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A comprehensive guide to indefinite leave to remain

In this detailed guide to indefinite leave to remain, we'll explain what it is, the benefits and how you can apply.

Are you looking to settle in the UK permanently? Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) is the immigration status that allows you to do so.

Whether you've been residing in the UK on a spouse visa, work visa, or any other route, indefinite leave to remain can be the ultimate goal for many.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the details of indefinite leave to remain and answer some of your burning questions.

We will cover:

Before we explore the intricacies of ILR, let's first understand what it entails.

What is indefinite leave to remain?

Indefinite leave to remain is an immigration status in the United Kingdom that allows you to live and work in the country without any restrictions. It grants you settlement status, which means you are no longer subject to immigration restrictions.

Obtaining indefinite leave to remain comes with many benefits that make it an attractive option if you are aiming to settle in the country. Indefinite leave to remain provides you with the freedom to live and work in the UK indefinitely, without any time limitations.

This means that you can enjoy the same rights and benefits as British citizens, such as access to public services and healthcare.

How can I get indefinite leave to remain? Different routes to obtaining ILR

Indefinite leave to remain is not granted automatically and there are various routes to obtaining it, each with its own requirements. The most common routes are through employment, certain visa categories, marriage or civil partnership and long residence.

Visa categories

If you have a work visa in the UK, you may be eligible for indefinite leave to remain. Usually, you must have lived and worked in the UK for five years. However, if you have a tier 1 visa, it can be two or three years. An Innovator Founder or Global Talent visa can apply after three years.

You may also need to meet the salary or financial requirements, which will depend on your visa.

If you meet the requirements and have been continuously employed in the UK for a specified period, you may be eligible to apply for ILR through this route.

Marriage or civil partnership

If you are married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen or settled person, the partner route may be available. This route allows you to apply for indefinite leave to remain based on your relationship. This route requires meeting specific eligibility criteria and providing evidence of a genuine and subsisting relationship.

Long residence

If you have been living in the UK for an extended period, the long residence route may be applicable. This route is for those who have legally resided in the UK for at least 10 years and can demonstrate strong ties to the country.

It requires providing evidence of continuous residence, good character, and knowledge of the English language and life in the UK.

The benefits of indefinite leave to remain

Indefinite leave to remain offers a sense of security and stability that temporary visas do not provide.

With ILR, you no longer need to worry about renewing visas or meeting ongoing immigration requirements. You have the freedom to pursue your personal and professional goals without interruption.

Indefinite leave to remain can also pave the way towards British citizenship, opening doors to additional benefits and opportunities.

Once you have lived in the UK for at least five years and held indefinite leave to remain for at least a year, you are eligible to apply for naturalisation and become a British citizen, although you do not need to wait a year if you’re married to a British citizen.

Meeting the requirements for indefinite leave to remain

To obtain indefinite leave to remain, you will need to meet specific criteria set by the UK government. While the requirements may vary depending on the route you are taking, there are some key criteria that are applicable to most ILR applications.

Key criteria for ILR eligibility

One of the main requirements for ILR is demonstrating sufficient knowledge of the English language. You can prove this through an approved English language test or by having obtained a relevant qualification in the UK.

There are some exceptions — if you are 65 or over, have a long-term physical or mental condition or come from a majority English-speaking country, then you do not need to prove your knowledge of English.

In addition to the language requirement, you must also meet the residency requirement. This typically involves having spent a specified period in the UK and not having spent excessive time outside the country.

The 180-day rule for ILR

To apply for ILR you must adhere to the 180-day rule, which means that you must not have been absent from the UK for more than 180 days in any 12-month period during the qualifying period. It is crucial to keep track of your travel dates and maintain accurate records to ensure compliance with this requirement.

How to apply for indefinite leave to remain

Applying for indefinite leave to remain may seem like a complex process, but with proper guidance and preparation, you can be successful.

Below we have provided a step-by-step guide to the ILR application process, as well as highlighting the documents required for a successful application.

A step-by-step guide to indefinite leave to remain applications

  1. Determine the appropriate route: identify the most suitable route for your ILR application based on your circumstances.

  2. Gather required documents: collect all necessary documents. We have outlined some of the documents you may need below.

  3. Complete the application form: fill out the indefinite leave to remain application form accurately, providing all requested information.

  4. Pay the application fees: submit the required fees and your application form.

  5. Book an appointment: arrange an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) centre to submit your biometric data.

  6. Attend the appointment: attend the scheduled appointment to have your fingerprints and photograph taken.

  7. Await a decision: once you have submitted your application, wait to receive a decision on your ILR status.

Essential documents for a successful ILR application

The success or failure of your ILR application can hinge on including the correct documentation to support your application. This may include:

  • Passports and travel documents
  • Visa and immigration history
  • Evidence of residence in the UK
  • English language test certificates
  • Proof of financial requirement(s)

How long does it take to get a decision on ILR?

On average, it takes around six months to receive a decision on an ILR application. However, this may be quicker in straightforward cases and longer in complex cases, especially where additional checks and/or documents are required before a decision is made.

While waiting for a decision, it is important to remain patient and avoid making any travel plans or significant life decisions until your ILR status is confirmed. You will not be able to leave the UK and travel abroad during this time.

It is advisable to check the UK government's official processing times regularly to stay informed about the progress of your application.

The path to British citizenship after ILR

After you have held ILR for a specified period, you may be eligible to apply for British citizenship. British citizenship offers further benefits, including the right to vote, access to certain government jobs, and the ability to travel using a British passport.

However, the path to British citizenship has its own criteria and requirements, which vary depending on individual circumstances.

Dealing with ILR application refusals

While most indefinite leave to remain applications are successful, there is always a possibility of refusal.

If your ILR application is refused, it is essential to understand your options and the grounds for refusal.

Common reasons for ILR application rejection

Common reasons for ILR application rejection can include:

  1. Incomplete or incorrect application forms
  2. Failure to meet the eligibility criteria
  3. Insufficient evidence of residence in the UK
  4. Providing false or misleading information
  5. Lack of necessary supporting documentation

If your application is refused, you may have the right to appeal the decision or submit a fresh application with proper adjustments and additional evidence.

Frequently asked questions

How much does an indefinite leave to remain application cost?

An indefinite leave to remain application costs £2,404 per applicant.

Can I bring my family with me?

If you are an indefinite leave to remain holder, you may be eligible to bring your family members to the UK. Dependants, such as partners and children, can apply for a visa to join you in the UK and enjoy the same benefits and rights as you do.

Will my child born in the UK have British citizenship with indefinite leave to remain?

While your child will not automatically receive British citizenship based solely on your ILR status, they may be eligible for registration as a British citizen.

Will criminal convictions influence an ILR Application?

Certain criminal offences can have a significant influence on the outcome of your ILR application. It is important to seek legal advice and guidance to navigate any complexities associated with criminal convictions.


It is crucial to understand the requirements and application process for indefinite leave to remain before you apply.

By familiarising yourself with the various routes, meeting the eligibility criteria, and preparing a strong application, you can increase your chances of a successful ILR application and pave the way towards a secure and prosperous future in the UK.

We have a team of experienced immigration solicitors, who can help with and advise you on all aspects of navigating this application process and maximising your prospects of a successful outcome. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with any questions.

If you need help with an indefinite leave to remain application, contact our immigration solicitors who will be happy to assist you.

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