Indefinite leave to remain

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Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or permanent residency (PR) is an immigration status granted to a person who does not hold the right of abode in the United Kingdom (UK), but who has been admitted to the UK without any time limit on his or her stay and who is free to take up employment or study, without restriction. When indefinite leave is granted to persons outside the United Kingdom it is known as indefinite leave to enter (ILE).

A person who has indefinite leave to remain, the right of abode or Irish citizenship has settled status if resident in the United Kingdom (all full British citizens have the right of abode).

Settled status is central to British nationality law, as the most usual route to naturalisation or registration as a British citizen requires that the applicant be settled in the UK. Settled status is also important where a child of non-British citizen parents is born in the UK, as unless at least one parent has settled status the child will not automatically be a British citizen.

Advantages[edit]

Acquisition of British citizenship[edit]

Holders of ILR may apply for British citizenship if they have held ILR for twelve months or longer, are over 18 and have been living in the United Kingdom for the last five years.

There are seven requirements for naturalisation. The applicant:-

  • must be aged 18 or over.
  • must be of sound mind.
  • must intend to continue living in the UK, or to continue in Crown service, the service of an international organisation of which the UK is a member, or the service of a company or association established in the UK.
  • must be able to communicate in English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic to an acceptable degree.
  • must have sufficient knowledge of life in the UK.
  • must be of good character.
  • must meet the residential requirements.

There are several residential requirements. The applicant must:-

  • have been resident in the UK for at least five years (this is known as the residential qualifying period); and
  • have been present in the UK five years before the date of your application; and
  • not have spent more than 450 days outside the UK during the five-year period; and
  • not have spent more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months of the five-year period; and
  • not have been in breach of the Immigration Rules at any stage during the five-year period.

See "Standard Requirements", April 2010.

Alternatively, there is a simpler procedure for holders of ILR applying for British citizenship if they are married to a British citizen. The residential requirements for those falling into this category need only hold ILR on the day they apply for British citizenship, but must also:-

  • have been resident in the United Kingdom for at least three years (this is known as the residential qualifying period); and
  • have been present in the United Kingdom three years before the date of your application; and
  • have not spent more than 270 days outside the United Kingdom during the three-year period; and
  • have not spent more than 90 days outside the United Kingdom in the last 12 months of the three-year period; and
  • have not been in breach of the immigration rules at any stage during the three-year period.

See "Spouse or Civil Partner of citizen", April 2010.

Other people aged over 18, who hold another form of British nationality and employees (and their husband, wife or civil partner) of the crown, civil service or designated service outside the United Kingdom may instead apply for registration, which is a simpler process than naturalisation.

Children born in the UK[edit]

A child born in the United Kingdom after 1983 to persons who are not British citizens will not automatically be a British citizen.

Prior to 1 July 2006, only a legitimate child (born to parents who are married to each other) could automatically derive British citizenship from the father, if the father was a British citizen or "settled" in the United Kingdom. However, if the parents are not married when the child is born in the United Kingdom, but then get married, and the marriage legitimates the child, then if the father was a British citizen or "settled" in the UK when the child was born, the child would become a British citizen and would be regarded as having been one from the date of marriage. This affects only children where the mother is neither a British citizen nor "settled" in the UK.

For children born on or after 1 July 2006, an unmarried father has broadly equivalent rights (compared with a married father) to pass on British citizenship to a child.

Where a child would be a British citizen but for the fact that the parents are not married, the Home Office will usually register the child as a British citizen under section 3(1) of the British Nationality Act provided that the child is still under 18.

If ILR is acquired after the child's birth, the child will not automatically be a British citizen. However the child can be registered as a British citizen under s1(3) of the British Nationality Act 1981 provided application is made before the age of 18. Alternatively, if the child lives in the UK until age 10, it will have a lifetime entitlement to registration as a British citizen under s1(4) of the Act.

Children born in the United Kingdom before 1983 are British citizens regardless of the immigration status of their parents (unless the father was at the time of the child's birth a diplomat accredited to the United Kingdom).

Public funds[edit]

Unlike people with Limited Leave to Remain (LTR) in the UK, ILR holders do have access to public funds. The wording "No recourse to public funds" is not written in ILR holders' visas. As a result, they are able to claim job seekers allowances and other benefits which are usually only available to British, EU, EEA.

Home Student status[edit]

ILR holders pay Home Student rates (i.e. the same rate as British, EU, EEA and Swiss citizens) for study at higher education institutions in the UK. That is, they are not charged as international students like LTR visa holders – if they want to study courses in any UK institutions.

Right to stand in elections[edit]

Commonwealth citizens who have ILR and are resident in the UK have the right to stand as candidates in all elections.[1] (Note that all Commonwealth citizens living in the UK have the right to vote in all elections, regardless of whether they have ILR).

Acquisition of ILR[edit]

ILR can be acquired in a number of ways.

