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Indefinite Leave to Remain

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is a form of settlement available to overseas nationals. Typically, you must have spent at least five years in the UK before you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, though in certain circumstances you can apply after three years of residence in the UK, or even two.


Many different types of immigration visas can lead to ILR including Spouse VisasInnovator Visas and the Skilled Worker Visa. Indefinite Leave to Remain enables a person to live in the UK without any restrictions and is the first step towards naturalisation.

Indefinite Leave to Remain requirements and eligibility

The specific requirements differ depending on the particular circumstances of the applicant, including the type of visa they hold.

The most basic requirement for ILR is to have been lawfully living in the UK for a certain period of time. However, there are other requirements which must be fulfilled too.

The general requirements to become eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain are based on:

  • Lawful living in the UK for a certain period of time.
  • No breach of immigration laws during your stay in the UK and no criminal record
  • A period of time spent outside the UK which doesn’t exceed 180 days in a 12-month period during the qualifying period.
  • A pass in the Life in the UK test, which is a test based on British culture, history and traditions
  • Ability to prove that you meet the B1 level of English as set out by the Common European Framework of Languages.

Different routes to Indefinite Leave to Remain

If you have been lawfully living in the UK under a form of settlement visa UK you will be able to apply for ILR once you have passed the minimum time threshold for that particular visa. An applicant will also need to fulfil other stipulated requirements.

Visas/routes which can lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain status include:

It is also possible for someone to become eligible for ILR through a less traditional route which doesn’t require holding a specific visa.

UK Indefinite Leave to Remain after five years

The amount of time you must have spent in the UK before you are eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain depends on your particular circumstances. In most cases, an overseas national can apply for ILR after five years of lawful residence in the UK.

Some of the visas which require five years of UK residence include:

Under certain circumstances, you could be eligible for ILR status with less than five years of residence in the UK, including those residing in the UK under:

  • Innovator Visa. Eligible after three years, depending on business achievements
  • Entrepreneur Visa. Eligible after three years, depending on business activities. ( Please note that this visa is no longer in operation)
  • Global Talent Visa. Eligible after three years if the last endorsement was given under “exceptional talent” or “exceptional promise” criteria or under UK Research and Innovation fast track criteria
  • Investor Visa (Tier 1). Eligible after two or three years depending on business activities

Also, a Commonwealth citizen who has served in the British Armed Forces can apply for ILR after a qualifying period of four years in the UK.

In some cases, the minimum time requirement will be longer than five years. If someone has been living in the UK under a form of Long Residence, they will need to have spent 10 years in the UK before applying for ILR if they are over 18, and 7 years if they are under 18.

English Language Requirements

As part of the Indefinite Leave to Remain application, you must be able to prove that you meet the English language requirement of B1 in speaking and listening as specified by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

Most applicants will need to hold a certificate from an approved test provider to include in their Indefinite Leave to Remain application or, alternatively, be able to show the results online.

However, some people will not need to fulfil this requirement. For example, citizens of Commonwealth countries or the majority of English-speaking countries will usually be exempt.

This includes, but is not limited to, citizens of the following countries:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Canada
  • Grenada
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • Ireland
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA

Also, the following applicants will be exempt from the English language requirement:

  • Those aged 65 or over
  • Holders of a degree or higher qualification at an accredited educational establishment which was taught in English
  • Those under humanitarian protection
  • Victims of domestic abuse
  • A partner or spouse of a person who has died who was a British citizen or person with settled status

Life in the UK Test Requirement

A necessary component of the Indefinite Leave to Remain application is the Life in the UK test. Otherwise known as the British Citizenship test, the Life in the UK test is based on the culture, history and traditions of Britain.

The test lasts for 45 minutes and consists of 24 questions, and those questions are randomly generated on the day of the test. You must achieve a score of at least 75% to pass the test.

It costs £50 to take the test and there are over 30 accredited centres where the test can be taken. However, bear in mind that you can only sit the test in one of the five centres nearest to where you live.

If you fail the test, you can sit it again at least seven days after the date of your test. The test can be retaken as many times as needed to achieve a pass.

Those aged 18 or under, or 65 or over will not need to sit the test. Also, if someone has written confirmation from a doctor of a long-term physical or mental condition, they will usually be exempt too.

On the day of the test, you must bring some official identification such as a passport or driving licence, as well as some correspondence dated within three months which shows your UK address.

As part of your application, you must include your Life in the UK pass certificate.

Periods of absence from the UK

Usually, you must not have spent more than 180 days outside of the UK in a 12-month period to be eligible for ILR status.

However, there are exceptions to this rule, for example, if you have been outside of the UK on business, or your time outside of the UK was due to exceptional circumstances.

If you were outside the UK for the following reasons, it will generally be accepted as a permissible absence:

  • Due to conflict
  • Serious illness of the applicant or a close family member
  • A natural disaster
  • Skilled Worker Visa holder who has been sponsored to work in a PhD level occupation
  • Work is undertaken overseas by certain full-time HM armed force reserve members
  • Some absences have been taken by applicants with a Global Talent Visa

In general, it is a good idea to keep records of any periods of time you have spent outside of the UK since you began your UK residency.

Applying for an Indefinite Leave to Remain? How our immigration advisers can help

Our immigration advisers regularly advise and assist indefinite leave to remain to settle in the UK, with their family members.

Whether you require expert advice on the requirements of the Immigration Rules, an independent assessment of your prospects of qualifying for a visa or professional assistance with preparing an immigration application, our immigration barristers can help.

We pride ourselves on being approachable and proactive in understanding and meeting our client’s needs. We are a highly driven team, dedicated to providing clear and reliable immigration advice to family members of British and settled persons as part of a professional and friendly service.

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Nexus Visas assists international clients in obtaining UK visas, residence and citizenship under the respective programs. Contact us to arrange an initial private consultation.

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