ILR Application Processing Timeline in 2021
Applying to permanently settle in the UK (referred to as Indefinite Leave to Remain – ILR) is both exciting and nerve-wracking for applicants. On the one hand, it represents the point at which a migrant acquires the right to stay in the UK without the need to apply for further visas (i.e. they are no longer subject to immigration control), it is also important to ensure that the application is completed correctly to avoid the potential for refusal. As specialists in immigration law, we see at first-hand clients who come to us having received a refusal on the basis of an incorrectly ticked box, misunderstood rule, or a document not in the correct format. For this reason, we always recommend that anyone considering applying for ILR for themselves or a dependant family member should plan months in advance to ensure that all of the correct information is prepared and the application is checked prior to submission. Not only can this save a considerable amount of money by avoiding the need to apply again, but it also ensures they receive a positive decision in the shortest amount of time, providing security and peace of mind for their family members. And once ILR is gained, after a further 12 months, it is possible to apply for British citizenship. In this article, we will outline the ILR application processing timeline for 2021.
When can I apply for ILR?
You can apply for ILR as soon as you are eligible, but you must do so before your current visa expires. The qualifying period for ILR varies according to the type of visa you hold, but in most cases, this is five years of continuous residence in the UK (i.e., from when you arrived in the UK). Continuous residence means that you must have remained in the UK and not spent more than 180 days in any 12-month period during the qualifying period; otherwise, you are considered to have an ‘excessive absence’ from the UK. In some cases, it is possible to apply for ILR after just two or three years if you have an investor visa and have invested a sufficient amount of capital in the UK.
If you are unsure if you have met or when you will meet the continuous qualifying residence period in the UK, speak to an immigration Solicitor who will be able to confirm this for you. We recommend not submitting your application until you are sure you meet the qualifying period; otherwise, you risk immediate refusal.
It is important to note, however, that you will need to start preparing your application several months before you click the ‘submit’ button on your online ILR application. This is because it will take you some time to prepare and collate the information and documents needed and complete the tests necessary to meet the Home Office requirements.
How long will it take to prepare my ILR application?
There is no one answer to this question as it depends on how many applications you are preparing, the complexity of your case, whether documents need to be translated, and how much time you have available to devote to the process. It is advisable to start thinking about the application process at least six months before you plan to submit your case to the Home Office. This will allow you to check the requirements, gather the evidence needed, have any translations completed, complete the Life in the UK test and any English language tests, complete your application form, and have everything checked over by an immigration Solicitor before submission. Preparing early will ensure that you can apply as soon as you are eligible and your case is carefully and fully prepared.
How long will it take to process my ILR application?
Using the standard application process, ILR applications take around six months to process, however, this may be faster in straightforward cases and longer for complex cases or those where UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) have to carry out additional checks and request more documents before making a decision. UKVI states that applications may take longer:
- if your supporting documents need to be verified
- if you need to attend an interview
- because of your personal circumstances (for example, if you have a criminal conviction)
The good news is that there are faster processing services available, however, this does come at an additional cost. The priority processing service costs an additional £500 and will lead to a decision within five working days. Alternatively, you may be able to use the super-priority service, which for £800 which ensure you receive a decision:
- by the end of the next working day after your UKVCAS appointment if your appointment is on a weekday
- Two working days after your UKVCAS appointment if your appointment is at the weekend
Using the priority or super-priority application service does not guarantee that you will receive a decision in the stated time, especially if your case is complex or requires further follow up. UKVI do state, however, “your application will still be put at the front of the queue at every stage of the decision-making process. UK Visas and Immigration will try to process your application within our standard timescales”.
What happens after my ILR application has been approved?
Once your ILR application is approved by UKVI (this will be sent to you by email or post, depending on which option you chose when you applied), you will receive a new biometric residence permit (BRP) seven to ten working days after your approval letter was received.
All in all, ILR applicants can expect the process from starting the research and preparation needed to receiving a biometric residence permit confirming your ILR status, to take around a year. If you are still unsure about the ILR process, to check if you are eligible, to have your application handled for you, to have your application reviewed prior to submission, or for assistance with a refusal, speak to an immigration Lawyer as soon as possible.