No residence[edit]

A child (including an adopted child) aged under 18 who holds leave to enter or remain with a view to settlement with a parent, parents or a relative who is a settled person and resident in the UK can apply for ILR using Form SET(F).

A parent, grandparent or other dependant relative aged 18 or over of a person who is a settled person and resident in the UK can apply for ILR using Form SET(F).

A person satisfying all of the below criteria can apply for ILR using Form SET(DV):

  • was given permission to come to the UK for up to 27 months or to extend his/her stay for two years as the husband, wife, civil partner, unmarried partner or same-sex partner of a permanent resident (even if that permission is no longer valid)
  • was still in that relationship at the time he/she came to the UK or extended your stay as their husband, wife, civil partner, unmarried partner or same-sex partner
  • can produce evidence that the relationship has broken down permanently since then as a result of domestic violence.

2 years' residence[edit]

A person who has lived in the UK for 2 years with temporary permission to remain in the UK as the husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried/same-sex partner of a British citizen or a settled person and who intends to continue living together (and are still married or in a civil partnership, if applicable) can apply for ILR using Form SET(M), as long as he/she arrived in the UK or applied for permission to stay in the UK on or before 8 July 2012.

Note that a person living in the UK as the husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried/same-sex partner of a British citizen or a settled person who either arrives in the UK or applies for permission to stay in the UK on or after 9 July 2012 must live in the UK for 5 years (and not 2 years) to obtain ILR (see below).

4 years' residence[edit]

A person who has lived in the UK for 4 years with a visa issued under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) and Employment Not Requiring Work Permit before 3 April 2006 can apply for ILR using Form SET(O).

5 years' residence[edit]

A person who has lived in the UK for 5 years with a visa issued in one of the following categories can apply for ILR using Form SET(O):

  • Tier 1 or Tier 2 of the points-based system (excluding the Post-study work category of Tier 1)
  • work permit
  • businessperson
  • innovator
  • investor
  • representative of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation
  • private servant in a diplomatic household
  • domestic worker in a private household
  • overseas government employee
  • minister of religion, missionary or member of a religious order
  • airport-based operational staff of an overseas-owned airline
  • self-employed lawyer
  • writer, composer or artist
  • UK ancestry
  • highly skilled migrant under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP)

A person who has lived in the UK for 5 years with a visa issued in one of the following categories can apply for ILR using Form SET(BUS):

  • retired person of independent means
  • sole representative of an overseas firm.

A person who has been granted humanitarian protection since 30 August 2005 and whose current 5-year permission to stay is due to expire can apply for ILR using Form SET (Protection Route).

A person who has lived in the UK for 5 years under the Gateway Protection Programme can apply for ILR using Form HPDL.

A person who has lived in the UK for 5 years with temporary permission to remain in the UK as the husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried/same-sex partner of a British citizen or a settled person and who intends to continue living together (and are still married or in a civil partnership, if applicable) can apply for ILR, as long as he/she arrived in the UK or applied for permission to stay in the UK on or after 9 July 2012. For those who arrived in the UK or applied for permission to stay in the UK on or before 8 July 2012, a 2-year period of residence (instead of 5 years) applies (see above).

6 years' residence[edit]

A person who has lived in the UK for 6 years with Discretionary Leave can apply for ILR using Form HPDL.or SET(O)depending on the initial application and grant.

10 years' residence[edit]

A person who has lived in the UK for 10 years continuously can apply for ILR using Form SET(LR) as long as all time spent in the UK during the 10 years has been lawful (although discretion can be exercised to disregard one single gap in lawful residence of no more than 10 calendar days, or of more than 10 calendar days in exceptional circumstances).[2]

17 years' residence[edit]

A person aged under 18 who has lived in the UK for 17 years continuously (lawfully or unlawfully) can apply for leave to remain on the grounds of private life. After living in the UK for a further 10 years (holding leave to remain on the grounds of private life during this period), he/she can apply for ILR.[3]

19 — 22.5 years' residence[edit]

A person aged between 18 and 25 who has lived in the UK for at least half of his/her life (lawfully or unlawfully) can apply for leave to remain on the grounds of private life. After living in the UK for a further 10 years (holding leave to remain on the grounds of private life during this period), he/she can apply for ILR.[4]

30 years' residence[edit]

A person who has lived in the UK for 20 years continuously (lawfully or unlawfully) can apply for leave to remain on the grounds of private life. After living in the UK for a further 10 years (holding leave to remain on the grounds of private life during this period), he/she can apply for ILR.[3]

Alternatively, a person who has lived in the UK for less than 20 years continuously (lawfully or unlawfully) but has no ties (including social, cultural or family) with his/her country of origin can apply for leave to remain on the grounds of private life. After living in the UK for a further 10 years (holding leave to remain on the grounds of private life during this period), he/she can apply for ILR.[3]

Outside the Immigration Rules[edit]

The UK Border Agency has discretion to grant ILR outside the Immigration Rules either where someone qualifies under one of the immigration policy concessions or for reasons that are particularly compelling in circumstance and it is almost certain that there will be no change in circumstances within five years.[5]

Costs[edit]

Prior to 2003, Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK was free. However, since 2003, fees have been introduced and have risen each year in April. ILR Fees were introduced at £155[6] in 2003. Following record immigration in 2004 - 2005, mainly from Eastern Europe,[7] for the main applicant the fee was raised in 2005 to £335,[8] in 2007 to £750, and in 2009 to £820.

