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Getting Indefinite Leave to Remain on A Spouse Visa

For international couples living in the UK, where one person is on a Spouse Visa, Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) equals security. There is a good reason for this as the consequences of not having an ILR can be terrible.

Take the case of Albert Dolbec, 90, a US citizen, who has been married to his wife Dawn, 84, for 25 years. For two and a half years, this elderly couple, who have lived in Britain for over quarter of a century, had to fight to prevent the Home Office sending Mr Dolbec back to America to apply for a visa so he could legally live in the UK. This was because the department believed that Mr Dolbec's ILR had been revoked.

Following a lengthy legal battle, which included contacting the couple's local MP, the Home Office reviewed and reversed its decision, stating:

"It has been determined that your indefinite leave to remain in the UK was never revoked.

"When you entered the UK in 1997, it appears that the ILR stamp in your passport may have been overlooked and you were issued leave to enter as a visitor.

"However ...there was no requirement for you to apply for leave to remain. Please accept our sincerest apologies for any difficulty, stress or inconvenience this may have caused you, your spouse and your family."

Despite the happy ending, we must remember that for over two years, Home Office officials were determined to force a man in his late 80s fly to a country where he had no home and nowhere to stay, just so he could remain in Britain. His wife was too unwell to travel and his family were convinced the journey would kill him.

The told The Guardian that they are the lucky ones.

"... we're only celebrating today because we're educated, persistent and financially able to have fought for all these years. "Despite all that, it was only when we raised public attention, through our MP and the media, that the Home Office began to care enough to really look properly at our case.

"What about all the families without our advantages? They have to accept the wrong Home Office decisions and see their families destroyed as a result."

To ensure you do not suffer the emotional and financial distress of having your ILR refused or not recognised in the future, take the following steps when applying.

Get expert legal advice

You're probably thinking "well, of course, they would say that - they are immigration lawyers". Yes, we are, and we would be delighted to have your business. But the important point we are making is that it is crucial to invest in legal advice when making an ILR application as many are refused. When choosing a Solicitor to instruct, make sure the Solicitors Regulation Authority regulates them and the firm specialises in immigration law. The Home Office is known to reject applications for the flimsiest of reasons - a specialist immigration Solicitor will ensure you give them no opportunity to decline your application.

A well-respected immigration Solicitor can attach a letter of Representation to your application, detailing the merits of your case and drawing attention to relevant immigration laws. This will go a long way in positively supporting your application.

Make sure you meet the continuous residence requirement

Not meeting the continuous residence requirement is a common reason for Settlement refusal. Continuous residence refers to the amount of time you have spent in the UK, allowing you to qualify for ILR. For a Spouse Visa, you must have been living in the UK for five years.

You can leave the UK during the continuous residence for up to:

  • 180 days at a time
  • 540 days in total

Note - It is imperative to think ahead if you wish to apply for British Citizenship in the future. When applying for Settlement, you are allowed to be outside of the UK for up to 180 days in any given year. However, you cannot be outside of the UK for more than 90 days in any 12-month period in the five years preceding a British Citizenship application.

Prepare well for the Life in the UK Test

Applicants for Settlement in the UK have to pass the Life in the UK Test. Do not underestimate this - many British Citizens would spectacularly fail if they were required to undertake the exam.

There are several practice tests available online. Questions are laid out in a multiple-choice, or true or false format and include:

  • What stories are associated with Geoffrey Chaucer?
  • What is the important event that happened in 1066?
  • What is the name given to the UK currency?
  • Is the daffodil the national flower of Wales - true or false?
  • What age can you vote in a UK General Election?

The Life in the UK Test has been likened to a "bad pub quiz" by Durham University academic Dr Thom Brooks, who commented.

"The biggest surprise is the lack of attention successive governments have paid to ensure the test is fair and not out of date - a surprise even bigger than the sometimes-shocking questions that can be found on the test.

"Many citizens that were born and bred in the UK would struggle to know the answers to many of these questions.

"Britain will not be more cohesive because more have heard about the Battle of Trafalgar, but rather if future citizens understand better how to participate in daily British life and make a contribution."

