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Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK

Applying for a UK Indefinite Leave to Remain: guidelines from licensed immigration advisors

Why Plan Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK in Advance?

Thousands of foreigners come to the UK every year to study, work, develop their business or simply enjoy safety and comfort in a modern democratic country. Those who come to Great Britain on a work, business or family visa normally apply for an indefinite leave to remain (ILR), or settlement, after several years of living in the country and successful integration in the British society.

Regardless of the visa category, ILR application in the UK is a complicated process that requires compliance with numerous conditions and requirements. That is why it is vital to pay utmost attention to every step of this process and plan and monitor each stage to avoid a refusal from immigration authorities that can put an end to your many years in the UK.

Imperial & Legal’s experienced immigration advisors support people who relocate to the UK and plan to obtain an ILR and citizenship. Our specialists have extensive expertise in such immigration cases, so we have prepared important guidelines to help you understand the peculiarities of the ILR application process.

What Is UK Indefinite Leave to Remain?

In the UK, permanent residence can be referred to as an indefinite leave to remain or an indefinite leave to enter (ILE); if you have either of them and you have established a home in the UK, you are considered a UK resident.

An ILR means that its holder is no longer subject to immigration control in the UK, there are no requirements to comply with in terms of living, working, etc. ILR holders enjoy more or less the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, but there are still some differences.

What Are the Differences between ILR and UK Citizenship?

Although ILR offers the same opportunities as UK citizenship, an applicant and their family might choose to naturalise by complying with certain requirements.

You must be a permanent resident for at least 12 months before you can become a UK citizen. The only exception to this rule is the spouse of a UK national.

A UK citizen can obtain a second passport and vote in local elections. With ILR, its holder risks losing their immigration status if they are outside the UK for more than 2 years or if the UK authorities decide that their activities undermine national security. New UK nationals can leave the United Kingdom for any period without losing their citizenship.

What Is the Difference between FLR and ILR?

FLR is a further leave to remain, which means extending a previously obtained visa or residence permit. FLR differs from ILR because it is always granted to a foreign national for a certain period.

Obtaining ILR for EU Citizens

It is worth noting that ILR has long been the equivalent of the standard ILR for immigrants with EU citizenship. This immigration status allowed you to live in the UK without any time limit, to leave and come back whenever you wanted.

After the UK joined the European Union, an ILR was successfully replaced by the EU residence documents. However, European immigrants still applied for a permanent residence card to prove that they had been in the country for 5 years when it was time to obtain British citizenship.

Moreover, the EU Settlement Scheme was launched, helping Europeans to obtain ILR in a short period. After Brexit, EU citizens were treated as foreigners. An exception was made only for the Irish.

Now the European passport does not give any additional benefits to obtain an ILR. The opportunity to participate in the EU Settlement Scheme is left only to those Europeans who, due to serious illness, could not obtain settlement in time.

Who Is Eligible to Apply for ILR?

The right of a foreign national to an indefinite leave to remain in the UK depends on their immigration category and the grounds of their ILR application. For instance, you have the right to apply for ILR if you have lived in the country for ten years.

Work, business and family visa holders must live in the UK for at least five years and comply with all immigration requirements to apply for ILR here. In some cases, certain immigration categories can apply for a UK indefinite leave to remain after 2-3 years of living in the country.

To sum it up, the following immigration categories can apply for ILR:

  1. Holders of long-term work, business and family visas as main applicants or dependants after several years of living in the UK;
  2. Those who have lived in the country for over ten years on legal grounds.

Legal grounds

Period of Residence


UK Skilled Worker visa

5 years

Tier 2:

  • Religious workers;
  • Sportspeople and coaches 

5 years

UK Scale-Up Worker visa

5 years

UK Global Talent visa

3–5 years

It depends on your achievements

Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa*

3–5 years

It depends on your performance 

UK Investor visa*

2 yearsInvestments over £10,000,000
3 yearsInvestments over £5,000,000
5 years

Investments over £2,000,000

UK Innovator visa*

3 years

Subject to the business meeting two out of seven requirements

UK Innovator visa

3 years

Subject to the business meeting two out of seven requirements

Representative of an overseas business visa*

5 years

The Representative of an Overseas Newspaper, News Agency or Broadcasting Organisation visa

5 years

Spouse and Fiancé/Fiancée Visas

5 years

You can apply for ILR immediately if your British spouse passes away or if you separate because of domestic violence 

UK Ancestry visa

5 years

It is for citizens of British overseas territories, the Commonwealth and Zimbabwe 

Living in the country on legal grounds

10 years


* – The Home Office does not accept new applications under this visa category.

There are other categories of people who are eligible for ILR such as refugees or foreign nationals who served in the UK army, but due to low application rates in these categories, we have not included them in our review.