In 2009 the Government introduced a £70m Migrants Impact Fund. Economic migrants and students coming to the UK from outside the EU are charged a £50.00 levy in addition to their normal visa application fee. The fund is used to support the communities in which they live.[9] A fee was also introduced for dependent applicants, at £50.00 each. In 2009 Premium Applications with an in-person appointment at a regional office were introduced at a cost to the applicant of £1020.[10]

In 2010/11 the application fee was raised to £840 (£1095 premium) including the Migrants Impact Levy.[11] The dependents fee was also increased to £129.00 each.

In August 2010, the new government scrapped the Migrants Impact Fund.[12] However, the levy is still charged; the extra income "will now contribute to the cost of the visa and will mitigate increases that the Government would otherwise have had to make."[13]

On 6 April 2011, the application fee was raised to £972 (£1,350 premium) including the Migrants Impact Levy.[14] The dependents fee was also increased to £486 (£675 premium) each.

From 6 April 2012, the application fee was raised to £991 (£1,377 premium) including the Migrants Impact Levy.[15] The dependents fee was also increased to £496 (£689 premium) each.

Citizens of EEA member states[edit]

Citizens of countries in the European Economic Area (other than British and Irish citizens) and Swiss citizens obtain permanent residence status automatically after five years' residence in the United Kingdom exercising Treaty rights[16] rather than ILR. The rights of EEA citizens are not governed by UK Immigration Regulations[6] but rather the EEA Regulations.

Under the law as it existed between 2 October 2000 and 29 April 2006, a citizen of an EEA state or Switzerland could be granted permanent residence on application after four years' residence in the United Kingdom exercising Treaty rights (five years from 3 April 2006). Prior to 2 October 2000, citizens of EEA states were deemed to be permanent residents immediately upon taking up residence in the UK to exercise Treaty rights.

The change in the law in 2000 was retroactive. Hence, for example, a French citizen who arrived to work in the UK on 1 July 1986 would have been treated as a permanent resident between that date and 1 October 2000. From 2 October 2000, the status would revert to that of a temporary resident if an application for ILR was not made. On 30 April 2006, with five years' residence exercising Treaty rights accrued, that person regained permanent resident status.

Immigration rule changes[edit]

HC 1016[edit]

With effect from 3 April 2006, the period of time required to obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain increases to five years. These changes were debated in House of Commons Standing Committee on 20 June 2006. All Labour MPs voted for preserving the retroactive aspect of the changes, while all other MPs voted that the Government should bring in transitional arrangements to allow those already in the UK before the rule change to qualify under the previous four-year rule. These changes were protested in demonstrations and rallies in London on 16 June and 23 July 2006.

The changes were retroactive in the sense that people on a four-year visas must apply for a one-year extension before they can apply for ILR, but they did not affect people who had already been granted ILR after four years.

HC 398[edit]

As from 3 April 2007, a new condition has been added that "the applicant has sufficient knowledge of the English language and sufficient knowledge about life in the United Kingdom, unless he is under the age of 18 or aged 65 or over at the time he makes his application."[17]

There are two ways the applicant can meet this condition:[18]

  • by passing a test called the "Life in the UK Test". The test is taken on a computer at one of the 100 or so Life in the UK Test centres in the UK. It consists of 24 questions based on the information contained in the handbook "Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship" (2nd Edition) and requires a language ability the equivalent of ESOL Entry 3.
  • by attending an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) course which includes citizenship materials, and progressing from one ESOL level to the next. It is stated that on average students require between 200 and 450 hours of tuition for each ESOL level.

HC 194[edit]

On 9 July 2012, the 14-year rule (paragraph 276B(i)(b)) (which provided a route to settlement on the grounds of long residence, lawful or unlawful) was withdrawn. Instead, the new Immigration Rules provided that at least 20 years' continuous residence, lawful or unlawful, would, subject to criminality and other criteria, normally be necessary to establish a claim to remain in the UK on the basis of the Article 8 right to respect for private life. (The 10-year rule (paragraph 276B(i)(a)), which provides a route to settlement on the grounds of continuous lawful residence in the UK of at least 10 years, was unaffected and remains in place).[19]


ILR may also be curtailed by the Home Secretary for reasons of national security or if the holder of the ILR commits an offence that could lead to their deportation from the United Kingdom.

A person may also lose ILR by leaving the United Kingdom for more than two years. However, in some circumstances, such a person may reapply for indefinite leave to enter the UK.

British Overseas citizens, British subjects and British protected persons do not lose ILR no matter how long they stay outside the UK.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]