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Indefinite Leave to Remain – What you Need to Know

Indefinite Leave to Remain is a form of permanent residence which is available to those who have been lawfully living in the UK for a certain period of time, typically five years.

If you are granted Indefinite Leave to Remain, you are entitled to settle in the UK without restrictions.

What is Indefinite Leave to Remain UK?

Indefinite Leave to Remain is a preliminary step towards British naturalisation and full British citizenship. It is designed for those who wish to settle in the UK on a permanent basis.

There are a number of different routes/visas which can lead towards Indefinite Leave to Remain status including:

  • Spouse/marriage visa
  • Family visa
  • A Tier 1 and 2 visa/other eligible work permit
  • Business visa
  • A form of ancestry visa
  • A form of long-term lawful residence

The amount of time someone must have been in the UK before applying for Leave to Remain depends upon the specific visa/residence they have been living under.

You are not automatically granted with Indefinite Leave to Remain status once you reach the required time-frame – you must enter an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain status.

Indefinite Leave to Remain Requirements

Indefinite Leave to Remain Cavalry

The Indefinite Leave to Remain requirements are based on these factors:

  • Whether you have lawfully been in the UK for the required time period and not breached any immigration laws during this time
  • Whether you have spent no more than 180 days outside of the UK in a 12-month time-frame within the qualifying period
  • A pass in the Life in the UK test
  • The ability to prove a certain level of English

A dependant child of a British citizen or someone with settled status could be automatically granted with permission to stay indefinitely.

Also, if a refugee has resettled in the UK through the Gateway Protection Program, they will be automatically granted with permission to remain.

Furthermore, if someone settled in the UK on 1st January 1973 or arrived in the UK before 1988, they may be eligible for the Windrush scheme.

Do note that there will be specific requirements related to the particular visa/residence you have been living under in the UK.

Time Requirements

As mentioned, you need to have spent a certain period of time in the UK before applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain. The specific amount of time depends on your particular immigration status.

In almost all cases, you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after 5 years of residence in the UK.

Bear in mind that any time spent in the Isle of Man or Channel Islands does not contribute towards time requirements.

Visa Type/Immigration StatusMinimum Time Requirement
Tier 1 Investor VisaUp to 5 Years, depending on
amount of capital invested
Tier 1 Entrepreneur VisaUp to 5 years, depending on the
activity and size of your business
Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa3 years
Tier 2 Visa5 years
Spouse Visa5 years
Fiance(e) or Unmarried Partner5 years
EEA Nationals Family Visa5 years
UK Ancestry Visa5 years
PBS Dependant Visa5 years
Long Residence and over 1810 years
Long Residence and under 187 years
Individuals aged between 18 and
25 who have lived in UK for at least half their life
Up to 22.5 years
Returning ResidentIf returned to UK within 3 years from settlement date
Dependent Adults or children of settled personNo minimum residence required
Commonwealth citizens who served in British Armed Forces4 years

Periods of Absence

Ordinarily, you must not have been outside of the UK for more than 180 days in a 12-month period to be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

This is not an absolute rule and in certain circumstances, this requirement will not need to be fulfilled.

Such circumstances include the following:

  • If the delay between your entry clearance and entry to the UK exceeded 180 days
  • Part-day absences less than 24 hours
  • Absence due to exceptional circumstances such as serious illness (relevant documents/certificates will need to be provided)
  • If you are in the UK on a work visa and your absences are related to business activity and trips
  • Short visits outside of the UK as paid annual leave

In all instances, it is prudent to keep a record of all your periods of absence since you have held residence in the UK.

Life in the UK Test

Castle on Hill

The Life in the UK test is one which any Indefinite Leave to Remain applicant must take and pass to be considered for Indefinite Leave to Remain status.

Also known as the British Citizenship test, the test comprises of 24 questions and lasts for 45 minutes. The questions are randomly generated on the day of the test.

The questions are based on things like British customs, culture and history.

The best way to prepare for the test is to study the official Home Office handbook for the Life in the UK test, which contains all the information you need.

You need to bring a form of official ID to the test along with proof of your address, dated within three months of your assessment date.

You must achieve a score of at least 75% to pass the Life in the UK test.

What Level of English do I Need for Indefinite Leave to Remain Status?

Anyone wishing to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain status needs to be able to prove a certain level of English.

The minimum requirement is level B1 of English speaking and listening as set by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

You need to hold a certificate from an approved test provider to prove you have the qualification or be able to show the results online.

A list of the current approved tests and test centres can be found here.

English Language Test Exemptions

Certain people are exempt from the English language requirements when applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

You will be exempt from this requirement if you are a citizen of the following countries:

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

The following exemptions also apply:

  • People aged 65 or over
  • Those unable to take the test due to a long-term physical or mental condition
  • Holders of a degree or higher qualification taught or researched in English at a UK institution
  • Holders of a degree or higher qualification taught or researched in English from a non-UK institution which is recognised as being equivalent to a UK qualification
  • A person who is living in the UK with a discretionary leave
  • A person who is living in the UK with humanitarian protection
  • A refugee who is living in the UK
  • A Commonwealth citizen on discharge from HM Forces, including Gurkhas
  • A victim of domestic violence as the partner or spouse of a British citizen or someone with settled status in the UK
  • The partner or spouse of a person who has died who was a British citizen or someone who was settled in the UK
  • An adult dependant relative aged between 18 and 64 of someone who is present and settled in the UK, has humanitarian protection or is a refugee
  • A person who has permission to stay in the UK as a retired person with independent means
  • A highly skilled migrant applying under the terms of the highly skilled migrant program
  • A person who has exceptional circumstances such as an orphan, widow or over-age dependant

Indefinite Leave to Remain Fees

The current fee for the Indefinite Leave to Remain application is £2,389. If there are dependants involved in the application, a further £50 per person will need to be paid.

The fee for the Life in the UK test is £50, and this should be paid when the examination is booked.

If any biometric test is needed with the application, a further £19.20 will need to be paid.

Indefinite Leave to Remain Application Form

Man Signing Paper

The form you need to use to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain is Form Set (O).

It is always a good idea to employ the services of a qualified lawyer to aid with the application process, and to ensure you have the strongest chance of a successful application.

You will need to meet the main requirements set out above to be considered.

Some of the information and documents you will need to provide include:

  • Home and financial information
  • Immigration history including time spent outside of the UK during residence in the UK
  • Personal history including any criminal convictions
  • Two passport-sized photographs
  • Biometric Residence Permit information
  • Passport/travel documents

Indefinite Leave to Remain Application Process Time

The processing time for Indefinite Leave to Remain applications is within six months.

An expedited service is also available for applicants. The priority service processes your application within five working days and costs an additional £500. The super-priority service processes your application within one working day and costs an additional £800.

How Long Does Indefinite Leave to Remain Last?

If you have been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain, you can remain in the UK without any time limit restrictions.

After 12 months with Indefinite Leave to Remain status, you will be eligible to apply for British naturalisation and citizenship.

Written by
Richard Ballout
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