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Unlocking your British Passport: The Guide to Indefinite Leave to Remain

This article, which is the first in a miniseries on how to obtain a British passport, focuses on Indefinite Leave to Remain

What is Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)?

ILR is a form of settlement or permanent residency, which allows non-UK nationals to live and work in the UK without any time restrictions or the need for a visa. For EU nationals holding status under the EU Settlement Scheme, ILR is usually referred to as Settled status.

Once granted with ILR, individuals can stay in the UK indefinitely, so long as they maintain their status and do not spend more than two years continuously outside the UK.

To be eligible for ILR, applicants must fulfil specific criteria including having lived in the UK for a continuous period of 5 years (in certain circumstances you can apply after three or two years of residence), demonstrating sufficient knowledge of the English language, and passing the Life in the UK Test which assesses knowledge about British society, history, and culture.

What are the different routes to Settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain)?

Upon fulfilling the requisite length of continuous residence in the UK under one or more of the visa categories mentioned below, in addition to satisfying the additional ILR criteria, applicants become eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

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

  • Spouse Visa
  • Unmarried Partner Visa
  • Family Visa
  • Global Talent Visa
  • Investor Visa (Tier 1)
  • Innovator Visa
  • Start-Up Visa
  • Skilled Worker Visa, including Tier 2 (General) leave
  • UK Ancestry Visa
  • Long residence

Combining different visa routes for ILR

The most common work category leading to settlement in the UK is the Skilled Worker visa category. You can switch to the Skilled Worker route from most visa categories, whilst in the UK. Time spent under other visa categories can be combined with the Skilled Worker/Tier 2 (General) visa category to qualify for ILR after 5 years.

What are the Indefinite Leave to Remain requirements?

The specific requirements for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) vary based on the individual’s visa category and their circumstances.

The general eligibility requirements include:

  • Continuous residence: You must have resided in the UK continuously for a specified period, usually five years, under the relevant visa category. You must not have spent more than 180 days in any 12-month period outside the UK.
  • Compliance with the immigration rules and other UK laws
  • Knowledge of English and Life in the UK

Can I apply for UK Indefinite Leave to Remain after five years?

Generally, most non-UK nationals can apply for ILR after a period of five years of living lawfully in the UK with the eligible type of visa.

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

In certain situations, it is possible to be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK with less than five years of continuous residence. This applies to individuals who are living in the UK under the following categories:

  • Innovator Visa – Eligible after three years (depending on business development)
  • Entrepreneur Visa – Eligible after three years – (depending on business development)
  • Global Talent Visa – Eligible after three years – (depending on visa criteria and type of endorsment)
  • Investor Visa (Tier 1) – Eligible after two or three years (depending on business development)

For individuals residing in the UK under a form of Long Residence, there are specific requirements they will need to meet to apply for ILR. The duration of residence differs based on the applicant’s age: 10 years for those over 18, and 7 years for those under 18.

Rebecca Hone

Senior Associate

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+44 20 7539 8019

Monica Mastropasqua


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+44 20 7539 8021

The specific requirements for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) vary based on the individual’s visa category and their circumstances.

Absences from the UK

There are rules surrounding absences from the UK. They refer to the maximum permitted period of time an individual can spend outside the country whilst still maintaining their eligibility for settlement.

The absences rules for ILR applications are as follows:

  1. Continuous residence: You should not have spent more than 180 days outside the UK in any 12-month period during the qualifying period.
  2. Exceptions for certain categories: Different immigration categories may have variations in the absences rule. For example, individuals on work visas such as Skilled Workers may be allowed more than 180 days of absence per year, if necessary for their work and at the discretion of the Home Office caseworker deciding their ILR application.

If an individual exceeds the allowable absences of 180 days, their continuous leave may be considered broken, and their application for ILR could be rejected. However, there are exceptional circumstances where the Home Office may exercise discretion such as serious illness, conflict, and natural disasters. It is crucial to gather sufficient evidence demonstrating absences exceeding the permitted 180 days.

How long does and ILR application take in 2023?

The processing times for ILR applications in the UK can vary depending on various factors, including the workload of the Home Office, and the complexity of one’s case. The Home Office aims to process most straightforward ILR applications within six months. However, it’s important to note that these processing times are not guaranteed and can be subject to change.

Fortunately, there are expedited processing options available, at an extra cost:

  • Priority service – resulting in a decision within five working days from the date of the applicant’s UKVCAS biometric appointment
  • Super Priority service – resulting in a decision:
    • By the end of the next working day after the individual’s UKVCAS biometric appointment (if the appointment is on a weekday).
    • Within two working days after the individual’s UKVCAS biometric appointment (if the appointment is on a weekend).

It’s important to note that using either of the priority services does not always guarantee a decision within the specified time, particularly if your case is complex or requires further investigation or follow-up.

ILR fees

For each individual applying, the Home Office fees for ILR applications are:

  • ILR application fee: £2,404
  • Priority visa service (optional): £500
  • Super Priority visa service (optional): £800

Our immigration team has a wealth of experience in helping individuals acquire Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or Settlement by assessing their eligibility and guiding them through the application process.

If you wish to apply for ILR following leave as a Points Based Migrant or under a different eligible immigration route, our immigration lawyers will guide you and work with you to ensure you obtain Settlement.


About this article

This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

Rebecca Hone

Senior Associate

View profile

+44 20 7539 8019

Monica Mastropasqua


View profile

+44 20 7539 8021

About this article

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) FAQs

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) typically grants you permission to live and work in the UK without any time restrictions. However, it’s important to note that some ILR grants may include an expiry date for administrative purposes. This can be found on your ‘Biometric Residence Permit’ (BRP) which serves as proof of your immigration status.

The BRP, which is issued alongside ILR, contains an expiry date for practical reasons such as ensuring that individuals update their personal information or to align with the expiration of the passport used during the application process. The expiry date on the BRP does not affect your immigration status or your right to live and work in the UK indefinitely. You may have to apply to renew your BRP, depending on your circumstances.

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There is a problem with the way the tender was designed

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There is a problem with the way the tender submissions were evaluated.

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The contracting authority failed to comply with the procedural requirements imposed by the Regulations.

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