What is an Indefinite Leave to Remain?

What is an ILR?

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), otherwise referred to as ‘permanent residency’ or ‘settlement’, is an immigration status available to nationals of countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA), who meet the requirements to reside in the UK indefinitely.

An ILR Visa grants the applicant the right to live, work or study in the UK without restriction. It is subject to several conditions, both in terms of eligibility requirements to qualify for ILR and further conditions that apply on an ongoing basis to retain ILR status.

Who is eligible for an ILR?

Anyone who has been a resident in the UK (for 5 consecutive years) and holds an immigration status in a qualifying category may be eligible to apply for an ILR.

These are some of the main qualifying categories that can lead to securing an Indefinite Leave to Remain Visa after 5-years:

A UK Spouse Visa (or Civil Partner Visa, Unmarried Partner Visa, Same-sex Partner Visa)

Securing an ILR Visa while holding a UK Spouse Visa is a two-part application process. The first stage is the standard 33 months validity of this type of visa; the second stage requires you to submit a spouse visa extension application, meaning you can continue living in the UK for another 30 months. The total period of the initial visa and the extension adds up to 5 years in total, and after 4 years and 11 months, you should be eligible to apply for ILR (as long as you can satisfy the ILR requirements).

UK Ancestry visa:

UK Ancestry visas are usually valid for 5 years; once this visa has expired, you would have fulfilled the qualifying period to apply for IRL.

Tier 2 (General Visa):

his type of visa generally allows you to live and work in the UK for a maximum of 6 years. To be eligible for ILR, your employer (sponsor) will need to provide documentation to prove that they still need you to continue your job after the 5 years finishes, and your job pays £35,800 or more.

Tier 1 Visas:

Tier 1 Investor Visa – You can apply for ILR if you have been living in the UK for 2, 3 or 5 years depending on the level of investment made in the UK, this can either be cash or assets and a loan. If you invest £2 million in the Uk, the qualifying period for ILr will be 5-years. If you invest £5 million in the UK, the period is reduced to 3-years, and if you invest £10 million, you secure your ILR Visa after only 2-years of living in the UK.

Tier 1 Innovator Visa – You can apply for ILR if you have been living in the UK for 3 or 5 years depending on the level of business activity, such as creating jobs or income. You need to have been in the UK for 3 years and have produced 10 new full-time jobs or generated £5 million in revenue, or, taken over an existing business and have a net income of at least £5 million in 3 years.

Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa:  You can apply for ILR after living and working in the UK for 3 years, and you were endorsed in your field as a recognised leader (‘exceptional talent’). If you were endorsed as an emerging leader (‘exceptional promise’), you would be required to have lived and worked in the UK for at least 5 years.  Further eligibility for ILR requires you to have a continued endorsement from the same organisation that gave you the letter for your original Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa, and still be doing paid work in the same field.

ILR based on 10-years Long Residence:

Usually, ILR eligibility is available if you have been on the same visa for at least 5 years. However, if you have lived in the UK continuously and lawfully for at least 10 years on any category of valid visas, you can apply for ILR via the 10-year long residency route. You must have had no breaks in your continuous lawful residence within the 10-year qualifying period. During the 10 years, you are not allowed to spend more than 180 days consecutively outside of the UK and no more than 539 total days outside the UK during the entire 10-year period. Should you break either of these two time outside the UK requirements, the Home Office will deem your continuous residence period to have been broken, and you would not qualify for ILR based on long residence.

Additional Requirements – Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK

If you are between the ages 18 to 64 during your application, there are other requirements you must satisfy to qualify for ILR, such as demonstrating that you meet the English language requirements and you have good knowledge of the life in the UK by passing the 45-minute’ Life in the UK’ test.

It is recommended not to spend more than 180 days – in any given 12 month period – outside of the UK as it may impact an ILR application, or be the cause for an ILR status to be revoked. Keeping a detailed record of any time spent outside of the UK, over the last 5 years before an ILR application is recommended.

Your ILR application may get refused if you hold a criminal record in the UK or another country, provide false or incomplete information to the Home Office or if you have broken the UK immigration rules.

Why do you need one?

There are many advantages to having an ILR status in the UK, one of which being you are no longer subject to conditions on your visa. Not only can you work, live and study without restriction, but you are also eligible for access to public funds, housing and social benefits and the use of the NHS.

Additionally, you no longer need to register with the police, tell the Home Office when you change address or observe reporting restrictions.  You also have the option to be employed by anyone, be self-employed, unemployed or start your own business in the UK.

ILR status is commonly a prerequisite to applying for British Citizenship. If you are not married to a British national, after 12 months holding your ILR Visa, you would typically be eligible to apply for British citizenship through naturalisation. If you are married to someone who is already a British citizen, the 12 month period does not apply and you can apply for naturalisation immediately after you get ILR if you satisfy the naturalisation requirements.

Being on an ILR Visa is an attractive option for foreign nationals who live in the UK, the benefits of this permanent residency is the last stage before being able to become a full-fledged British citizen, and that is why many people choose to apply for it.

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