Despite its well-known flaws (and frankly ridiculous reason for existence), at present, the Life in the UK Test is mandatory. Ensure you study widely and practice mock tests to prepare. Although you can retake the test as many times as you need, each attempt will cost you £50.

Final words

Obtaining your ILR results in a sigh (often tears) of relief for couples together in the UK on a Spouse Visa. Make sure your marriage story has a happy conclusion by seeking expert advice from our immigration lawyers before making your Settlement application.

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Some of our Happy Client

Reiss Edwards Awards

ACQ5 Awards Award
Lexis Nexis
Three Best Rated
Department For International Development
University Of Cambridge
Lexology Legal Influencers
ACQ5 Awards Award ACQ5 Awards Award
Lexis Nexis Lexis Nexis
Three Best Rated Three Best Rated
Department For International Development Department For International Development
University Of Cambridge University Of Cambridge
Lexology Legal Influencers Lexology Legal Influencers

O.L

Andy Tieu is absolutely amazing.

As a lawyer myself I can categorically say that he knows his stuff, gentle, responsive, cares about you and not just about the money, very professional.
I mean I can go on and on!

Andy and the entire team at Reiss Edwards are amazing!

Thanks again Andy.

Kiran Sardar


I found Joe very helpful and tremendous patience which is a must in this professional as there are lots of emotions always involved in each and every case.

The way they dealt with my case during COVID19 Situation is highly appreciable. I would definitely recommend Joe D. and Anna F. Anna is an amazing lady, her patience is beyond my words.

Her hard work and professionalism have no boundaries. She is the right person for all type of cases.

Thanks to Anna and Joe for all your support and guidance which helped me fulfill my dream.

I would say Reiss Edwards is lucky to have Joe D. and Anna F. Great job Reiss Edwards.

thanks once again. Anna you’re a Gem and a Star.

Cheyam Shaked

"Anna Foley was the lawyer helping my partner obtain an EEA EFM visa. She was outstanding. Handling the case with constant correspondence over a lengthy, lockdown delayed 7-month application process. Her expert advice guided us successfully through some difficult times as a result of COVID-19. Some of the best service I have received for any service ever! Often replying to emails late at night, offering to send additional correspondence to the home office and going above and beyond in handling our case! Well done and thank you Reiss Edwards and thank you Anna!!".

Isaac .T

"Professional service. I was very impressed with the fact that my ILR application was successful 6 weeks after the submission amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. I also think the portfolio put together by the team at Reiss Edwards has played a big part in the quick turnaround of my application".

Jesse Lee

"Reiss Edwards did a great job, and so much work, for their reasonable fixed fee. I would heartily recommend them to anyone looking to secure a Visa and /or Visa renewal. I will use them again when mine needs to renew. Great value".

Majlinda Berisha

"The help, the professionalism, the kindness from this team is phenomenal. A massive thank you to Anna Foley.

I have had a really tough time with getting my husband’s visa. My last immigration lawyer made many mistakes that caused stress, disappointments and sadness.

I was weary about getting another lawyer as I thought I was going to go through the same experience but no, it turned out better than what I had hoped or even imagined.

What I received was: constant emails and calls updating me and asking if anything else is needed. If I called and they missed my phone call I would get a call back within 10 minutes. All of my documents were carefully checked and I would get a reply the next day if anything was missing or not correct. There were times that I was impatient and asked to just send the visa off, but was reminded that everything had to be perfect and correct before submitting the application. I was told about every option I had and discussed what the best would be. I was always spoke in a nice, calm, polite manner.

The overall intelligence of this team, especially Anna Foley for me, is outstanding. I am speechless. Anna done such an amazing job on my husband’s application that although we couldn’t apply for the fast service and was told to wait for 12 weeks, we got a reply within 5 weeks.

That alone shows what an amazing and talented team Reiss Edwards are. Thank you".

Christine .C

"I wholeheartedly recommend Reiss Edwards to anyone who is in search of immigration advice. I had the pleasure of speaking with Amar who has been very thorough in finding a solution to my enquiry, and followed up with additional information even after the consultation. I normally don't leave reviews, and this firm already has enough good reviews for me to need to my own anyways! However, in this instance, I do hope that my review can let anyone who reads it be aware that RE is a great choice, these people care enough to help you the best they can".

