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What is Indefinite Leave to Remain?

Definition

The term 'indefinite leave to remain' is the same as what other countries refer to as 'permanent residence'. It is an immigration status given to individuals by the Home Office which allows them to stay in the UK for any length of time, or 'indefinitely'. It is also known as 'settlement'.


What are the benefits?

If you are given indefinite leave to remain in the UK, you will be allowed to live, work and study without any restrictions. You may leave the UK and return freely. However, it is possible to lose your indefinite leave to remain status in some situations.


How can I obtain indefinite leave to remain?

Indefinite leave to remain is a part of many people's natural immigration journey. Whether you enter as a student, worker, businessperson or spouse/fiancé(e), indefinite leave to remain is usually possible depending on the requirements of your visa route and your immigration history in the UK.


Which immigration routes lead to indefinite leave to remain?

The table below shows some of the most popular immigration routes and whether they lead to indefinite leave to remain. It is important to remember that, whilst your existing route may not count towards settlement, it may be possible for you to switch to another route that does.


Example 1: Student

The period of time a person has spent in the UK on a student visa does not lead to settlement by itself. However, if that person were to switch to the skilled worker route, they will normally qualify for indefinite leave to remain after 5 years.


Example 2: Visitor

No period of time spent in the UK as a visitor will lead to settlement. This means that no matter how many visitor visas a person has held, or how many times a person has entered the UK, they will not qualify for settlement. However, a period of stay as a visitor (which cannot usually ever be for longer than 180 days at a time) will count if you are applying to settle in the UK on the basis of 20 years' long residence.

Immigration Route

Counts towards settlement?

Visitor Visa (6 months, 2, 5 or 10 years)

No

Student Visa (previously known as Tier 4 Visa)

No

Graduate Visa (previously known as Post-Graduate Work Visa)

No

UK Expansion Worker (Global Business Mobility) Visa

No

Skilled Worker Visa

Yes

Innovator Founder Visa

Yes

Global Talent Visa

Yes

Family Visa (Spouse, Parent or Dependant Visa)

Yes

Representative of an Overseas Business Visa

Yes

What is the fastest route to indefinite leave to remain?

You will normally be able to apply to settle in the UK after 5 or 10 years. However, you may be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain after 3 years if you are on the Global Talent or Innovator Founder route.


5 Year Settlement

Examples of the immigration routes which can lead to indefinite leave to remain after 5 years include:

  • Adult Dependent Relative

  • Ancestry visa

  • Spouse or Parent visa

  • Child Dependent visa

  • Skilled Worker visa

  • Turkish Worker visa

  • Global Talent visa

It is worth noting that if you hold pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme for 5 years, you will be eligible to switch the settled status.


10 Year Settlement

The 10 year route to settlement (also known as 'long residence') may be applicable to you if you have been in the UK legally for 10 continuous years. This does not have to be in the same immigration route; you can rely on a combination of different categories, so long as you do not have any gaps in the 10 year period before you apply. You can be absent from the UK for only 184 days at a time or 548 days in total during the 10 year period, and you cannot rely on time spent in the UK as a visitor, seasonal worker, or as a short-term student.


20 Year Settlement

The 20 year route to settlement (also known as 'long residence') may be applicable if you have lived in the UK continuously, not necessarily lawfully, for a 20 year period. The other difference between the 20 and 10 year long residence routes to settlement is that you are allowed up to 550 days outside the UK in total. It is important to note that, unlike the 3, 5 and 10 year routes to settlement, the 20 year long residence route does not immediately lead to indefinite leave to remain. Instead, you will be given an initial period of leave to remain for 30 months (2.5 years) which you must renew a further 3 times to make up 120 months (10 years) of lawful residence in the UK, only after which you can apply for settlement.


Can indefinite leave to remain be lost?

Obtaining indefinite leave to remain in the UK is an important achievement which comes with several benefits. It is considered a privilege and not a right, which means it is possible to lose that privilege in certain circumstances. The Home Office may revoke your indefinite leave to remain if any of the following applies:


Absence

Indefinite leave to remain may be revoked automatically if you are absent from the UK more than 2 consecutive years at a time. This absence period is extended to 5 years for those who hold settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.


Deportation

Indefinite leave to remain can be revoked if you are liable to be removed from the UK, but cannot be deported for legal reasons (such as human rights), or you are actually deported from the country.


Deception

Indefinite leave to remain can be revoked if you obtained entry or permission to stay in the UK by deception.


Loss of Refugee Status

Indefinite leave to remain can be revoked if you are no longer a refugee due to having:

  1. voluntarily availed yourself of the protection of your country of nationality

  2. voluntarily re-acquired a lost nationality

  3. acquired the nationality of a country other than the UK and have availed yourself of its protection

Can I regain indefinite leave to remain if I previously lost it?

It may be possible to regain indefinite leave to remain if you have previously lost it for one of the reasons listed above.


Regaining indefinite leave to remain lost by 2 year absence

If you have lost indefinite leave to remain due to having been absent from the UK for over 2 continuous years, you may be able to come back to the UK as a 'returning resident'. To qualify as a returning resident, you must provide evidence that you have strong ties to the UK, explain your current circumstances, and why you were absent. If you held indefinite leave to remain as a member of the British armed forces, the returning resident visa will not be applicable (you will not lose your indefinite leave to remain in the first place). Additionally, if the 2 or more year absence was caused by circumstances beyond your control, it may be possible to rely on compassionate grounds to retain your indefinite leave.


Regaining indefinite leave to remain lost by deportation, deception or loss of refugee status

If you have lost indefinite leave to remain due to deportation or deception, you may be able to challenge the Home Office's decision to revoke your leave by appealing to the relevant Tribunal or Court. If the Tribunal or Court allows your appeal, and its decision is final. you will be given a fresh grant of indefinite leave to remain. If you lost your indefinite leave due to loss of refugee status, you will normally first be provided with an opportunity to give reasons why it should not be lost.


Can I apply for British citizenship with indefinite leave to remain?

In order to apply for naturalisation (commonly known as 'British citizenship'), you must first have either indefinite leave to remain, settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, or indefinite leave to enter (permission to move to the UK permanently from abroad) for a period of 12 months - unless you are married to a British citizen. You must also meet the other requirements for citizenship, including passing the Life in the UK test.

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