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Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK - NEW 2021 Guide

Are you looking for information on the application process for obtaining an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK? If so, then you're probably dealing with a ton of questions and confusion on the subject.

Join us in this quick guide as we aim to shed some light on the matter.

What exactly is ILR in the UK?

Simply put, ILR is an immigration status that allows foreign nationals to legally live and work in the UK with no limitations (no time limit). They may also leave and re-enter the UK without restriction (Indefinite Leave to Enter the UK) as long as they return within two years.

Indefinite Leave to Remain is different from Permanent Residency (PR) status, although both have the same implications. PR is exclusive to EEA Nationals (EU citizens) and does not apply to foreign nationals. That said, ILR is a big step forward among immigrants looking to obtain British citizenship in the future.

What are the benefits of having Indefinite Leave to Remain status in the UK?

● Never again will you have to reapply for an extension or permission to live and work in the UK. You can continue to do so for as long as you want.

● The right to apply for citizenship and obtain a British passport after 12 months of your ILR

● You can apply or switch to any job as long as you're qualified.

● The right to collect state benefits — pension, child care cost, unemployment benefits, etc.

● You become more attractive to creditors and get access to low-interest rates for just about any type of loan.

To obtain ILR status, you’ll need to prove the following:

● You've lawfully and continuously resided in the UK for the qualifying period stipulated in your visa. This can vary depending on your settlement route (more on that later).

● You've not been away from the UK for more than 180 days in any given year that's included in your qualifying period.

● You are proficient in English and must have obtained at least a B1 level (intermediate) certificate from an accredited English language test.

● Demonstrate proven knowledge of British history, culture and customs in the UK by passing what is known as the "Life in the UK" test.

● Your application is not subject to general grounds for refusal — criminal convictions, unpaid taxes or any violation to one's immigration status. This can be seen as proof that you're a law-abiding citizen.

Note that you can be exempted from taking an English language proficiency test if you already possess an English degree or hail from any of the following English-speaking nations:

● United States

● Canada

● New Zealand

● Australia

● Barbados

● Antigua and Barbuda

● Dominica

● St. Lucia

● Jamaica

● Belize

● St. Vincent & the Grenadines

● Grenada

● The Bahamas

● Trinidad and Tobago

● St. Kitts and Nevis

● Guyana

As for the specific ILR qualifying period, that can vary depending on your visa type/immigration route.


Qualifying period

Commonwealth citizens with a UK Ancestry Visa

5 years

Married to a British citizen

5 years

You hold a Family Visa

5 years

Married to an EU National

5 years (EEA route)

Fiance Visa (unmarried)


You are a Tier 1 Entrepreneur

3 to 5 years depending on level of economic activity

You hold a Tier1 Exceptional Talent Visa

5 Years under Exceptional Promise Criteria. It can be shortened to 3 years if you are endorsed as having exceptional talent in your field.

You are a Tier 1 Investor

2 to 5 years depending on the amount of investment

You hold a Tier 2 General Visa

5 years under immigration route. Also, the applicant must meet minimum income requirements ( £36,200 as of 2020 and subject to increase every year).

Long Residence Stay

Accumulated 10 years of lawful and continuous stay in the UK using any combination of visas

You hold a Retired Person Visa

5 years

You are a Turkish worker or businessperson

5 years

You are a Returning Resident

You can apply immediately upon returning to the UK. This is provided that you’ve obtained settlement status before leaving and have not been outside the country for more than 3 years.

You hold a PBS Dependant visa

5 years

Note that the categories mentioned above are far from exhaustive. Qualifying periods and conditions can vary depending on your specific situation. Likewise, there are specific visa categories that are not eligible for ILR. This includes Visitor visas, Students /Tier 4, Tier 2 Intra-Company transfers and Tier 5 Temporary Worker Visa.

Keep in mind that any attempt to deceive the Home Office with regards to one's ILR qualifications can result in disciplinary action or worse — being tagged as "undesirable" as stipulated on the rules for Indefinite Leave to Remain for the UK.

What documents do you need to submit to apply for ILR?

The specific documents needed to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain status will depend on your settlement/immigration route. You can log on to theGOV.UK website and it'll walk you through the different settlement routes/categories as well as document requirements that are specific to your situation.

Some of the documents that are universal across most settlement routes include the following:

● Evidence of immigration status — the letter sent by the Home Office following approval of your visa application/extension.

● ILR application form which you can get through the GOV.UK site. Note that you must use the correct form specific to your situation and that all information must be filled out correctly.