Zohaib Butt

"I had the chance to use Reiss Edwards services for my Tier 2 extension. Marija dealt with my case and I found her very professional and experienced in dealing with my application. The care and attention to detail was exceptional. I would definitely recommend Reiss Edwards!".

Quintus Liu

"Knowledgeable, experienced, and relatable. Translated a complex process into steps that are easy to follow. Cruised to 3 successive wins on my Tier 1 graduate/entrepreneurship visa which allowed us to play our part in making the UK a better and healthier place!".

Khasan Vosijonov

"Thank you, Ms. Anna Foley! I am writing this with tears of joy.

As a family, we are all grateful to Anna Foley and her firm Reiss Edwards, for doing all the hard work and giving us the best support. Finally We found the best law firm".

Saira Lawson-Brown

"Highly professional organisation and really supportive solicitors. Ina Iteva the solicitor that was provided to us was a blessing in disguise, as our first solicitor was let go off due to pandemic. She was so supportive and understanding throughout the process, and my husband spouse visa was granted due to their effort and attention to detail. We constantly try to keep in touch with her and consider her as more of a friend now than a solicitor. Sure, to bother her and the firm more in the future".

Nora Nkechi

"My Tier 1 Investor Visa was dealt with quickly and without issue. Would recommend Reiss Edwards as an Immigration law firm in London. Thank you to the team".

Deepak Chartbhurjh

"This is the only firm that i spoke with that didn't ask for money before listening to me, will be using them again. I used Reiss Edwards for my Tier 2 visa application and it was successful. The team was ever present and happy to answer my question. The caseworker that dealing with my case went on holiday yet by case did not suffer one bit. Another lawyer stepped and took over the case without any hassle".

Hakeem Salam

"I used Reiss Edwards immigration lawyers to assist with my immigration matter and that of my family. It was an EX1 application. They dealt with the matter properly and even when complications were coming up from the Home Office, they helped resolve the issue properly. They are very professional and are very popular in London. I am happy to have worked with them".

Top Notch Immigration Service

"Reiss Edwards is a top notch immigration service company. The way they handled our documentation and also the list of documents they sent was efficient and top quality. They helped us professionally throughout the process. We are very happy with the immigration advice we received from the team. We highly recommend them".

Mo Hussein

"I have been using Reiss Edwards for three years now for my family's immigration application. Both for my initial application and extension. They are really affordable. The team of solicitors at this firm are probably one of the most efficient and economical in terms of cost. They offered free advice over the phone and spent good time with us before inviting us for consultation".

Gallagher Jones

"I contacted Reiss Edwards to help me with my wife's UK settlement visa. They acted with utmost professionalism throughout the entire application. I spoke with Joe Dinh, he is an immigration solicitor and he is one of the best solicitors out there. He ensured that there was little to no room for error. At some point I thought he was over cautious. He remained calmed and continued to assure us on our immigration matter. Most people in his position would have panicked but he was calmed and continued to assure us. We received out positive outcome very quickly".

Richard Stone

"I have just had British Citizenship application approved. Prior to making the application, I was not sure which law firm i should hire to facilitate the paperwork. After a few hours of research, i decided to go with Reiss Edwards and i must confess that I wasn't disappointed. The immigration lawyers at Reiss Edwards handled my case well and they really knew what they were doing. They were fully aware of what documents I needed and it was easy for them to tell if my case was going to be easy or not. At the end of the day, I have not received my British citizenship within 3 months. If anyone is looking for a good immigration lawyer to handle their case, contact Reiss Edwards".

Fong Li

"Investing over 2 million pounds is definitely not a routine decision. We had to make sure that the Tier 1 investor immigration lawyers that we'd be picking has to be one of the best within the Tier 1 investor category. We contacted Reiss Edwards and they were able to get us not only the Tier 1 investor visa but also suggested profitable investment portfolios in addition to what we already had in mind".

