What is Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK?

Permission to enter and stay in the UK (‘Leave’) can be granted to a person for a specified period of time, known as Limited Leave, or can be granted for an indefinite time, known as Indefinite Leave. The granted Indefinite Leave to Remain (“ILR”) is often also referred to as “Settlement”, as this is essentially what the permission amounts to. A migrant who is granted ILR is permitted to live and work in the UK without restrictions.

Most migrants will need to be granted one or more periods of limited leave before being able to apply for Settlement / ILR. The length of time that they will complete in the UK before they can apply for ILR is referred to as the “qualifying period”. The qualifying period will depend on the category and the circumstances of their leave in the UK.

What are the Eligibility requirements for ILR application:

You must meet the requirements set out in the Immigration Rules which are relevant to the visa category which you are applying for.

All applicants aged 18-64 must meet the two parts of the Knowledge of Language and Life (“KOLL”) requirement by passing the Life in the UK test, and meeting one of the following language qualifications:

  • having a speaking and listening qualification in English at B1 level or above of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), or
  • having a degree that was taught or researched in English, or
  • being a national of an English-speaking country.

There are two categories exempt from the KOLL requirement: Bereaved Partner and Highly Skilled Migrant.

Applicants will need to meet the residency requirements. In most cases this will be to attain at least 5 consecutive years of residence in the UK.

Applicants should meet the good character requirements.

Once you are granted ILR it is important that you are not absent from the UK for two years or more. If you are absent for a period of more than 2 years, your ILR status will be curtailed.

You will be eligible to apply for British citizenship after you are granted ILR. In most circumstances, you become eligible to apply for citizenship after having ILR for 12 months. There are some exceptions to this for different visa categories.

Indefinite leave to remain: The 5-year route

After spending a continuous period of 5 years in the UK, a person may be eligible to make an application for Indefinite Leave to remain. This is the most common route of gaining ILR in the UK.

Whether or not a person will be eligible to apply after 5 years will depend on the visa category which they are currently in the UK with and subject to meeting the eligibility criteria.

Indefinite leave to remain: The 10-year route

A migrant would be able to apply to settle in the UK if they have been in the UK legally for 10 continuous years. This is known as ‘long residence’, or the ’10-year route’. A migrant could apply for ILR as a long resident if they have:

  • been in the UK legally for 10 years (known as your ‘continuous residence’);
  • kept to the terms of their UK visa;
  • the applicant must meet the knowledge of language and life requirement;
  • there must be no reason why granting leave is against the public good.

Continuous residence is time you’ve spent in the UK without gaps.

For the long residence route, you can leave the UK during the continuous residence for up to:

180 days at a time

540 days in total

Applying as a Spouse of a settled person:

At present, if your initial visa in the UK was as a spouse / family member, you will be initially granted a visa that lasts 30 months (i.e. 2 and a half years). After this period, you will need to apply again for another 30 months. Only you have spent 5 years in the UK, that is you have been granted limited leave to remain twice, will you be eligible to apply for ILR.

In most cases, you would be required to be an ILR holder for 12 months before you could apply for naturalisation. However, under the new rules, a spouse of a British citizen who has been in the UK lawfully for a period of 5 years, is eligible to apply for naturalisation immediately after being granted ILR.

How can we help? Master Legal Services will assess your specific circumstances and assist you with the right application for you.  Very importantly, we will provide you with a list of the necessary documentary to make a successful application. We will check all the relevant documents for errors before you submit your application.

Contact us for more information.

T: 020 8935 5205

M:+44 7710987064


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