● Declaration documents supporting your application form which can also be downloaded through the GOV.UK website. These documents allow the government to perform validation checks on all documents you've submitted as part of your ILR application.

● Passport and travel documents that you've used to enter and remain in the UK during your qualifying years (including dependents).

● Valid biometric permit

● Documentation on time spent away from the UK within the qualifying period (both business and personal). This can take much time, so it is recommended that applicants create and update a record of their overseas travels every year.

● Pass the Life in the UK test by answering at least 18 out of the 24 questions correctly. The Home Office will automatically add this to your record, so there's no need to submit the certification. Still, it is important that you complete the exam well before your ILR appointment.

● Letter from NARIC (National Academic Recognition Information Centre) stating that you've met the English proficiency and educational requirements necessary for your IRL.

● Certification that you've passed both the English language requirement and the Life in the UK test.

● If you hold a Tier 2 visa, then you must submit the latest payslip from your employer along with your bank statement (where the salary is being credited to). Both documents must be dated within 30 days of your ILR appointment and prove that the applicant meets the minimum income requirements.

Again, the documents mentioned above are not exhaustive, and other documents may be required to support your ILR application.

For example, Tier 2 visa holders must also submit supporting documents from their sponsors (employers. This document must state that they are still needed in their job and their current salary.

Things You Must Know and Prepare for Before Starting your ILR Application

First things first — you need to make sure that you have everything that you need to prove that you're eligible for ILR. That includes proving your English proficiency (unless exempted) and passing the Life in the UK test.

You can start applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain 28 days before the end of your qualifying period. However, it's always a good idea to start preparing for the process well in advance. This will give you time to prepare and check all the documents needed to support your application. Note that non-English documents will all need to be translated before your appointment.

GOV.UK has launched a new service (Beta) for starting ILR applications online. Note that the process also starts your application for a BRP (Biometric Residence Permit) and gives you a checklist of required documents that you'll need to upload later on.

Applicants will be able to book their appointment in advance, but only up to 28 days. This is why you need to wait 28 days before the end of your qualifying period to start applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

UKVCAS (UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services) — the official partner of UK Visas & Immigration) recommend booking an appointment within five days of your application. Applicants will be notified if they've failed to do so after 15 days.

Document submission procedure — how does it work?

One thing that you need to know is that you don't have to submit any physical documents to the Home Office. Only soft copies are required which you'll need to upload via a third party site (UKVACS).

The following steps should give you an idea on how to begin and proceed with your ILR application process:

  1. Again, before you start your ILR application, you should be no more than 28 days away from the end of your qualifying period. This is important, or else your ILR will likely be refused. Click here to go to the page on the UK.GOV site where you can start your ILR application — Apply to Settle in the UK - certain categories only.

Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the “Apply Now” button.

  1. You will be asked whether you want to start a new application.

Click on “Start a New Application” to proceed.

  1. From here, you can start filling out the information for your ILR application.

Complete the entire process which includes confirming your location (you need to be in the UK to start your application), filling out your personal information, downloading your declaration documents and your payment for the application.

The section under “Documents” will outline the documents that you’ll need to submit to support your ILR application. This will be your checklist so you’d want to take note of the documents indicated in the section.

  1. Once you reach the end of the process under “Further Actions”, you will be asked to book an appointment.

Clicking on the “Book Appointment” button will take you to the UKVCAS website which is where you’ll be able to upload soft copies of your documents and book an appointment for your biometrics.

How much can you expect to pay for an ILR application?

Truth be told, the cost of applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK isn't cheap. The basic application alone cost £2,389. That's the amount the Home Office charges for processing ILR applications. Note that this does not include the fees that you need to pay to obtain and prepare your documents or the cost of your biometric appointment.

Once you book your BRP appointment, you will be presented with two options — the standard process and priority option. There are no additional fees if you choose the standard route. The only caveat is that the process takes six months, and during that time, you're not allowed to leave the UK for any reason.

Choosing the priority route will cost you an additional £800. In return, the Home Office will process your application within five working days. You can get a decision regarding your ILR application in as early as two weeks.

Attending the biometric appointment

As stipulated earlier in this guide, an application for BRP is part of applying for ILR. This means attending a biometric appointment at a UKVCAS service point. From there, your identity will be confirmed, and you'll be able to enrol your biometric information (photos, fingerprints, and signature specimens).

So how do you book your biometric appointment?

