UK Immigration & Nationality Lawyers

Indefinite leave to remain

Indefinite leave to remain

Indefinite leave to remain means permission to remain in the UK without any restrictions. It is not the same as British citizenship and does not give you entitlement to a British passport. People who hold indefinite leave to remain are called settled in the UK.

Settled status is an equivalent of indefinite leave to remain for EEA nationals and their family members.

One of the important benefits of settlement is that your children born in the UK after you are granted ILR will be British citizens by birth.  Children born in the UK at the time when neither parent is settled, are entitled to be registered as British citizens as soon as at least one of the parents is granted ILR.

Does ILR have an expiry date?

There is no time limit on indefinite leave to remain. However, it will be automatically invalidated if you leave the UK for more than two years.

In some circumstances, it may be revoked.

How does an ILR document look like?

Similar to other immigration categories, indefinite leave to remain is evidenced by a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). The BRP is issued for 10 years. The end date on the BRP is not the same as the expiry date of ILR. It only shows the date of validity of the document. If you have accidentally overlooked the expiry date of your BRP with indefinite leave to remain endorsement, you haven’t lost your right of residence. However, it is advisable to apply for a new document before the expiry of the previous one.

When you renew the BRP, you apply for a new document but you don’t need to make another application for ILR. Hostile environment has made the application far from straightforward. You need to demonstrate that you have been resident in the UK over the last ten years and list your absences from the UK for the same period.

Most holders of ILR would consider applying for British citizenship. However, some countries do not allow dual citizenship or there may be other considerations which exclude citizenship as an option. Although the cost may appear to be one of those factors, in the long term it is most likely cheaper to apply for citizenship and a British passport than to renew the residence documents.

In the past, indefinite leave was endorsed as a vignette in the passport. These vignettes are still valid but may invite more scrutiny at the airport and many employers may not be happy to accept them as proof of the right to work. If you have an ILR vignette in the passport, it may be a good idea to apply for a BRP.

Who can apply for indefinite leave to remain after 5 years of residence?

The most common immigration categories leading to settlement are:

  1. Spouse or Partner visa;
  2. Tier 1 visa;
  3. Tier 2 visa (with the exception of Tier 2 ICT);
  4. Ancestry visa;
  5. Sole representative of overseas business.

The dependants of the visa holders in the above categories can also apply for indefinite leave to remain.

In addition, there are some closed immigration categories which also lead to settlement.

It is also possible to apply for indefinite leave on the basis of private life if you have lived in the UK continuously and lawfully for at least 10 years. It does not matter what type of visa you held during the ten-year period – it can be a combination of any types of visas, including visitor, student, Post-Study Work or Tier 5.

Time spent in the Crown Dependencies

The Crown Dependencies are the Isle of Man and the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey. These territories have their own immigration systems, but time spent there may be counted towards the five-year qualifying period for indefinite leave to remain in the UK provided you are applying in an eligible work category and your leave in the Crown Dependency was in an equivalent or similar category.

The eligible visa categories under the UK immigration rules are:

  • Tier 1 General, Exceptional talent, Entrepreneur and Investor
  • Tier 2 General, Sportsperson and Minister of religion
  • Ancestry and, in limited circumstances, domestic worker routes

It is important to note that the continuous residence and, if applicable, the continuous employment requirements apply to time spent in the Crown Dependencies as well as time spent in the UK during the relevant five-year period.

Although not part of the UK for immigration purposes, the Crown Dependencies are defined as part of the UK under the British Nationality Act and persons born there may qualify for British citizenship.

Accelerated settlement

Normally, you will need five years’ continuous residence in a qualifying immigration category before you can make an application for ILR.

However, there are some routes which allow accelerated settlement after three years, or even after two. These, include Innovators under Appendix W of the rules, Tier 1 Investors, Tier 1 Entrepreneurs, and holders of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa endorsed under the talent criteria.

If you have a visa in one of these categories you need to check the additional criteria for accelerated settlement.

General grounds for refusal of ILR

General grounds for refusal of indefinite leave to remain are set out under paragraph 322 (1C) of the immigration rules:

  • convictions which had led to a sentence of imprisonment of 4 years or more (there is no amnesty period);
  • convictions which had led to a sentence of imprisonment from 12 months to under 4 years, unless 15 years have passed since the end of the sentence;
  • sentence to imprisonment for less than 12 months, unless 7 years have passed since the end of the sentence;
  • any non-custodial sentence, caution or warning within 24 months prior to the date of the decision on the application.

ILR requirements applicable in all categories

All applicants for indefinite leave to remain should pass the Knowledge of Life in the UK test and English language test to B2 standard.

There is an exemption for people over 65 and for people who are unable to take the test due to a disability. There is also a limited exemption for those who are unable to pass the tests after 15 years of residence in the UK.

Migrants from majority English-speaking countries meet the language requirement automatically but still have to take the Life in the UK test.

Book an appointment to check if you meet the requirements for ILR. And don’t forget that we can represent you in your application to make sure you are successful.

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