ILR requirements

The information provided below aims to highlight the main requirements but does not provide full guidance. Home Office guidance, the online ILR application, and the document checklist generated when an application is submitted should make clear everything which is required.

Some ILR requirements are the same for all applicants over 18 years old at the time the application is submitted. Other ILR requirements are specific to the type of visa the applicant holds. Information on requirements specific to some types of visas is provided below.

All applicants

English language requirement

The main applicant, and all dependants over 18 years old, must meet the English language requirement. Home Office guidance on this is found at:  www.gov.uk/english-language

Life in the UK test

The main applicant, and any dependants over 18 years old, must also have passed the Life in the UK test before they apply for ILR. Home Office guidance (found at the link below) states that a test must be booked at one of the 5 centres closest to where the applicant lives. When booking the test a residential address is entered and the closest centres are indicated.

www.gov.uk/life-in-the-uk-test

When booking the test the applicant must state what documents they will present on the day as proof of identity and address. If there are any differences in their details or the documents presented on the day they will not be allowed to sit the test, and will have to book and pay for another test. Home Office guidance on the identification requirements is found at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/terms-and-conditions-for-booking-and-taking-the-life-in-the-uk-test

Tier 2 (General)

Home Office guidance

This section focuses on ILR requirements specific to Tier 2 (General) visa holders. Home Office guidance for Tier 2 (General) visa holders applying for ILR is found at: www.gov.uk/settle-in-the-uk/y/you-have-a-work-visa/tier-2-general-visa

Six year limit under Tier 2 (General)

In April 2011 the Home Office introduced a six year limit on time spent under Tier 2 (General). At the end of six years Tier 2 visa holders must apply for ILR, a different visa, or leave the UK. If a Tier 2 visa holder is not eligible, or does not wish to apply, for ILR SIT can help explore if they would be able to apply for a different visa instead.

Under the current rules those who were first issued a Tier 2 visa before April 2011 can continue to extend under Tier 2 without restrictions, as long as they continue to meet the Tier 2 requirements.

ILR Minimum earnings threshold

The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code which a Tier 2 visa holder’s role falls under determines whether they have to meet the ILR minimum earnings threshold.

Researcher & Lecturer/ Professor (PhD level) SOC codes

Tier 2 visa holders sponsored under the Researcher (SOC code 2119) and Lecturer/ Professor (SOC code 2311) job codes are exempt from the ILR Minimum earnings threshold.

Non-PhD SOC codes

Those sponsored under all other job codes must meet the threshold at the time they are submitting their ILR application. The threshold increases each April, as shown below.

ILR Minimum earnings threshold
£35,800 p.a. if applying for ILR on or after 6 April 2019
£36,200 p.a. if applying for ILR on or after 6 April 2020
£36,900 p.a. if applying for ILR on or after 6 April 2021
£37,900 p.a. if applying for ILR on or after 6 April 2022
£38,800 p.a. if applying for ILR on or after 6 April 2023
£40,100 p.a. if applying for ILR on or after 6 April 2024

‘Continuous residence’

Absences from the UK

To be eligible for ILR applicants must not have spent more than 180 days outside the UK in any 12 month period of the five year qualifying period. All absences from the UK are counted, whether for work, family or holidays.

A new rule is expected in autumn 2019, under which time spent outside the UK on research fieldwork would not be counted as absence. The new rule will only apply to Tier 2 visa holders who are sponsored under the Researcher and Lecturer SOC codes.

A stricter limit on absences from the UK applies under the 10 year ‘Long residence’ ILR route.

Only whole days are counted

Only full days outside the UK are counted against the 180 day limit. For example, travel on Monday to a conference held outside the UK and returning to the UK on Wednesday would only be counted as one day’s absence from the UK.

Counting absences

The Home Office changed the way absences are counted in January 2018 but this change is not retrospective.

  • Absences under visas issued before 11 January 2018 - The 180 days limit is counted in 12 month blocks counting back from when the ILR application is submitted. This can make it possible in some cases to split longer absences across two successive 12 month periods.
  • Absences under visas issued after 11 January 2018 - The new rule introduced on 11 January 2018 states that the 180 days limit must instead be counted in rolling 12 month periods. This prevents longer absences being split across two successive periods.

More detail on how the Home Office count absences when assessing ‘continuous residence’ in ILR applications is found in their guidance at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/indefinite-leave-to-remain-calculating-continuous-period-in-uk

If an applicant thinks they are near or over the 180 day limit they can contact SIT to discuss further.

Evidence of absences

The Employer’s letter Tier 2 visa holders must submit with their ILR application confirms the history of absences from the UK they list in their application. Other documents showing residence are not, therefore, required.

Employer’s letter(s)

Tier 2 visa holders must submit an employer's letter with their ILR application. The letter should be provided by their employing department/ college/ faculty based on a template SIT provide. The letter confirms:

  • their continuing employment;
  • that their salary will not be reduced;
  • details of their Tier 2 sponsorship; and
  • the history of absences from the UK they entered in their online ILR application.