Requirements for Applicants of Indefinite Leave to Remain

You can get ILR if:

  1. You have lived in the country for a certain period (as a rule, five years) on a long-term visa or spent the last ten years on the British Isles on different legal grounds;
  2. You have a good command of English and can prove it:
    • By being a national of an English-speaking country;
    • With a diploma issued by a British higher educational institution;
    • By successfully passing an English test.
  3. You have passed the Life in the UK test;
  4. You comply with the criteria for settlement in the UK;
  5. You have a minimum income (in some cases).

What Is ILR?

As we found out, continuous residence is one of the main requirements for obtaining ILR. Continuous residence can be broken when an applicant leaves the country, but it must not be more than 180 days in any 12-month period.

180 days, or roughly six months, is usually enough even for those who have occasional business outside the UK. However, some work and business visa holders may have difficulties because they have to often leave the country for business. If this is your case, make sure you discuss your absences with Imperial & Legal’s advisors before applying for ILR.

Process of Applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain

ILR application is filed online. Make sure you fill in an application which is required for your immigration category. Overall, there are four forms with the following codes:

  1. LR – for applicants who have lived in the UK on legal grounds for a long time;
  2. M – for applicants who have relocated to the UK with family visas (parents, children, spouses and civil partners of UK citizens);
  3. О – for those who have come on a work or business visa;
  4. EU Settlement Scheme – a form designed for EU citizens who apply for settlement within the framework of the EU Settlement Scheme. Currently, this option is available to EU citizens who failed to get a British ILR before 31.01.2020 for a valid reason such as a serious illness.

Make sure that all the information in your application is correct and relevant to your case. You need to prepare supporting documents; if some of them are in a foreign language, you will need certified translations into English. You will also need to pay a government application fee.

A standard package includes the following documents:

  • A valid passport of the main applicant;
  • Long-term visa showing that you have stayed in the UK on legal grounds;
  • Evidence of trips outside the UK;
  • Evidence of your knowledge of the English language and successful passing of the Life in the UK test;
  • Payslips issued by your employer showing that your salary is above the legally established minimum if you apply for British ILR as a qualified worker.

How Much Does It Cost to Apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)?

The standard fee is £2,404, excluding the £19.20 biometrics fee.

It may take up to six months to get a decision on your case, but as a rule, it is processed faster, within six to twelve weeks. In most cases, you can pay an additional £500 to have your application considered within five days. Some categories of applicants may use the priority option and have their application considered within 24 hours for an additional £800; however, this number of applicants may be limited.

Note that neither the application nor the biometrics fee will be refunded if UK authorities refuse your ILR application in the UK.

Most Common Reasons for ILR Refusal

  • Failure to meet one or more of the requirements for your visa category;
  • Application form is incorrect or incomplete;
  • Mistakes and false information in supporting documents or missing information;
  • Failure to provide supporting documents or information within the given timeframe if requested by the Home Office.

How to Avoid ILR Refusal?

You will increase your chances of getting ILR and avoid mistakes that may lead to refusal if you contact experienced immigration advisors at Imperial & Legal. They will make sure that your application form is filled in correctly and that all the necessary documents have been provided. Besides, they will calculate all your trips outside the UK and come up with a plan of getting an indefinite leave to remain in Great Britain. Our specialists will also support you in your preparation for an English exam and a Life in the UK test.

Biometric Residence Permit Card (BRP)

Most UK residents already know what a residence card is as they collect it upon arrival in the country on their current visa. However, you will need to have your biometric information taken again for a small fee. Finally, when your application is approved, you will get an ILR BRP card. Once you obtain your ILR BRP card, double-check all the details on the card carefully and make sure there are no mistakes. If there are, you need to report them to the Home Office immediately.

Currently, the biometric card proving your UK residence permit is issued for 10 years and remains valid until 31 December 2024 – after this date, biometric cards in the UK will expire and your immigration status will be available for checking online.

Can Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK Be Cancelled?

Yes, it can in the following cases:

  • It is revealed that you have deliberately lied to the Home Office providing false information about yourself;
  • ILR was granted to a refugee who does not hold this status now;
  • A migrant is subject to deportation but cannot be deported as it violates human rights agreements signed by the UK.

However, the most frequent reason for an ILR to be cancelled is a permanent resident living outside the UK for two or more years. Under the EU Settlement Scheme, EU nationals will lose their settled status if they are absent for five years and Swiss citizens, for four years.

We will not talk about how to re-enter the UK if you lost ILR as this topic deserves a detailed article. If you have lost your IRL due to a long stay abroad and are planning to return, make an appointment for a consultation with our advisor.

Applying for British Citizenship

ILR holders have the right to live and work in the UK without any restrictions and, as we have mentioned above, their status hardly differs from that one of a British citizen. Therefore, some ILR holders, especially those who come from countries where it is prohibited to have a second citizenship, stick to this status instead of applying for citizenship.

