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Indefinite Leave to Remain

Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) provides migrants to the UK with the right to live, study, and work here permanently without immigration restrictions.

Contact our immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation on 020 3744 2797 or complete our enquiry form to discuss your Indefinite Leave to Remain application.

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What is indefinite leave to remain (ILR)?

Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) means that a migrant to the UK has the right to live here permanently without immigration restrictions. ILR is also known as "settlement", "settlement visa" or "permanent residence". ILR will allow you and your family members to settle in the UK permanently without needing to apply for another visa to live, work, or study. Indefinite Leave to Remain is the ultimate aim for many who come to the UK to live, work, or join family members, and it represents the last step before gaining British citizenship.

With ILR, you will be able to:

  • Live
  • Study
  • Work (without restrictions)
  • Access public funds (e.g. benefits)
  • Access the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) at no cost
  • Travel in and out of the UK freely (you will need to ensure you don’t spend too long outside of the UK, however, as you may risk losing your ILR status – this is explained in detail below).
  • Apply for British citizenship after 1 year

ILR requirements

To be eligible for ILR, you must meet eligibility requirements, such as:

  • You have been living continuously for the required qualifying period in the UK
  • You are of good character
  • You have sufficient knowledge of life in the UK (by taking the Life in the UK test) and the English language
  • You have NOT spent more than 180 days outside of the UK in any year of the qualifying period (this is the continuous residence requirement)

As long as you meet ILR requirements, you will be able to make an application to settle in the UK. If your application is granted, you will be able to live and work in the UK without the need for a visa indefinitely. You will also have the opportunity to apply to become a British citizen after having ILR for 12 months, as explained below.

When can you apply for ILR?

The residency requirement before you can apply for ILR depends on the type of visa your hold. In most cases, you will need to have held a valid UK visa for 5 years before you can apply for ILR. This applies to working visa holders, family visa holders, and several other visa categories (as explained in the next section). Entrepreneur, Innovator, and Investor visa holders may be able to secure ILR after 3 years.

Five-year route

In the vast majority of cases, you can apply for ILR after 5 years on a qualifying visa. To qualify for ILR after five years, you must have been living in the UK on a valid visa continuously for this period. The following visas qualify for ILR after 5 years:

In some cases, you may have to show evidence of more than 5 years of residence if you have switched from a different visa type.

Depending on the type of visa you switched from and to, this may have ‘reset the clock’, meaning that you need to build up 5 years in the UK on your new visa (i.e. the time you have already been in the UK may not count towards ILR).

For some visas (e.g. Skilled Worker and Tier 2 routes), it may be possible to combine time in the UK on different visa types to meet the qualifying period of five years. If you are eligible and make a successful application, you will be granted Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Ten Year route to ILR

Another popular option for those who have been living in the UK for at least ten continuous years is the ILR long-residence route. Under the ten year long-residence route, it does not matter what type of visa you have held in order to qualify, as long as you have been living lawfully in the UK for this period of time.

Accelerated Route to ILR

Depending on the visa held, it may be possible to gain ILR after two or three years. Accelerated ILR is available to those on an:

Innovator and entrepreneur visa holders may be able to apply after three years if they can prove they have sufficiently grown their business. In the case of the Entrepreneur visa route, it is possible to apply for ILR after 3 years if you create at least 10 new full-time jobs or your business has a turnover of at least £5 million. Investor visa holders can apply after two or three years, depending on the level of investment made. However, please note Entrepreneur Visa and Investor Visa are closed to new applicants. Global Talent visa holders can apply for ILR after 3 years if they have been endorsed.

If you are unsure which ILR route to choose, our team of specialist immigration solicitors can help you. Speak to one of our specialist ILR Solicitors today on 020 3744 2797

Exemptions for ILR application

In certain circumstances, the ILR requirements may be waived, or it may be possible to apply sooner. Spouse visa holders may be able to apply for ILR before the 5 year qualification period if their spouse or partner dies or if they were a victim of domestic violence. In addition, the English language requirement is waived for those over the age of 65, or with a long-term physical or mental condition, or those from one of the following countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Ireland (for citizenship only), Malta, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and the USA.

In addition, you may not need to pass the Life in the UK test if one of the following applies to you:

  • victim of domestic violence
  • foreign and Commonwealth citizens on discharge from HM Forces (including
  • Gurkhas)
  • highly skilled migrants applying under the terms of the Highly Skilled Migrant
  • Programme (HSMP) judicial review, and their dependants
  • bereaved spouses, civil partners, unmarried partners or same-sex partners of
  • people present and settled in the UK
  • parents, grandparents and other dependent relatives of people present and
  • settled in the UK, applying under paragraph 317 of the Immigration Rules, even
  • if they are aged between 18 and 64
  • adult dependent relatives, under Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules, even if
  • they are aged between 18 and 64
  • retired persons of independent means
  • people applying for ILR as a refugee
  • people applying for ILR on the basis of discretionary leave

How to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain?

To apply for ILR, you must first ensure you are eligible as per the criteria laid out above. As long as you are eligible, you will need to complete the following steps to apply for ILR:

  • complete and submit the appropriate online Indefinite Leave to Remain application form1.
  • pay the Indefinite Leave to Remain fee (ILR Application Fee)
  • pay the biometric residence permit (BRP) fee
  • book an appointment with your nearest UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to provide your biometric information (your fingerprints and a photo).
  • provide documentary evidence as required by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). Your Indefinite Leave to Remain documents can be uploaded online, or you can provide these when you attend your UKVCAS appointment. See below for a list of some of the documents you may be asked to provide.
  • You may be invited to attend an interview if UKVI requires more information.