Tier 2 visa holders must list their SOC code, which can be found on their Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), in both their online ILR application and their employer’s letter. SIT can confirm Tier 2 visa holder’s SOC code if they are unsure.

If the applicant has worked for more than one department/ faculty/ college within the collegiate University, or with another employer/ sponsor, they will also need to submit letters from their previous employers. These letters only need to confirm their dates of employment and absences from the UK during those periods.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent/ Promise)

Home Office guidance

This section focuses on ILR requirements specific to Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent/ Promise) visa holders. Home Office guidance for Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent/ Promise) visa holders applying for ILR is found at: www.gov.uk/settle-in-the-uk/y/you-have-a-work-visa/tier-1-exceptional-talent-visa

Three or five year qualifying period

The qualifying period for those endorsed as a ‘recognised leader’ under Exceptional Talent is three years.

The qualifying period for those endorsed as an ‘emerging leader’ under Exceptional Promise is five years.

In both cases time under Tier 2 visas can be combined with time spent under Tier 1 to reach the qualifying period.

Whether the main applicant was endorsed under Exceptional Talent or Promise, the qualifying period for Dependant visa holders is always five years.

Tier 1 Exceptional endorsement

When applying for ILR, Tier 1 Exceptional Talent/ Promise visa holders must confirm that they are still endorsed. There is no requirement to evidence this, however, as if endorsement had been withdrawn they would have lost their Tier 1 visa.

Applicants are required to provide evidence that they have earned money in the UK working in their area of expertise since being granted their Tier 1 Exceptional Talent/ Promise visa. This is normally evidence of employment, such as a letter from their employing department/ college, along with copies of payslips and bank statements covering at least three months. In some cases evidence of self-employment may have to be submitted instead.

‘Continuous residence’

Absences from the UK

To be eligible for ILR applicants must not have spent more than 180 days outside the UK in any 12 month period of the three or five year qualifying period. All absences from the UK are counted, whether for work, family or holidays.

Unfortunately, the new rule (where time spent outside the UK on research fieldwork is not counted as absence) only applies to some under Tier 2 and so does not help Tier 1 Exceptional Talent/ Promise visa holders.

A stricter limit on absences from the UK applies under the 10 year ‘Long residence’ ILR route.

Only whole days are counted

Only full days outside the UK are counted against the 180 day limit. For example, travel on Monday to a conference held outside the UK on Tuesday returning to the UK on Wednesday would only be counted as one day’s absence from the UK.

Counting absences

The Home Office changed the way absences are counted in January 2018 but this change is not retrospective.

  • Absences under visas issued before 11 January 2018 - The 180 days limit is counted in 12 month blocks counting back from when the ILR application is submitted. This can make it possible in some cases to split longer absences across two successive 12 month periods.
  • Absences under visas issued after 11 January 2018 - The new rule introduced on 11 January 2018 states that the 180 days limit must instead be counted in rolling 12 month periods. This prevents longer absences being split across two successive periods.

More detail on how the Home Office count absences when assessing ‘continuous residence’ in ILR applications is found in their guidance at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/indefinite-leave-to-remain-calculating-continuous-period-in-uk

If an applicant thinks they are near or over the 180 day limit they can contact SIT to discuss further.

PBS Dependants (partner & children)

Applying with your family members

Family members of Points Based System (PBS) visa holders (such as Tier 2 and Tier 1 ET/ EP) can be included in the same ILR application if they meet the eligibility criteria.

The same ILR and Super Priority fees are charged for each person, whether main applicant or dependant.

As mentioned above, all applicants over 18 years old when applying for ILR must meet the English language requirements and have passed the ‘Life in the UK’ test.

Partner

Specific eligibility criteria for partners are that they:

  • Have lived with the main applicant in the UK on Dependant visas for 5 years;
  • Are still in a relationship with the main applicant and the couple intend to continue to live together;
  • Have not spent more than 180 days in any 12 month rolling period outside the UK during the validity of any visa issued after 11 January 2018 (when the ‘continuous residence’ requirement was extended to partners).

Some partners may not have lived in the UK under a Dependant visa for five years, and will not yet be eligible to apply when the main applicant is applying for ILR. They may, for example, have arrived in the UK later than the main applicant, or held a different visa and only recently switched to a Dependant visa.

Once the main applicant has been granted ILR, however, it is possible for a partner to continue under, and extend, their Dependant visa to get to the point they can apply for ILR. As both parents must have settled for children to be eligible, if a partner cannot apply until later any children will also have to wait and apply with them.

A partner who does not hold a Dependant visa before the main applicant is granted ILR would have to apply as the spouse/partner of a settled person. They would then have to spend five years under that visa route to be able to apply for ILR.