However, most ILR holders usually go further and apply for naturalisation after 12 months of living in the country as a settled person. To become a British citizen, you need to have a good knowledge of English as well as the customs and traditions of life in the UK. Spouses of UK citizens can apply for citizenship immediately after getting settlement, without having to wait for 12 months, provided they comply with all other criteria.

A new passport with the Lion and the Unicorn, UK symbols, will be given to you once you are naturalised as a British citizen. You will need to fill in a special form and pay a fee to get it. The process of issuing a passport lasts three to ten weeks, depending on your circumstances and the place where you applied for citizenship.

More detailed information about getting UK citizenship can be found on our website or during a prebooked consultation with Imperial & Legal’s team.

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FAQs about Getting Indefinite Leave to Remain

How can I get Indefinite Leave to Remain if I have a UK spouse visa?

After having lived in Great Britain with your British spouse for five years, you can apply for ILR. You cannot submit your ILR application more than 28 days before completing five years as a spouse of a British citizen or a settled person.

In some respects, an IRL application is similar to a spouse visa application:

  1. You need to demonstrate to immigration authorities that you have been in a continuous relationship with your British spouse, i.e. you have been living together from when you got your spouse visa to the moment of applying for ILR.
  2. You are also expected to prove to the Home Office that your family have somewhere to live in the UK by providing a copy of your tenancy agreement or a title.
  3. Like five years ago, you will have to prove that at the time of ILR application, you have sufficient means to maintain your family without having to apply for public funds.

In addition to the above-mentioned requirements, you need to pass a Life in the UK test and prove good knowledge of English by passing an exam to B1 or higher level according to the European classification.

You can apply for British citizenship straight after being granted ILR if you comply with the relevant requirements.

What is a Life in the UK test?

Passing a Life in the UK test is mandatory for all ILR applicants aged 18 to 65. An applicant with a mental or physical disability who can provide a medical certificate does not have to take the test. The test is held in one of 30 government centres. As a rule, it is subject to a prebooked appointment and payment of £50.

A standard test lasts 45 minutes during which you are expected to answer 24 questions about traditions and everyday life in the UK. British citizens confess that some questions are confusing and challenging even for those who are born in Great Britain. However, practice tests are available online to help you prepare.

Our specialists help clients get prepared for a Life in the UK test. However, if you decide to take it without any help and end up failing it, do not get discouraged: it can be retaken seven days later by paying another £50.

Can I get Indefinite Leave to Remain in two or three years?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to apply for ILR after 2 years because the UK immigration authorities have stopped issuing a UK Investor visa, which allows you to obtain ILR in a short time if you invest £10 million in the UK economy. However, if you are already living in the UK on this visa, you can apply for an accelerated ILR (the period depends on the size of your investment).

In addition, if you have achieved success in your professional field or can offer products or services that are unique to the highly competitive UK market, you can apply for a UK Global Talent visa or UK Innovator visa to obtain ILR after 3 years of continuous residence in the UK.

Is it possible to apply for ILR with a criminal record?

This depends on your circumstances. Undoubtedly, an outstanding conviction or immigration offence will have a negative impact on the caseworker’s decision, as an applicant’s good reputation is one of the key criteria.

Therefore, before applying for an ILR, discuss your situation with an experienced immigration advisor. You will significantly increase your chances of obtaining an ILR by doing so.

How do I get ILR after a divorce?

If you live in the UK on a spouse visa, your immigration status will change when you stop living together with, get a divorce or separate from a UK citizen.

In this case, you must inform the immigration authorities of the breakdown of the relationship. If you plan to stay in the UK, you will need to find an alternative immigration route because the spouse visa is no longer suitable for you.

Let’s consider the most common options for solving this problem. Note: it is better to discuss any of the above cases and other situations with a competent immigration advisor to develop a plan and avoid mistakes.

  1. You can apply for ILR as a parent of a child with British citizenship or if you prove parental responsibility.
  2. You can apply for ILR if you’ve been in the UK legally for 10 continuous years (known as ‘long residence’).
  3. You may also apply for ILR if:
  • You have been married for at least 3 years to a national of a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) who has exercised their treaty rights in the UK.
  • You have lived in the UK for at least 12 months.
  1. You can apply for a UK Skilled Worker visa if you have an in-demand qualification and you are sponsored by a licensed UK sponsor.

What other categories of applicants have the right to obtain ILR?

We have not included in our review such immigration categories as:

  • Turkish Worker or Businessperson.
  • Private servant in a diplomatic household with an International Agreement visa.

The immigration authorities do not take new applications under these categories, so it is only possible for those who are already living in the UK on these visas to obtain ILR.

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