Many people living in the UK have pondered whether they should stay on their indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or convert their status to full British citizenship. Here are some of the key facts and benefits to ILR and UK citizenship to help you make your decision.

indefinite leave to remain

What is indefinite leave to remain?

Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) is a term for UK permanent residency. ILR allows holders to work and live in the UK indefinitely and travel to and from the UK without restriction. ILR can also be a requirement for UK citizenship. 

The benefits of indefinite leave to remain

Once you’ve spent five continuous years in the UK on a valid visa, you are able to get indefinite leave to remain. After you’ve attained your ILR, you won’t have to pay to extend your status. However, if you leave the UK for more than two years, your ILR status has the possibility of being revoked.

It also helps if you are a student as you will be considered a “home student” rather than an “international student” and your university and college fees will be subsidised. Dependants, such as spouses and children, may also apply for ILR should their spouse or parent be eligible and they meet the requirements. Spouses and dependants will then be able to enjoy the same ILR perks.

Who qualifies for indefinite leave to remain?

The most obvious requirement to be eligible to apply for ILR is to have held a valid visa for five years. This could be a Skilled Worker visa (the replacement of the Tier 2 General visa), the Health and Care Worker visa, an Ancestry visa, a Spousal visa, and the Investor visa. Depending on your circumstances, there are other requirements for ILR which you must meet. 

Requirements for ILR

The income requirements are dependant on the visa category you are currently on, as well as how you have earned your income. To find out your exact financial requirements, it is often the best idea to contact a specialist.

The other requirements are dependent on your marital status.

Requirements for ILR if you are married to a UK citizen

  • Have not been outside of the UK for more than 90 days per year for three years preceding your application
  • You must be proficient in the English language. This condition depends on where you are from and which visa you hold. Certain third country nationals, will be required to provide evidence of passing an English language test. Nationals of majority English speaking countries are excluded from this requirement
  • Have sufficient knowledge about life in the UK
  • Be of good character

Requirements for ILR if you are not married to a UK citizen

  • You have not been outside of the UK for more than 90 days per year for five years preceding your naturalisation application
  • You must be proficient in the English language. This condition depends on where you are from and which visa you hold. Certain third country nationals, will be required to provide evidence of passing an English language test. Nationals of majority English speaking countries are excluded from this requirement
  • Have sufficient knowledge about life in the UK
  • Be of good character

What is naturalisation?

Becoming a British citizen: Benefits of naturalisation

While there are benefits to having ILR, British citizenship has even more. Should you be eligible and gain British citizenship, you will have extra luxuries such as:

  • Should you find yourself out of work, you will be able to access unemployment allowances.
  • You can apply for a British passport. The British passport provides visa-free access to over 100 countries and also allows easier return to the UK.
  • Voting in local elections. British citizens can vote in parliamentary elections and decide who will be the decision makers in the countries they reside.

Getting British citizenship by naturalisation

Holding ILR is a great way to live in the UK but turning it into full British citizenship is common practice. As a British citizen, your rights, and those of your family, are more secure. Before you apply for British citizenship, make sure you meet the requirements.

If you are on a Partner/spousal visa and are married to a British citizen, you are able to apply for naturalisation immediately after you have gained ILR. If you are not married to a British citizen you can only apply to naturalise after you have held ILR for 12 months.

Requirements for UK naturalisation

  • Applicants must be over the age of 18
  • Must be of good character
  • Must pass the Life in the UK Test if you are under the age of 65
  • Must have satisfactory knowledge of the English language if you are under the age of 65

If you are married to a British citizen, you will also have to meet other criteria such as:

  • Holding ILR when applying for British citizenship
  • Must have been a UK resident for at least five years on a legal visa
  • Must have been in the UK five years prior to the day of application
  • You cannot have been outside the UK for more than 90 days of any rolling period in the five years preceding your naturalisation application

UK naturalisation if you are not married to a UK citizen

  • Applicants for UK naturalisation must hold ILR for at least 12 months prior to the application day
  • Must have been in the UK five years prior to the day of application
  • Must not have been out of the UK for 450 days in the five-year period prior to application. This works out to 90 days per year

Dual citizenship laws when acquiring British citizenship

The UK allows dual citizenship and the acquisition of multiple passports. Before obtaining UK citizenship, you should check your birth country’s laws on dual citizenship. For example, South Africans must apply for permission before acquiring British citizenship, or their South African citizenship could get revoked.

ILR offers migrants many great benefits. However, if you are planning on settling permanently in the UK, having British citizenship provides the best security and peace of mind when it comes to your immigration status.


No matter how complex your case, our citizenship and immigration consultants can help you every step of the way. Contact our team on +44 (0) 207 759 5330 or at immigration@sableinternational.com.

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