What is indefinite leave?
Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) is an immigration status granted to people who do not hold the right of abode in the United Kingdom (UK). ILR is generally granted to people so that they can live in the UK without any time limit on their stay. Immigrants who have been granted ILR can then stay in the UK for an indefinite period of time and are free to pursue their interests within the country. ILR also acts as a prerequisite towards naturalisation and British citizenship. People who successfully obtain ILR are entitled to work in the UK and are also entitled to receive any state benefits that they qualify for. Indefinite Leave to Remain is not a permanent status. It expires when the holder has stayed outside the United Kingdom for a continuous period of two years and one day or more. How to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK is a common question which we will now deal with in detail.
Qualifying Visa Categories and Routes for ILR
There are several visa categories or routes that one can take to be able to qualify for indefinite leave to remain. Generally, anyone can qualify for ILR with one of the following visa categories or routes:
- Tier 1 migrants – Tier 1 (General), Tier 1 (Entrepreneur), Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent), Tier 1 (Investor), and their dependents.
- Tier 2 (General) migrants and their dependents.
- Spouse or partner of a British Citizen or person settled in the UK.
- UK ancestry route.
- Domestic workers covered by transitional arrangements.
- Migrants in closed categories, such as HSMP or Work Permit holders, and their dependents.
Requirements for Indefinite Leave to Remain
Some requirements must be fulfilled for any applicant to become eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. As well as the requirement to have stayed in the UK for a qualifying period, there are other ILR requirements that any applicant needs to fulfil to become eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
These requirements are as follows:
- No criminal convictions or breach of immigration laws.
- A passing certificate in the Life in the UK test.
- Continuously been in the UK for at least 5 years (depending on the type of visa).
- Kept a record of the dates in which the applicant was absent from the UK during the qualifying period.
- Ability to prove a B1 level of English as set out by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (unless exempt).
- The applicant must not have spent more than 180 days outside the UK in a year during their UK residency.
- Compliance with Indefinite Leave to Remain requirements that are specific to certain routes.
Depending upon the type of immigration status, there are different mandatory periods of stay before one can be eligible for applying an indefinite leave to remain. The most fundamental requirement is to have lawfully lived in the UK continuously for a certain period. In most instances, a non-EEA person will be able to apply for ILR after five years. That being said, the minimum time requirement is based on the visa of the person applying and their particular circumstances. The different periods are outlined as follows:
|Immigration Status||Minimum Time Requirement|
|Discretionary Leave to Remain||6 years|
|Long residence and under 18||7 years|
|Long residence and over 18||10 years|
|Individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 who have lived in the UK for at least half their life||Up to 22.5 years|
|Dependant adult or child of someone with settlement status/citizen||No minimum residence|
|Returning resident||No requirements if returning to the UK within 3 years of departure|
Please note that only time spent lawfully living in the UK is counted towards the qualifying period requirement. The time which is spent in the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands will not count towards the ILR requirements.
Financial Requirements for ILR Application
Every candidate applying for an ILR must be able to meet the financial requirement set by the British government. The specified amount depends upon the type of ILR application made by the applicant. For example, someone applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain as a spouse or civil partner of a British citizen or settled person needs to earn £18,600 per year (threshold may vary depending upon the number of children with the applicant). However, those applying for ILR as refugees or victims of domestic violence do not have to meet any financial requirements.
It is important to note that if an applicant is found to have cheated or deceived the Home Office in any application or during their time in the UK, their eligibility for Indefinite Leave to Remain can be cancelled and further disciplinary action could be taken against them.
Life in the UK Test
The Life in the UK test is a 45-minute-long test consisting of 24 questions that are used to assess whether the candidate is familiar with UK life and customs. Taking this exam costs £50.
Candidates can be exempted from taking this test if they are:
- Applicants under the SET (DV) form type (victims of domestic violence).
- Applicants who are a citizen of English-speaking countries.
- Applicants whose spouse has passed away and are applying under the SET (M) form type.
How to apply for ILR?
To apply for an ILR, one needs to fill and submit an ILR form depending upon the category which is the most suitable for the applicant. To help the reader make an informed choice, a table which lists the form type and its suitable category have been listed below:
Applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain as a civil partner, spouse, or unmarried partner.
SET (M) form
Applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain based on long residence (after 10 years).
SET (LR) form
Applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain as a child whose parents are settled in the UK.
SET (F) form
Applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain as someone who has been granted humanitarian protection or as a refugee.
Set (P) form
Applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain as a victim of domestic abuse or violence.
Set (DV) form
Apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after staying for 5 years on a UK ancestry visa.
Set (O) form
Applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain after approaching 5 years of continuous leave to remain in the UK in one of the following categories
· The work permit holder or dependant
· Employment not requiring a work permit
· Businessperson, innovator or investor
· Highly skilled migrant
· Self-employed lawyer
· Writer, composer or artist
· Tier 1 migrant
· Tier 2 migrant
· PBS dependent
Set (O) form
Person(s) applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain as a bereaved partner.
Set (O) form
Documents Required for an ILR Application
In compliance with the ILR application procedure, one must include several supporting documents. This applies to both the applicant and any dependents who are applying along with them.
It is important to note that the documents which are to be submitted must be original documents and not copies. If an applicant cannot provide original documents, they will need to explain why. If exceptional circumstances mean you cannot access the original documents, the Home Office may be lenient.
The documents to be submitted are as follows:
- Passport and travel documents, including any old passport which was valid during the applicant’s time in the UK.
- Birth or adoption certificates.
- Documents that account for any time spent outside of the UK during the applicant’s residency, for example, travel documents.
- A police registration certificate if the applicant is required to register with the police when they arrived in the UK.
- A history of the applicant’s immigration.
- Financial information, such as bank statements.
- Pass certificate of Life in the UK test.
- Pass certificate (if not exempt) to prove the B1 level of English.
- Two identical passport-sized photographs.
Indefinite Leave to Remain Fee
Currently, the fee for any Indefinite Leave to Remain application is £2,389. For each additional person in the application, a further £50 will be charged. An expedited service is also available if you need a quick decision on your application. The priority service processes your application within five working days and costs a further £500, and the super-priority will process one’s application within one working day, costing an additional £800.
It is to be noted that applicants submitting the SET (P) forms (applying after being granted refugee status or humanitarian protection) are exempt from paying the abovementioned fees and the application process is free for them.
Time to Process an ILR Application
This generally varies from one case to another. A postal application usually tends to take around 6 months. This process can however be accelerated by taking advantage of the Visa premium service centre which allows an applicant to get an appointment within 3 weeks. One can also receive the Home Office’s decision on the same day as applying. This service, however, comes at the price of £610 for each person.
As discussed earlier, there are numerous practical considerations when applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain. These key considerations include what fee to pay and documents to produce in support, to what questions you may be asked during the interview. The main objectives of the interviews are for the Home Office to request further information, verify facts or documentation, and/or check that your application is genuine.
When applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain, it is imperative to refer to any specific Home Office guidance that is relevant to your visa category as well as the relevant provisions of the Immigration Rules. However, these aforementioned provisions are subject to change constantly and expert legal advice from an immigration specialist may be required.