Nancy Jacquard

"It's a shame that you don't have an 'Excellent' star rating on here, as my experience with Reiss Edwards is nothing short of an excellent rating. They handled my application for an Indefinite Leave to remain in April 2014 and did my husband's one very recently including my daughter. Every time i have approached them, they have continued to treat me with courtesy, respect and patience. Amar was indeed a very thorough and professional gentleman. He is very knowledgeable, corporative and engaging. He responded to my emails, calls and enquiries promptly. He was always reassuring. I could not have asked for a better Immigration service. I would recommend them over and over again for anyone looking for an immigration advice. They gave me a free immigration advice when i called them, and the quality of the advice was something other charge thousands for. If you need a particular, name, Amar would be it. He exemplifies, for me, the true, professional gentleman. He is a valuable asset to Reiss Edwards".

Florence Giwa

"I am glad that i instructed Reiss Edwards on my visa matter. It started with a 20 minutes free immigration advice. I met with Amar to discuss my ILR refusal. He gave me a great deal of quality advice and decided to take on my messy case. I had doubts on the merits of my case by he was relatively convinced he could win it. That made me quite secure. To be honest, things did not start as quick as I would have wanted, but they kept on communicating the process and state of things to me.A big thank you to Verusha and Foram. They were also very helpful. Brilliant and informative. Their fee was fair and reasonable, especially if you compare them to other law firms and immigration law firms in London; some of whom even told me that i would not be able to get an indefinte leave to remain in this country. The process was long but was worth it. In the end, a big thank you to Reiss Edwards".

Salisu Ibrahim

"Fantastic Solicitors!!! My wife's spouse visa extension application was refused by the Home Office and they gave her 14 days to leave the country. We contacted Reiss Edwards and they said "OK don't worry we will sort this out". They put together the list of documents for me to obtain and they prepared a bundle which was as thick as the printer it came out from.We followed everything they asked us to do and in the end we won our appeal and got our spouse visa. We can't recommend them enough and we have promised ourselves never to make any more UK visa applications without them".

Amir Sandeep

"The team of lawyers at Reiss Edwards are very professional and friendly people. Their experience in and around UK immigration law is quite extensive; be sure that you application is in safe and competent hands. My immigration matter was an indefinite leave to remain application based on Tier 1 on a self-employment basis. The immigration lawyers at Reiss Edwards made sure that the application was perfect and ready to be accepted. I got a positive decision and I recommend them highly for anyone who needs a UK immigration help".

Reiss Edwards Reviews

O.L

"Andy Tieu is absolutely amazing, as a lawyer myself I can categorically say tha...

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Kiran Sardar

"I found Joe very helpful and tremendous patience which is a must in this profes...

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Cheyam Shaked

"Anna Foley was the lawyer helping my partner obtain an EEA EFM visa. She was ou...

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Isaac .T

"Professional service. I was very impressed with the fact that my ILR applicatio...

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Jesse Lee

"Reiss Edwards did a great job, and so much work, for their reasonable fixed fee...

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Majlinda Berisha

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"I had the chance to use Reiss Edwards services for my Tier 2 extension. Marija ...

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Khasan Vosijonov

"Thank you, Ms. Anna Foley! I am writing this with tears of joy. As a family, we...

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Saira Lawson-Brown

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Nora Nkechi

"My Tier 1 Investor Visa was dealt with quickly and without issue. Would recomme...

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Deepak Chartbhurjh

"This is the only firm that i spoke with that didn't ask for money before listen...

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Hakeem Salam

"I used Reiss Edwards immigration lawyers to assist with my immigration matter a...

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"Reiss Edwards is a top notch immigration service company. The way they handled ...

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Mo Hussein

"I have been using Reiss Edwards for three years now for my family's immigration...

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Gallagher Jones

"I contacted Reiss Edwards to help me with my wife's UK settlement visa. They ac...

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Richard Stone

"I have just had British Citizenship application approved. Prior to making the a...

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Fong Li

"Investing over 2 million pounds is defintely not a routine decision. We had to ...

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Nancy Jacquard

"It's a shame that you don't have an 'Excellent' star rating on here, as my expe...

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Florence Giwa

"I am glad that i instructed Reiss Edwards on my visa matter. It started with a ...

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"Fantastic Solicitors!!! My wife's spouse visa extension application was refused...

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Amir Sandeep

"The team of lawyers at Reiss Edwards are very professional and friendly people....

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