Documents Required for ILR Application

You must provide proof for Indefinite Leave to Remain. The list below lays out the Indefinite Leave to Remain documents likely to be required by UK Visas and Immigration:

  • Any passports or travel documents that you have possessed during your stay in the UK
  • All birth or adoption certificates for any dependants included in your application
  • A police registration certificate if you have been required to register with the police
  • Evidence of your income - this will need to be in the form of wage slips and bank statements
  • Your certificate for the Life in the UK test and proof of a relevant English language qualification (if required)
  • Evidence of any absences from the UK
  • Two identical colour passport-sized photographs of each applicant with their full name clearly written on the back of each photo

Timeline for ILR application decisions

You can expect to receive a decision on your ILR application within 6 months. It is also possible to pay an extra £800 for the ‘super-priority service’, in which case you will receive a decision within 1-2 working days2. Alternatively, you can use the ‘priority service’ at the cost of £500 for a decision within 5 working days.

ILR 180 day rule

The ILR 180 day rule (also referred to as the continuous residence requirement) states that applicants must not have spent 180 days or more outside of the UK in any 12-month period prior to submitting their ILR application. The intention of this rule is to ensure that only genuine migrants who are committed to remaining in the UK will be able to gain settlement here.

ILR for dependents

Your dependant family members (i.e. your spouse/partner and child) will also be able to apply for ILR. Dependants include:

  • Partner, i.e. your husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried partner (partners must either be in a civil partnership or marriage or, if not, have been living together for at least 2 years)
  • Children under the age of 18
  • Children over the age of 18 if they are financially dependant on the main visa holder

They will also need to meet the continuous residence period, English language test, and life in the UK Test requirements. In addition, proof of more funds will be required for each dependant partner and child, as follows:

  • £285 for a dependent partner
  • £315 for the first dependent child
  • £200 for any other dependent child

In most cases, because family members will have gained their visa at the same time as the main visa holder, and this would have been granted for the same amount of time, they can apply for ILR at the same time. If they came to the UK later, they might need to wait until they reach the ILR qualifying time.

If your family member is not eligible for a ILR as a dependant, it is possible they may be able to settle in the UK through another route, including the EU Settlement Scheme, family visa, or the 10 year long residency route.

Applying for ILR for a dependant family member can be a complex and time-consuming process. Our team of specialist ILR solicitors can advise on the best route to ILR for your dependant family members. Speak to one of our immigration solicitors today on 020 3744 2797.

British Citizenship after Indefinite Leave to Remain

It is possible to apply for British citizenship after holding ILR status in the UK for 12 months or more. Also, a spouse visa holder can immediately apply to naturalise as a British Citizen once granted ILR.

The benefits of citizenship are that you will be able to apply for a British passport, which means you can travel in and out of the UK with complete freedom. In addition, you can leave the country for as long as you wish without having your citizenship revoked. Furthermore, you can vote in national and local elections if you wish.

To gain citizenship, applicants must:

  • Be over 18
  • Prove they were in the UK exactly five years before the day the Home Office receives their application
  • Prove their knowledge of English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic
  • Have passed the life in the UK test
  • Intend to continue living in the UK
  • Be of good character

ILR application refused

If you receive a refusal of your ILR application (or your dependant family member receives a refusal), please be assured that with the correct advice, in most cases, you will be able to secure settlement in the UK. Firstly, you can appeal a refused Indefinite leave to remain application if you have been able to establish Human Rights grounds for your application. An immigration Solicitor will be able to advise if this is the case for your application. Most applications for ILR are not made on the basis of human rights, however, and hence cannot be appealed. There are other options available, however. An ILR refusal can be challenged by way of:

  • A Judicial Review – if you believe that UKVI made a mistake in refusing your application
  • An Administrative Review – to challenge the legal basis for the refusal

In some cases, it may be preferable to submit a fresh application for ILR.

Common reasons for refusal of ILR application

There are several possible reasons for the refusal of an ILR application. ILR applications may be refused on the grounds of:

  • Criminality
  • Providing false information in the application
  • Not meeting the eligibility requirements (most commonly, applicants are refused ILR on the basis that they have not been in the UK for the full qualifying period on an eligible visa)
  • Previous exclusion from the UK
  • Approval is deemed not conducive to the public good
  • Involvement in a sham marriage or sham civil partnership grounds
  • Previous breach of immigration laws grounds
  • Failure to provide the required information

At Reiss Edwards, we understand how distressing and worrying a refusal of your ILR application (or a refusal of a dependant family member’s ILR application) can be. We have considerable experience in overturning ILR refusals and providing the best chance of a successful outcome. Speak to one of our specialist ILR Solicitors today on 020 3744 2797.


1 GOV.UK: ILR application form

2 GOV.UK: ILR application decision timeline

Frequently Asked Questions

  • ILR costs £2,404 in 2022. This cost is the same whether you are the main applicant or a dependant family member.
  • In most cases, the earliest time you can apply for ILR is 28 days before you are eligible. Different UK visa has different eligibility criteria for the time you spent in the UK. If you are unsure which ILR route to choose, our immigration solicitors can help you. Speak to one of our immigration solicitors today on 020 3744 2797 or email us at
  • Yes, ILR can be revoked if you spend 2 or more years outside of the country. If you leave the UK for more than this time and wish to return, you will need to apply for a Returning Resident Visa before returning to the UK.

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"Anna Foley was the lawyer helping my partner obtain an EEA EFM visa. She was outstanding. Handling the case with constant correspondence over a lengthy, lockdown delayed 7-month application process. Her expert advice guided us successfully through some difficult times as a result of COVID-19. Some of the best service I have received for any service ever! Often replying to emails late at night, offering to send additional correspondence to the home office and going above and beyond in handling our case! Well done and thank you Reiss Edwards and thank you Anna!!".

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