  1. At this point, you should be done with your ILR application on the UK.GOV site. Next, you’ll be redirected to the UKVCAS website to book an appointment for your biometrics.

The first thing you’ll notice is that you’ll be asked to get your access code. You can obtain this code from your email address (the one you’ve indicated in your ILR application). Keep in mind that you’ll only have 30 minutes to input this code so make sure you’re ready and that you’re not engaged with anything else. Click on “Email my access code” to proceed.

  1. Key in your access code and create a password for your UKVCAS account.

Click on “Set up account”.

  1. At this point, you’ve now created your UKVCAS account. The website may prompt you to login with your username (email address) and password. This will take you to the homepage which should look something like this:

  1. Scroll to the bottom of the UKVCAS homepage and click on “Book an appointment”

  1. For the next step, you will need to choose a service point location. You can search by postcode or select the service points indicated on the map.

  1. Below the map, you can review information on available service points in your area. You should of course, choose the one that’s closest and most convenient for you.

Decide on a service point, then click on “Select this service point” to proceed.

  1. The next step will take you to the appointment page. Choose a date and time that you’re happy with then click on “Reserve appointment”. Notice how the fees vary depending on the schedule (from £50 to £100). There are also free appointments that you can take advantage of if your schedule is flexible enough.

  1. Click on “Check Out” and pay for your biometric appointment (if not free).

  1. At this point, you’ve now reserved a schedule and paid for your biometric appointment. You will automatically be redirected to a page where you can upload the necessary documents for your ILR application.

You can upload soft copies of your documents all at once or do it in stages. You can always go back to your UKVCAS account at a later time. The important thing is that you get it done before your appointment.

You’ll also want to check your email address for a booking confirmation. It is recommended that you print it out as it contains a QR code that you can use to track and verify your appointment.

On a final note, make sure that you show up to your appointment on time. Ideally, you’d want to leave a few hours early just to ensure that you’ll have time to sort out any last-minute problems. When you’re satisfied with the information, UKVCAS will send your application to the Home Office (UKVI) for a decision.

Once you’re done with your biometric appointment, all that is left to do is wait. Again, you cannot leave the UK until you receive a decision on your ILR application. Doing so will prompt the Home Office to tag your application as “withdrawn” which means that you’ll have to start over.

Some Useful Tips for your ILR Application

● Prepare early. It takes time to complete all of the documents you need for an ILR application. It's not unusual for applicants to start their preparations as early as two years before the end of their qualifying period. After all, simply documenting all your travels for the past 2 to 5 years is sure to take up much of your time.

● The rule of thumb when it comes to submitting documents is that more is always better. This means that you don't just provide the documents that the Home Office is asking for. Submit as many documents as you want for as long as it'll help make a strong case for getting your application approved.

● Many people make the mistake of underestimating the amount of time it takes to upload soft copies of their documents to the UKVCAS portal. That website can be very specific when it comes to the type and size of the document you're uploading. If a soft copy of the document is refused, you may end up having to resize it or convert it to another format. Either way, this can take time, so it would be wise to take this into account.

● Bring hard copies of all your documents during your appointment. Bring anything that you feel is relevant. You'll never know if you might need them. For example, there might be problems with the quality of the document you've uploaded. In this case, you can show them the physical copy and have it scanned then re-uploaded to the site.

Answers to Frequently-asked questions about ILR

How long does Indefinite Leave to Remain last?

Once granted, ILR in the UK does not expire. This means that you're permanently free of immigration-related restrictions for as long as you abide by the rules.

Can I lose my ILR status?

Yes, you can. The Home Office revokes the ILR status of immigrants who spend more than two years outside the UK. The same is true for immigrants who commit a deportable criminal offence or for national security reasons.

Can I apply for British citizenship straight after getting my ILR?

No, you can't. You will need to wait 12 months before applying.

How much does it cost to apply for ILR?

£2,389 (since April 6, 2018) + £800 if you choose priority application

My ILR application was refused, can I appeal the decision?

Yes, you can, but you should first address the reason for the refusal. If it's a minor error in one of the forms/documents, then it's better to resubmit your ILR application.

If the reason behind the refusal is much more serious, then you can request an administrative or judicial review. In any case, an appeal must be made within 14 days of the refusal.

What are the common reasons for ILR refusal?

Some of the common reasons why the Home Office might refuse an ILR application includes missing/insufficient documents, inability to meet minimum income requirements, not paying the right taxes, and criminal activity.

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