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How to Get Settlement Visa in the UK

UK settlement visa gives foreign nationals the right to live, work, and study here indefinitely. Settlement visa is also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), which is the terminology used in the official UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) guidance and your visa application. UK settlement visa benefits visa holders as they are no longer subject to immigration control (i.e., there is no need to apply for further visas to stay in the UK).

It is also important to note that there was a permanent residence card scheme available to EU nationals before, but now it is closed to new applicants. Eligible EU and EEA nationals may instead be able to make a late application under the EU Settlement Scheme. (To help you understand those terminologies, please check our article ILR vs PR vs Settled Status)

How to get a settlement visa in the UK

In most cases, you can apply for a settlement visa after living in the UK on a qualifying visa for 5 years. However, the qualifying times for a settlement visa vary by visa types. It is also possible to combine time spent in the UK on different visa types to apply for settlement after 10 years, which is known as the long residency route. The main routes that lead to settlement visa / ILR include:

For those not eligible for settlement visa in the UK using any of the above visa schemes, the long residency route is available. The long residency route allows foreign nationals to combine time spent in the UK on any visa type (even visas that do not qualify for ILR) and apply for settlement visa after 10 years. For more information, read our article on ILR 10 year route guidance.

It is possible for foreign nationals who have been living in the UK with a British or Irish national or a settled person to gain UK settlement visa / ILR if their partner has died or they are a victim of domestic violence. Other available UK settlement routes include a refugee, a person with humanitarian protection, a person with Discretionary Leave, or those serving in the armed forces.

The fastest route to settlement was previously 2 years under the Investor Visa route. However, this scheme is now closed to new applicants. The fastest route to settle in the UK for new visa applicants is under the Innovator Visa and Global Talent Visa schemes.

UK settlement visa general requirements

The eligibility rules for settlement visa in the UK require that applicants:

  • Meet the time spent in the UK requirement – this means living in the UK continuously on a qualifying visa for the required time on a lawful basis. Continuous residence means that applicants must not have been absent from the UK for more than 180 days in any 12-month period
  • Pass the Life in the UK Test
  • Meet the English language requirements – typically by having an English qualification at B1, B2, C1, or C2 level, a degree taught in English, or by being from a qualifying English speaking country
  • Be of good character

Depending on the type of visa held, UK PR applicants may need to meet additional criteria, such as having a minimum salary and remaining in a sponsored job. Please check our page for more information about ILR requirements.

Does UK settlement visa mean British Citizenship?

UK settlement visa is not the same as British citizenship. Instead, settlement visa / ILR is a step towards British citizenship. Those who gain settlement visa / ILR are able to apply for British citizenship after 1 year.

British citizenship holders are also able to apply for a UK passport, vote in elections, and hold public office. Importantly, whereas settlement visa can be lost if you spend too much time outside of the UK (a consecutive absence of 2 years), this is not the case with citizenship.

How can Reiss Edwards help?

Reiss Edwards specialises in all areas of immigration law, including settlement visa applications. Our immigration lawyers can:

  • Check your eligibility for settlement visa in the UK as well as for your family members
  • Advise how to overcome any eligibility problems
  • Assist if staying in the UK after divorce
  • Assist with ILR following the death of a partner
  • Prepare and submit your UK settlement application on your behalf and of your family members
  • Handle any queries from the Home Office
  • Handle a refusal of a UK settlement application
  • Discuss your plans for citizenship

For assistance with your UK settlement application, please speak to our immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation on 020 3744 2797 or by email at

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