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Long Residence Guidance: ILR 10 Years Route

If you have been living in the UK for many years as a migrant, you may be surprised to know that you may be eligible for ILR through the long residence route. Unlike many other pathways to permanent settlement in the UK, with the long residence route, it does not matter what type of visa/s you have held while living in the UK. In this article, we will provide a detailed guide to how the UK 10 year long residence route to ILR works, the eligibility criteria, and how to apply.

What is long residence?

If you have resided in the UK continuously and legally for a period of 10 years you may be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) – this is known as long residence. Lawful residence means that you have not overstayed your visa at any point throughout your stay in the UK.

With ILR, you will no longer be subject to immigration control and will no longer need to apply for visas to stay in the UK. You will be eligible for free healthcare through the National Health Service (NHS) and be able to work freely. In addition, you will be able to study, gain access to public funds (such as benefits), and travel freely in and out of the UK.

One of the main features of the long residence route to ILR is that it does not matter what type of visa you have held during your 10+ years in the UK. This is different to shorter pathways to ILR, which require applicants to have held a specific visa for 2, 3, or 5 years. And in some cases, visas (such as the Intra-company transfer visa) do not count towards ILR. As such, ILR through long residence is ideal for anyone who has held several different types of visa and has been unable to reach the qualification period for ILR for any visa they have held. In many cases, simply by switching from one visa to another, this can effectively ‘reset’ the ILR clock, meaning that any time spent already in the UK does not count towards ILR; this is not the case with the long residence route as any time counts (as long as you have been here continuously – as we explore below).

Long residence requirements

In order to qualify for long residence under the 10-year rule, you will need to meet the following requirements:

  • Have resided in the UK lawfully and continuously for at least 10 years – as the Home Office guidance states, “This can be in any immigration category or a combination of different immigration categories” 1.
  • Meet the English language requirements
  • Have passed the knowledge of life in the UK test.

Assuming you meet the above eligibility requirements, you will also need to meet another set of criteria regarding your suitability, these include:

  • there must not be any grounds for refusal; these may include criminal convictions or if you pose a threat to immigration control. In addition, granting you indefinite leave to remain must not be against the public interest, and;
  • you must not have breached your previous immigration conditions (e.g. overstayed).

If you are not sure if you qualify for ILR through the long residence, please speak with one of our by calling us on 020 3744 2797, who will be glad to discuss your situation, confirm your eligibility, and outline any other options available to you.

Continuous 10 Years lawful Residence

The continuous lawful residence requirement means that you must have spent at least 10 years in the UK with limited leave to enter or remain granted by the Home Office.

Only time spent in the UK (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) counts towards long residence. Any time spent in the Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man does not count. In addition, any time spent in a prison, young offender institution or secure hospital cannot be included.

It is also useful to note that as long as you had valid existing leave to enter or remain before you left and returned to the UK, it does not matter if you left on one visa type and re-entered on another. For example, if you left with time remaining on your study visa and came back within six months on a spouse visa, then you will not be classed as being absent from the UK when working out your total amount of continuous residence (this assumes you didn’t exceed the six or 18 month absence rules).

The Home Office guidance for long residence also explains that discretion may be applied if you had compelling or compassionate reasons for leaving the UK for more than the allowed period.

Once you have acquired the ten years you need for ILR, this cannot be lost. This means that you may leave the UK and return and still be able to apply for ILR through this route.

Calculating how much time you have spent in the UK

When calculating how much continuous time you have spent in the UK, it is advisable to write down when you first entered and all of your episodes of travel outside of the UK since.

Even if you first entered the UK ten or more years ago, the Home Office will check how long you have been outside (also referred to as "absence" or "breaks in continuous residence") of the UK in that time.

You should not have absences of:

  • more than 540 days in the 10 year period; and
  • not more than a 180 days absence at any given time during the 10 years.

Subject access requests

If you do not have access to all of the information you need to calculate your time in the UK, you can submit a subject access request (SAR) to the Home Office 2. A basic search will provide you with a summary of your immigration and travel history and any landing cards held electronically. It will also provide basic details of visa applications you submitted from outside of the UK for entry clearance. If you need assistance in finding this information or requesting a SAR, speak to an immigration solicitor who will be able to do this for you.

English Language Requirements for ILR on 10 Year Basis

You can meet the English language requirements in 3 main ways:

  • Pass an approved CEFR English language test at B1, B2, C1 or C2 level
  • Have a degree taught or researched in English, or;
  • If you are from an exempt country 3

You will not need to meet this requirement if you are aged under 18 or over 65.

10 year long residence documents required

As a minimum, the documents you will need to provide to the Home Office to support your long-residence application are:

  • A current passport or other valid travel ID
  • Your current biometric residence permit
  • All of the passports you have held during your time living in the UK

In addition, any documents which prove you have been living in the UK for ten years will also be of benefit to your application, including:

  • Travel tickets into the UK
  • Property rental agreements
  • Mortgage statements
  • Utility bills
  • Bank statements;
  • Employment contracts
  • Documents proving you were in education in the UK

You may also need to have your documents translated if they are not already in English or Welsh.

Where there is any doubt of your eligibility for ILR, the Home Office will likely request further proof. Given the importance of applying for ILR, it is always advisable to engage the services of an immigration solicitor who can check your application and accompanying documents before they are submitted. Contact our solicitors by calling 020 3744 2797 for your long residence questions.

When to apply for long residence ILR?

You will be able to send your application to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) up to 28 days before you meet all of the eligibility requirements outlined above. It is important to apply before your current visa expires.

Timing is crucial here. If you are trying to apply as early as possible, it is even more important that you have confirmed you meet the 10 year residence period. Even if you are a day or two out in your calculations, your application may be refused if you have applied too early. As such, it is advisable to wait until you are sure you are past the 10-year continuous residence threshold.

Extension of staying for 2 years on the basis of 10 years long residence

There may be reasons where an applicant may need to apply for an extension even though they qualify for Indefinite Leave to remain. Such an instance include where the applicant has not passed the life in the UK test, but they meet all of the other eligibility requirements for Indefinite Leave to remain.

Paragraphs 276A1 and 276A2 of the immigration rules allow applicants who have met all other eligibility requirements of an ILR application apart from the English language and life in the UK test requirement.

How can Reiss Edwards help with your long residence?

The long-residence route offers many migrants who have been living in the UK for ten or more years the ability to secure ILR. Our team will be happy to have a chat with you to discuss the long residence pathway with you and whether this is the best approach for you and your family.

We can assist with all aspects of long residence ILR applications, including:

  • Recommending the best immigration route to meet your goals and those of your family
  • Checking your application prior to submission
  • Handling the whole application process for long residence ILR on your behalf
  • Checking you have the necessary documents
  • Dealing with complex matters relating to your application
  • Liaising with the Home Office on your behalf
  • Managing any refusal for ILR through long residence


1 GOV.UK: Indefinite leave to remain if you’ve been in the UK for 10 years (long residence)

2 GOV.UK: Request personal information held in the borders, immigration and citizenship system

3 GOV.UK: Prove your knowledge of English for citizenship and settling

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