UK Settlement Visa? Check You’re Eligible!


Applying for a UK Settlement Visa

There are many different ways individuals may become eligible to apply to settle in the UK under indefinite leave to remain (ILR).

ILR grants eligible individuals status to live in the UK without time limitation. A settled person is also free to leave and re-enter the UK free from immigration restriction.

If you intend to apply to naturalise as a British citizen, you will first need to hold ILR for a minimum of 12 months, unless you are married to a UK settled person, in which case you can naturalise as soon as you are granted settlement.

Are you eligible for UK settlement?

Eligibility for UK settlement would ordinarily be on the basis that you:

  • Are the family member or partner of a British citizen;
  • Are the family member or partner of someone who has settled in the UK;
  • Are an EU citizen (where UK settlement is known as ‘permanent residence‘);
  • Have a work visa;
  • Have a UK Ancestry visa;
  • Have a Retired Person visa;
  • Have Discretionary Leave;
  • Are in or have been in HM Forces;
  • Are on the 10-year Private Life route;
  • Have been in the UK legally for 10 years and qualify under Long Residence; or
  • Are applying on exceptional compassionate grounds.

To be eligible for settlement, you must apply from within the UK and provide evidence you have been living in Britain lawfully, on a visa that offers a route to settlement for the relevant qualifying period of time.

Eligible visas for settlement and the required periods of continuous stay are:

  • Tier 2 (General) visa – 5 years
  • Spouse visa – 5 years
  • Ancestry visa – 5 years
  • Work Permit holders – 5 years
  • Holders of any type of UK visa – 10 years
  • Investors – continuous 5 years
  • Writers, composers and artists – continuous 5 years
  • Retired person of independent means – continuous 5 years
  • Refugees and people who have entered the UK for Humanitarian protection

When can I apply for UK settlement?

You will need to make your application before your current visa expires.

In most cases, you should not apply more than 28 days before you have completed the qualifying period or your application will be refused and you will have to pay again to re-apply.

You can only apply to settle as a long resident if you have been legally residing in the UK for ten years or more and have kept to the terms of your visa. The 10-year qualifying period begins from either the day you arrived in the UK with a visa or the day you were granted permission to stay in the UK.

I have previously held ILR – do I need to apply again to settle? 

If you have previously been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain, but have been absent from the UK for over two years, you will no longer hold ILR. To re-enter the UK on a settled basis, you will first need to apply for a Returning Resident Visa.

You will be required to prove that you plan to return and permanently settle in the UK, were settled in the UK prior to leaving and have not received any public funds to enable you to leave the UK.

If you have been away for over two years you will also need to provide evidence that you have maintained strong ties with the UK and provide reasons for living outside of the UK and what your current circumstances are.

You will need to provide supporting documents along with your application and fee. These include a valid passport, a passport sized colour photo, the documents that prove your ties to the UK such as mortgage deeds, your biometric information (fingerprints and digital photo take at the visa application centre) and any documents that are not in English or Welsh will need to be translated by a certified translator and signed and dated.

How to apply for UK settlement

You will need to use either the Set (M) form or Set (O) form to apply for your settlement. The form you should use will depend on the type of visa you currently hold.

Set (O) Form:

If you have a visa in one of the following immigration categories, you will need to use the Set (O) form to apply for a UK Settlement visa/ILR:

  • work permit holder or dependant of work permit holder
  • PBS dependant
  • employment not requiring a work permit
  • businessperson, innovator or investor
  • highly skilled migrant
  • self-employed lawyer
  • writer, composer or artist
  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrant
  • Tier 1 (Investor) migrant
  • Tier 2 migrant
  • UK ancestry
  • Bereaved partner
  • Other purposes not covered by other application forms

Evidence that you meet the financial requirement of £18,600, annual income, will also be required. You can provide this through income from your sponsor, salaries received in the UK, you and your partner’s state or private pensions or cash savings over £16,000.

There are documents that will be required when applying for ILR or settlement using the Set (M) form, including passport, travel documents, current visa, bank statements, tax returns and proof of residency. You will also need to provide photocopies of your first and last page of your passport including any pages that contain visa or immigration stamps.

You will also need two colour passport sized photographs with your full name written on the reverse for each individual applying on the form. So this will include all dependents. Plus a passport sized photograph of your partner with their name written on the back.

All documents need to be in their original format. Any documents that are not in English or Welsh will need to be translated by a registered translator and signed and dated by them.

Set (M) form:

A partner of a person who is settled in the UK will need to use the Set (M) form. You may add any children you have under the age of 18 to this application as dependents.

You will need to have fulfilled the criteria of living in the UK on a spouse or civil partner visa for the previous 5 years to qualify.

You will need to provide documentary evidence similar to that required for the Set (O) form. In addition to those documents, you may be required to show evidence of all reasons for absences from the UK during your qualifying period.

Do you have a question about a UK settlement visa?

UK settlement applications are demanding on applicants. The forms are extensive and the supporting documentation is substantial. Errors or omissions in your application will result in delays or even a refusal.

It is highly recommended that you seek legal advice from an immigration specialist to ensure you have filled in the correct application form for your circumstances when applying for ILR as well as ensuring you have all information required for your application to be approved.

DavidsonMorris are specialist UK immigration advisers, supporting individuals with all types of Home Office applications including settlement visas and indefinite leave to remain. If you have a question about settling in the UK, contact us.


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 500and 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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