment or, alternatively, upload this into the online service.
You will need to provide various documents to support your application including a current, valid passport or other valid travel ID, your biometric residence permit (if you have one) and all passports you have held during your time in the UK.
It is also likely you will need to provide additional documents to evidence your eligibility. These will depend on your circumstances and the nature of your 10 year residence.
You can submit your application as soon as you meet all the eligibility criteria, rather than waiting until your current visa expires. However, you must be in the UK to apply and you must not leave the UK until a decision has been made.
If you use the super priority service a decision will be made by the end of the next working day following your UKVCAS biometric appointment where your appointment is on a weekday, or 2 working days if your appointment is at the weekend. The cost of the super priority service is an additional £800. Using the standard service you should receive a decision within 6 months.
In some cases an application for indefinite leave to remain can take longer, for example, where documentation needs to be verified or you need to attend an interview because of your personal circumstances, for example, you have been convicted of a criminal offence. You will be contacted, however, if this is the case.
Long residence guidance: 20 year route
If you have been in the UK continuously for 20 years, including periods of overstay or incarceration, you may be eligible to apply for limited leave to remain. If approved, you can be granted leave for up to 30 months. You will then be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain once you have accumulated 10 years continuous lawful residence.
In addition to showing 20 years’ unbroken residence, you will also need to pass the suitability grounds, which are typically measured against the threshold of the ‘public good’ and ensure your application itself is valid, had been completed correctly and the relevant fee paid. There is no English language requirement under the 20 year application.
The status of EU citizens
EU citizens’ rights in the UK are expected to remain unchanged until 30 June 2021, or 31 December 2020 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. However, under the EU settlement scheme, EU citizens in the UK are required to register for settled status to preserve their rights to remain the UK after Brexit.
If you have lived in the UK for 5 years or more on a continuous basis, you will usually be granted settled status. This will allow you to live and work in the UK indefinitely. You will also be able to apply for British citizenship after 12 months with settled status, provided you meet the eligibility requirements, and any children born in the UK while you’re living here will automatically attain British citizenship.
If you have lived in the UK for less than 5 years, you will usually be granted pre-settled status. This will allow you to stay in the UK for 5 years from the date you get your status. Having accrued 5 years’ continuous residence you will then be able to apply for settled status.
You must have started living in the UK by 31 December 2020, or by the date the UK leaves the EU without a deal, to be eligible for the settlement scheme.
Long residence guidance: specialist support
The UK long residence rules are complex, and for applicants, it is important to understand what the caseworker will be looking for in a successful application. This means ensuring you understand the eligibility criteria, and how to evidence your suitability under the route.
Attaining UK indefinite leave to remain is a huge milestone. DavidsonMorris are specialists in UK immigration. As a team of lawyers and former Home Office personnel, we can guide you through your application and help prepare an application that best represents your case. For long residence guidance and support with your application, speak to us.