Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) means permission to live in the UK without any time limit. Holders of indefinite leave to remain are entitled to work in the UK and they are also entitled to receive any state benefits that they qualify for.

Indefinite leave to remain is not the same thing as British citizenship. A person who holds ILR retains their original nationality and they are not entitled, for example, to vote in General Elections unless they otherwise qualify for it by virtue of their nationality.

Migrants who hold indefinite leave to remain are generally able to leave and return to the UK without restriction. However, if they leave the UK for over two years they may lose their indefinite leave to remain status. 

Qualifying for Indefinite Leave to Remain

You can qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) under several visa categories after living in the UK for a specified period of time. The qualifying period depends on your current visa category and status in the UK.

There are various routes a person can take in order to qualify for ILR.

Certain applicants can apply for ILR after 2 years, while the majority can do so after 5 years residence if all other requirements are met.

There is also a 10-year route for people who lived in the UK lawfully for a continuous period of 10 years.

Some people will qualify under 20-year or 30-year route when both lawful and unlawful residence has taken place.

Applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain

Applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain are extremely important in one’s life in the UK. They can be considered a final hurdle before becoming a British Citizen.

However, most applications are done very close to the expiry of the visa meaning that the applicant gets only “one shot”.

It is not unheard of that people had to leave the UK and start their period of continuous residence from scratch after their application for ILR was refused.

We can prepare applications of any difficulty and assist clients with their ILR applications.    

We can assist with indefinite leave to remain applications in all categories;
  • ILR for Tier 1 (General); 
  • ILR for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur); 
  • ILR for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) – Accelerated route; 
  • ILR for Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) or Global Talent Visa; 
  • ILR for Tier 1 (Investor); 
  • ILR for Tier 1 (Investor) – Accelerated route; 
  • Tier 2 ILR; 
  • Spouse Visa ILR; 
  • ILR for PBS Dependant route; 
  • ILR – employment not requiring a work permit e.g. representatives of an overseas business; 
  • ILR – highly skilled migrant under the terms of the HSMP indefinite leave to remain (ILR) judicial review policy document; 
  • ILR via bereaved partner route; 
  • ILR via UK ancestry route; 
  • ILR on a 10 Years long residence basis. 

Indefinite Leave to Remain Requirements

The major requirements for ILR applications include having stayed in the UK for the relevant qualifying period of time under specified visa category and fulfilling the knowledge of the language and life requirement.

Qualifying Visa Categories and Routes for ILR

There are several visa categories or routes that you can take to qualify for indefinite leave to remain. Generally, you can qualify for ILR with one of the following visa categories or routes:

  • Tier 1 migrants – Tier 1 (General), Tier 1 (Entrepreneur), Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent), Tier 1 (Investor) and their dependants; 
  • Tier 2 (General) migrants and their dependants; 
  • Spouse or partner of a person settled in the UK; 
  • UK ancestry route; 
  • Domestic workers covered by transitional arrangements; 
  • Migrants in closed categories, such as HSMP or Work Permit holders, and their dependents. 

Qualifying Periods for Indefinite Leave to Remain

Depending on your current visa category and routes listed above, you will need to fulfil the time period criteria to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain application. You can only submit the application after qualifying for indefinite leave to remain on a relevant basis.

Refer to the table below for qualifying periods for some of the common visa categories and routes.

Qualifying Period Visa categories and routes
5 years Categories and routes include Tier 2, UK ancestry, eligible Tier 1 categories
3 years Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) – accelerated route
2 or 3 years Tier 1 (Investor) – accelerated route, depending on the level of investment in the UK.
5 years or 4 years Eligible highly skilled migrant categories.
10 Years ILR on long residence basis

English Language Knowledge for ILR

You can prove English language requirements by having either:

  • an English qualification at B1, B2, C1 or C2 level; 
  • a degree taught or researched in English; 
  • being a national of a majority English-speaking country (see the exempted list of Nationalities below). 

The requirement of English Language knowledge is waived in cases where applicants are aged 65 or over or are unable to due to physical or mental condition.

English Language Exempt Nationalities

You are exempt from English Language requirement if you are a national of an English-speaking country.

Life in the UK Test for ILR

Another important part of fulfilling the knowledge of language and life requires you to pass the Life in the UK test.

The test is required under the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 and taken in order to test the knowledge of British life and sufficient proficiency in the English language.

Life in the UK is a computer-based test made up of 24 multiple choice questions that test covering topics such as British values, history, traditions and everyday life in the UK.

There is a time limit of 45 minutes to complete the test and you will need to get 18 questions correct out of 24 (75%) to pass the test. You will get a Pass Notification Letter or an email with the code once you successfully pass your test. There are no limitations on the number of times you can take the test and once passed, Life in the UK test never expires. .

Indefinite Leave to Remain Application Forms

Generally, you will need to fill in one of two possible forms for your application of ILR.

SET(M) – If you are applying as a spouse, civil partner, same sex or unmarried partner of a person present and settled in the UK

SET(O) – For most other ILR applications (see the list of most common ILR application in our ILR services above).

Most of the ILR applications are now submitted online. Online ILR forms can be found on the Home Office’s website.

Application Fees for ILR

You application fees will depend on the form that you will need to submit to make a valid application or ILR.

Please refer to the official charges document published and frequently updated by the UKVI for latest fees for all applications related to Immigration and nationality.

Documents Required For Indefinite Leave to Remain

The documents that you need to submit will vary based on the route that you want to apply under for ILR. You can refer to the individual routes or categories to get a more accurate idea of the documents that you need to submit along with your application.

In general, the documents that you need to submit for a valid ILR application include;

  • Correctly filled current version of the form. Most ILR application forms are now online
  • Payment of specified fees by one of the accepted payment methods
  • Valid passport or (unless a PBS applicant) a national identity card or travel document for yourself and any dependants
  • Complete section 7 (Personal History) as required and signed declaration in section 14
  • Other supporting evidence based on your ILR route, for example, relationship evidence for spouses, employment evidence for Tier 2 (General) migrants.

Decision times for Indefinite Leave to Remain Applications

Decision times again vary according to the routes and visa categories and the personal circumstances of your application. Applications that require further enquiries usually take longer to decide than the general timeline.

General processing time is up to 6 months. Most ILR applications are decided in 8 weeks. It is possible to expedite certain ILR applications using super-priority service, which costs and additional £800. With super-priority, your ILR application will normally be decided in 24 hours.

Need help with ILR Application?

Considering the complexities involved, it’s best to seek professional advice while making your ILR application.

If you need assistance call 0191 4862799 or email