Figures show there were 63,941 grants of settlement - Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) - to non-EEA migrants in 2017. This was a 5% increase from 2016.

There are many different routes to ILR. You will need to be clear which applies to you, that you meet all the ILR requirements under that route and that you follow the required process to apply.

Check your eligibility

Requirements include:

  • Continuous residence. The qualifying length of time you need to have spent in the UK will be determined by your current visa category. Tier 2 (General) visa holders for example will be eligible to apply for ILR after 5 continuous years in the UK. This will require you to have held a valid Tier 2 visa and made a previous successful visa extension application. Long residence however requires at least 10 years in the UK to be eligible for settlement.
  • Passing the Life in the UK test to prove your knowledge of British traditions and customs. The test is taken at a test centre local to you. There is a fee to take the test. You can re-sit the test if you fail.
  • Evidence knowledge of the English language. Depending on your circumstances, you may also need to sit a language test at a local test centre.

Even where you are confident you meet the criteria, there are no guarantees of success. Your application remains subject to general conditions including:

  • The good character test. If you have any criminal convictions from anywhere in the world, take professional advice to ensure you are disclosing as required within your application. 
  • Excessive absences. If you have been out of the UK for more than the relevant threshold during your qualifying period, you may be ineligible.

How to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain

Complete the relevant application form:

  • Set (O) if you are currently in the UK under one of a specified visa classifications
  • Set (M) if you are a partner, parent or child of a person who is already settled in the UK or a British citizen

The date from which you can apply for ILR depends on the type of visa you have and its expiry date. In any event you should make your application before your current visa lapses to avoid overstaying.

The application process is onerous. In addition to completing the form, you will be required to collate and submit original copies of documentary evidence to prove your eligibility.

If your application is refused, as well as losing your application fee, depending on your circumstances, you may need to take swift action to make a new application, either for ILR or another category, to avoid ‘overstaying’ or having to leave the UK.

Can you lose indefinite leave to remain?

Once attained, Indefinite Leave to Remain can be lost in certain circumstances. For example:

  • If you are out of the UK for more than two years. It may be possible to reapply to re-enter the UK to settle under the Returning Resident visa.
  • If you have committed a crime that could lead to deportation
  • If it is later found that you obtained ILR through deception

Is indefinite leave to remain right for you, right now?

Given the stringent nature of the ILR eligibility requirements, it may be more appropriate in your circumstances or at the given time to apply for further leave to remain rather than settlement.

For example, if you have an unspent criminal conviction, including relatively minor traffic offences, may require time lapse between the offence and the time of your application.

You will also not be able to travel with your passport while your application is being processed – this can take up to six months. Same-day processing may be available to some visa categories but this can be oversubscribed and there is likely to be a waiting list.

Taking professional advice with your ILR application can help to ensure you meet the stringent eligibility criteria and submit the correct documents and avoid the expense, stress and disappointment of a refused application.