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 This was because the department believed that Mr Dolbec's ILR had been revoked.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 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.
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 specialise 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.
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:
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.
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:
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 ensuring 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.
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 before making your Settlement application.
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