What does indefinite leave to remain mean?

UK permanent residency is known as indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or settled status. This residency status allows you to remain in the UK without any set time limits, and you will be able to live, work and study in the UK without restriction. It also allows you to exit and re-enter the country without any restrictions. Individuals holding ILR usually follow a five- or ten-year period of residence in the United Kingdom.

When can you apply for indefinite leave to remain?

You may apply for indefinite leave to remain under any of the following circumstances:

  • After five continuous years on a spousal visa
  • Shortly prior to the expiry of a five-year Ancestry visa
  • After having held work permit status in the UK for five years
  • After spending five continuous years as a dependant (married partner, unmarried partner, child under 18 or under 18 when first applied) under the points-based system
  • After three years on the Innovator Founder visa
  • After legally staying in the UK for 10 continuous years


Quick route to ILR for dependants

Depending on your circumstances, there may be other ways of gaining ILR sooner. For example, if you are a dependant on an Ancestry visa or British National (Overseas) visa, you are not required to be in the UK for the full five years before you can apply for ILR. This means if you join your family member in the UK after three years and you only spend two years in the UK, you will still be eligible to apply for ILR.

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Requirements for indefinite leave to remain

If you meet any of the above circumstances and wish to apply for ILR, you will also need to do the following*:

  • Pass the Life in the UK Test
  • Prove your proficiency in English
  • Be of good character
  • Meet the residential and income requirements

*This is not a comprehensive list. Speak to one of our immigration consultants who will be able to guide you through all the requirements for ILR.

Life in the UK Test requirement

In order to qualify for ILR, you must pass the Life in the UK Test. It is an online, multiple-choice exam that will test your knowledge of the culture, history, traditions and geography of the United Kingdom.

If you fail the test, you can redo it after seven days. There is no limit to the number of times you can retake the test.

You will be exempt from the Life in the UK Test if:

  • You are under 18
  • You are over 65
  • You have a long-term mental or physical condition

English language requirement

You will need to demonstrate that your English language ability is up to a certain standard by passing an English language SELT test of at least the B1 level at an approved testing centre.

There are certain countries that are exempt from taking the test, such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

You will also be exempt from the English language test requirement if:

  • You are under the age of 18 over 65
  • You have graduated in a course at degree level or higher which was taught in English at a UK based university. Degrees awarded in the countries listed above may satisfy the 
  • You are suffering from a long-term mental or physical condition
  • You are the partner or spouse of a person who has died who was a British citizen or person with settled status in the UK

Continuous residence requirement for ILR

In addition to living the UK for five years on a qualifying visa before you can apply for ILR, you must also not spend more than 180 days outside the UK in any 12-month period in those five years depending on the visa category you are on. This requirement works on a rolling basis, which means that the 12-month period doesn’t necessarily have to be a calendar year – it can be any consecutive 12 months.

Indefinite leave to remain financial requirements

Certain visa categories are subject to a set income threshold, whereas other categories will only need to demonstrate that the applicant can adequately accommodate and maintain themselves (along with their respective dependents) without recourse to public funds.

For example, if your visa is under the family category, you and your partner must usually have a combined income of at least £18,600 a year. This amount will increase if there are dependants.

Whereas other categories like the UK Ancestry visa and the 10-year route, require you to show that you have enough money to house and support yourself and your children without using public funds. 

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Applying for indefinite leave to remain

You will need the following documents:

  • Your current, valid passport or other valid travel ID
  • Your biometric residence permit, if you have been given one
  • All passports that you have held during your time in the UK

There will also be additional documents required, depending on the type of visa you currently have. For example:

  • Proof of residence
  • Proof of continuous residence
  • Documents relating to absences during your qualifying period
  • Proof of English language ability if not doing the language test
  • Evidence of cohabiting residence if applying with a spouse or partner visa
  • Life in UK test results
  • If dependants are applying with you, you will need documents for them (e.g. birth certificates)
  • * Documents not in English or Welsh must be submitted with a certified translation.

Can indefinite leave to remain be revoked?

While ILR grants you leave to remain in the country for an indefinite amount of time, it can be revoked.

A few reasons that could lead to the loss of your ILR status include:

  • Being convicted of a serious criminal offence
  • It being found that you have been granted ILR through deceiving the Home Office
  • Leaving the UK for a consecutive two year period.

With help from Sable International, you can be sure that your application is correct and is submitted with all the necessary documents.

When can I convert ILR to citizenship?

After you have held ILR in the UK for 12 months, you can apply for British citizenship through naturalisation, granted that you meet all the other eligibility requirements as well. An exception to this is if you are married to a British citizen then you can apply to naturalise immediately after getting ILR.

Certain countries are able to hold dual citizenship. Please contact your embassy to find out of this is possible, and the steps you need to take in order to retain the citizenship of your home country.

As a British citizen, you can apply for a British passport and enjoy the full benefits of British citizenship. As a dual citizen, you will be able to hold both a British passport as well as that of your home country.

Indefinite leave to remain fees in 2023

CategoryCurrent fee
Indefinite leave to remain £ 2,404
Biometric enrolment No fee
Life in the UK test £ 50

Under normal circumstances, the application can take up to six months to be processed but can be expedited.

There is an additional cost of £500 if you want to use the priority processing service, which means you’ll get a response within five working days. This service is only applicable to the points-based system.

If your visa category is eligible, you can opt for using the super priority service, where you will get a response by the end of the next working day for £800.

Speak to one of our consultants about how we can help you to naturalise.

Frequently asked questions

How many days you can stay outside the UK with ILR?

Indefinite leave to remain is permanent residency in the UK. This means that you have been granted leave to stay in the UK without any set time limits. The status can however, be revoked.

Who does not need to apply for ILR?

Anyone in the following situations will not need to apply for ILR:

  • Dependent adults who rely on the personal care of a UK citizen or person with settled status
  • A child dependent of a UK citizen or person with settled status
  • Those eligible for British citizenship by descent or British citizenship by birth

Can I apply for ILR if I have a criminal conviction?

While all criminal convictions, whether spent or unspent, will be taken into consideration when you apply for indefinite leave to remain, you are not automatically ineligible for ILR if you have a criminal conviction.

Depending on the severity of the crime, your application could automatically be rejected.

Can indefinite leave to remain expire?

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Is indefinite leave to remain the same as citizenship?

No, while ILR is a permanent residency status that does not expire, it is not the same as citizenship. With ILR, you can live, work and study in the UK without time restriction, but you do not have the same rights as a British citizen, such as the right to vote in the UK.

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