UK Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)

UK Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)

UK Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)


We have many years experience in assisting migrants to obtain UK Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) visas, also known as settlement or permanent residence.

The normal qualifying period to obtain ILR is 5 years. However, not every visa category is counted as “qualifying” for ILR. For instance, time spent in the UK on a Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa or a student visa does not count towards the 5 years period.

The following visa categories DO count towards the 5 year qualifying period;

  • Tier 1 (General)
  • Tier 2 (General)
  • Work permit
  • Tier 1 (Investor)
  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
  • Ancestry visa
  • Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP)

You can obtain your qualifying 5 years by living in the UK on one of these visas or in some cases a combination of these visas. However, applicants need to note that EEA visas and residence cards cannot be used in combination with any of the above categories to apply for ILR.

EEA visas and residence cards can lead to permanent residence in their own right under EEA law but not ILR through UK immigration.

Also, ILR can be obtained as the spouse / partner of a British citizen, but this is discussed further in our webpage on this category.

Absences in the Qualifying 5 Years

The main residence requirement is that the applicant has been living in the UK throughout the qualifying period. New guidance has been issued by the Home Office in 2018 on calculating the continuous period in the UK and permitted absences.

The maximum number of days permitted to be outside the UK in any 12 months period is 180 days. However, this does not mean that such absences will be easily accepted.

All absences from the UK need to be declared in the application. The Home Office will usually disregard short absences for annual leave every year or for short business trips.

It is also possible to disregard the period between the initial visa being issued and the initial entry to the UK – up to a period of 180 days in 12 months.

However, absences beyond normal annual leave should usually be related to the purpose of their visa. So, for example, an applicant who works for a company that requires him / her to travel abroad frequently for business meetings will be expected to justify and evidence this.

Also, if an applicant has had to spend a longer period outside the UK for a compelling or compassionate reason then again this can be considered. An example of this might be where the applicant became sick while abroad and was required to stay for a few further weeks for medical attention. Another example might be the sickness and / or death of a close family member abroad.

It is very important to remember to document any such absences. Often professional advice is needed to ensure that the absences will be permitted. A common error is that you are allowed up to 180 days in 12 months. This is the maximum allowed – but anything above normal annual leave is not at all guaranteed to be accepted.

When calculating absences only full days outside of the UK are counted. For example, a trip to France departing on Friday and returning on Monday, counts as 2 days out of the UK – Saturday and Sunday.

Many applicants struggle to compile a list of all absences out of the UK but there is no way around this. Applicants show try to keep a regular record of all travel as this will be needed for ILR (and later for citizenship).

Proof of employment, self-employment throughout the 5 years

The applicant needs to provide evidence to show that they were employed or self-employed in the UK or otherwise resident here in accordance with the terms of their visa.

So, for instance, Ancestry visa holders need to show that they have been working or self-employed in the UK throughout the qualifying 5 years – i.e. that the visa holder complied with the terms of their visa throughout the 5 years.

This doesn’t mean that you were continuously working every day but ideally applicants should provide evidence throughout as much of the 5 years as possible.

Tier 2 (General) applicants need to show that their current employer supports the application and that they are still required for the role for which they were sponsored. Additionally, they need to show that their current salary is in line with the minimum level for their occupation.

Criminal convictions

Applicants need to be very careful in relation to any criminal convictions when applying for ILR.

In short, an applicant cannot have any “unspent convictions” when applying for ILR. Most convictions become “spent” after a set period of time passes. This has proved a major hindrance for many applicants who may only have been convicted of a minor offence.

Even a minor offence that is recorded on your criminal record can prove an impediment to applying for ILR within 24 months.

Please contact us, in strictest confidence, if you wish to see if a criminal conviction is seen as “unspent” and when it can be “spent”.

 Life in the UK Test

Unless exempt through age or disability, applicants need to sit the Life in the UK Test. This is available at centres throughout the UK and is designed to test knowledge of UK society, history, politics and government.

The test is not seen as particularly onerous – however applicants should take some time to prepare and read the recommended text book on “Life in the UK”

English language requirement

All applicants need to meet an English language requirement, unless exempt through age or disability. This can be met by;

  • Passing a specified English language test at Level B1
  • Showing you have a degree qualification conducted through English
  • Showing you are a citizen of an English-speaking country

If you are taking a specified English language test then make sure the test you take is on the current approved list. The list does change from time to time.

It is possible to meet the English language requirement by showing you have a degree (including Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate degrees) that were conducted in English. Some other qualifications can also be accepted such as a Postgraduate Diploma, but these need to be checked.

Citizens of the following countries are exempt from the English language test;

Antigua and Barbuda


The Bahamas








New Zealand

Republic of Ireland (for citizenship only)

St Kitts and Nevis

St Lucia

St Vincent and the Grenadines

Trinidad and Tobago


Ability to support oneself

Applicants for ILR must be able to show that they can support themselves and any dependants. The evidence for this needs to be recent and can involve showing proof of salary and / or savings.

Some ILR applications require specific evidence depending on the category of application. For instance, Tier 2 (General) applicants need to show payslips from their current sponsoring employer. Those applying as the spouse / partner of British citizens have very onerous requirements to meet through the detailed rules in Appendix FM.

Spouses, Partners, Children

Previously, applicants could include their spouse, partners or children on their ILR application. Once declared on the application they would be granted ILR with the main applicant regardless of how long they had lived together.

The rights of dependants changed in 2011, when the government removed the automatic rights of spouses and partners to apply at the same time.

Now most dependants in the Points Based System need to accrue their own 5 years of living in the UK before being able to apply for ILR.

Retaining ILR

Once granted, ILR allows the holder to remain indefinitely or permanently in the UK. After living in the UK for another 1 year, the applicant may be eligible to obtain UK citizenship.

The main requirement to retain ILR is to continue living in the UK.

Any absences of more than 2 years at any one time outside of the UK, can result in one’s ILR being revoked.

Our ILR service

We have many years experience in securing ILR for our clients. The process can be complicated and is not granted easily by the UK government – it does, after all, allow permanent residence and is a very important step on the route to British citizenship.

We can handle the whole application from start to finish.  The service includes everything from pre-application advice, document review, completing forms, covering letter, drafting your personal statement, submission to the authorities and bringing to a successful conclusion. This continues throughout the whole process until your visa is approved.

You will only deal with one dedicated immigration adviser to provide you with a focused one to one service.

Our success rate is second to none and we can provide numerous verifiable references from satisfied clients for you to review and inspect.

At this stage, we just need you to complete this quick enquiry form on our website;

This should give us all the information we need to give you the correct advice.

We can then review in full and get back to you