What is Limited Leave to Remain in the UK?
Last updated: 15 June 2022
Leave to remain is a general term that means a person from outside of the UK has permission to stay in the UK; this can be limited or unlimited. Limited leave to remain provides a person with temporary permission to stay in the UK for the duration of their visa. On the other hand, Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) gives foreign nationals permission to stay in the UK on a permanent basis after they have been living in the UK for a qualifying period (typically 5 years). Those with ILR are no longer subject to immigration control.
In this article, we explain what limited leave to remain means for an individual, the benefits, and entitlements. We also explain the difference between leave to remain and indefinite leave to remain and how you can transition to ILR.
Who has limited leave to remain?
Any person with a visa to stay in the UK for a restricted period of time has limited leave to remain (e.g., 30 months limited leave to remain). Those with limited leave to remain in the United Kingdom include holders of the following types of visas or permits:
- UK Visitor visas
- UK Work visas (e.g. Skilled Worker visa and Global Business Mobility visa)
- UK Dependant Family visas
- UK Business visas (e.g., Innovator Visa)
- UK Family visas (e.g. spouse or child visa)
- UK Student visas
- EU nationals with EU Settlement Scheme or Pre-Settled Status
- EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit
- British National (overseas) visas (e.g. Hong Kong BNO visa)
- Asylum seekers or those seeking protection as a refugee
Limited Leave to Remain Benefits and Entitlements
As a person with limited leave to remain visa, you will be able to live in the UK for the period of time shown. You will also be free to carry out the activities permitted by your visa. This will depend on the type of visa held. Some visas provide more freedom than others. For example, a PBS dependant visa holder or a person with Pre-Settled Status under the EUSS is free to live, work in most jobs, and study in the UK.
Holders of limited leave to remain visas with a stay of longer than 6 months can access the UK’s National Health Service. However, you will be required to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge. Visitors and those coming to the UK for a short duration are not given free NHS care unless they are EU nationals with an EHIC, PRC, or S2.
In most cases, a person with limited leave will have no recourse to public funds, and this is stated clearly on their biometric residence permit (BRP card). Those with Pre-Settled Status under the EUSS can, however, access public benefits.
What to do before your ‘limited leave to remain’ expires
It is essential that you take action before your limited leave to remain permission expires. If you don’t, you may be classed as an overstayer and be required to leave the UK.
Overstaying in the UK may also reduce the chances of any future UK immigration application being accepted. As such, before your visa expires, you may, depending on the type of visa held and your circumstances, decide to:
- Leave the UK
- Apply for further leave to remain (assuming you have a visa that can be extended and you have not reached the maximum extension period)
- Apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) if you have reached the qualifying time on a qualifying visa
- Apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) based on 10 years long residence on any visa or combination of visas (even if they don’t qualify for ILR)
- Apply for a different type of visa (the visa type you choose must allow you to “switch” from the type of visa you currently hold – not all allow this)
Limited Leave to Remain UK to Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)
Transitioning from limited leave in the UK to Indefinite Leave to Remain is an extremely important step for many migrants to the UK. To secure indefinite leave to remain, you will normally need to reach the minimum qualifying period depending on your visa route.
In a vast majority of cases, this is 5 years. However, not all immigration routes provide a pathway to ILR; those that do include the following:
- Skilled Worker visa after 5 years
- Health and Care Worker visa after 5 years
- Minister of Religion visa after 5 years
- International Sportsperson visa after 5 years
- UK Dependant Family visas – the qualifying time depends on the type of visa held by the main applicant
- Innovator visa after 3 years
- Investor visa after 2 – 5 years
- Global Talent visa after 3 – 5 years
- UK Family visas after 5 years (e.g., child or spouse visa to ILR)
- EU Settlement Scheme Pre-Settled Status after 5 years
- British National (overseas) visas after 5 years
- Those awarded refugee, humanitarian protection, or Discretionary Leave to Remain
- Migrants who have been in the UK for 10 or more years
To apply for indefinite leave to remain, there are various eligibility criteria that you need to meet. Specifically, you must:
- Meet the minimum qualifying period of residence in the UK
- Not have been outside the UK for more than 180 days in any 12-month period
- Pass the Life in the UK test
- Prove that you have a sufficient level of English language. At the time of writing, this is B1 under the European Framework
- You must also be of good character, having no criminal record that would prevent your application from being accepted, i.e., a history of breaking any immigration laws
How can Reiss Edwards help?
Reiss Edwards specialises in all areas of immigration law, including visas (i.e., limited to leave to remain) and ILR applications. Our immigration lawyers can:
- Explain the immigration options to you and your family members
- Check your eligibility for your preferred visa type
- Check the eligibility of your partner and children
- Advise how to overcome any eligibility problems for your visa
- Apply for leave to remain on your behalf and of your family members
- Handle your immigration further leave to remain application (i.e., leave to remain renewal).
- Handle any queries from the Home Office regarding your definite leave to remain application
- Discuss your plans for ILR and UK citizenship
- Handle your ILR application
- Handle a refusal of a visa or ILR application