Children

Specific eligibility criteria for children under 18 years old are that they:

  • Hold a Dependant visa (there is no specific length of time they must have spent in the UK);
  • Are applying for ILR at the same time as both their parents (or their sole surviving parent / parent with sole responsibility), or their parents have already been granted settlement;
  • Are not married or in a civil partnership;
  • Will continue to live with and be supported by the main applicant.

As both parents must have settled for children to be eligible, if a partner cannot apply until later any children will also have to wait and apply with them.

Children over 16 years old when applying must also provide documents showing that they are:

  • still financially dependent on the main applicant;
  • still live with the main applicant (unless studying at school, college, or university); and
  • are not living an independent life.

Children over 18 years old when applying cannot be included in the main applicant’s ILR application and must instead submit their own application, based on five years in the UK on Dependant visas. They must also meet the English language requirement and have passed the ‘Life in the UK’ test.

Children born in the UK

Before parents are granted ILR

When one or both parents of a child born in the UK are granted ILR, an application can be submitted to the Home Office to Register the child as a British citizen without the child needing to have been granted ILR. Once the application is granted, an application can be made for a British passport for the child.

After parents are granted ILR

Children born in the UK after one or both parents have been granted ILR are automatically British by birth, and an application can be made for a British passport for the child.

A note on dual nationality

As some countries do not permit their citizens to hold dual nationality if a child becomes British they may lose their own citizenship. SIT recommends that applicants check with their own embassy or consulate whether their country permits dual nationality, and consider this issue before applying.

Other visa types

UK Ancestry

UK Ancestry visa holders applying for ILR must:

  • confirm that they are still able, and intending, to work in UK;
  • provide evidence that they have been working under their current visa;
  • meet the same 180 days in any 12 months limit on absences as Tier 2 applicants

Home Office guidance for UK Ancestry visa holders applying for ILR is found at: www.gov.uk/settle-in-the-uk/y/you-have-a-uk-ancestry-visa

Spouse/ partner

Spouse/partner (of a UK national or settled person) visas are issued for 2 ½ years. For this reason the timing of applying to extend is critical for those intending to eventually apply for ILR.

If a spouse/partner visa extension application is submitted too early, the new 2 ½ year visa may not stretch to the five year point. A further extension would then be required before applying for ILR.

To reach five years for ILR, an extension application should be submitted close to, but before, the expiry date of the first visa.

 ‘Continuous residence’

There is no specified limit on absences from the UK for spouse/partner visa holders applying for ILR. Instead, Home Office guidance states that limited periods of time spent outside the UK must be for reasons which are consistent with the intention to live together permanently in the UK. This could include time spent overseas in connection with the applicant’s or their partner’s employment, holidays, training, or study.

Home Office guidance for spouse/partner visa holders applying for ILR is specific to their circumstances listed in answer to initial questions asked on the settlement page at:  www.gov.uk/settle-in-the-uk

10 year ‘Long residence’ ILR route

Those who have spent a continuous period of 10 years in the UK under different visas may be eligible to apply for ILR under the ‘Long residence’ route. Time under visas which do not lead to settlement under the standard 5 year route (such as Tier 4 student, Tier 1 Post Study etc.) can be counted towards 10 year ILR.

Points to note:

  • The ‘continuous residence’ limit on absences from the UK is stricter than the standard ILR route. Applicants must not have spent more than 540 over the 10 years, with no single absence over 180 days, outside the UK.
  • Periods spent outside the UK between visas are accepted as long as the applicant held a valid visa when they left and when they returned. These periods are also counted towards the limit on absences.

Home Office guidance on ‘Long residence’ ILR is found at: www.gov.uk/long-residence

British citizenship

Those who have been granted ILR no longer have any time limit on their rights to reside and work in the UK, and there is no requirement that they must apply for British citizenship. As ILR would be lost after living outside the UK for two years, however, some decide to apply to Naturalise as a British citizen.

Points to note:

  • Applicants must have held ILR for 12 months before applying to Naturalise as a British citizen;
  • Those married to, or the civil partner of, a UK national, however, can apply as soon as they have ILR;
  • The ‘continuous residence’ rules when applying to Naturalise are stricter than for ILR. Applicants must not have been absent from the UK for more than 450 days over the last 5 years, and no more than 90 days in last 12 months before applying;
  • Unlike when applying for ILR, absences over the limit can sometimes be accepted by discretion;
  • Children born in the UK after one or both parents have ILR are automatically British and can simply apply for a British passport;
  • Children born in the UK whose parent(s) are later granted ILR can Register as a British citizen and when this is granted then apply for a British passport.

Home Office guidance on applying to Naturalise as a British citizen is found at: www.gov.uk/apply-citizenship-indefinite-leave-to-remain

Dual nationality

Some countries do not permit their citizens to hold dual nationality and when granted British citizenehip they would lose their own citizenship. Some other countries require applicants to give notice that they are applying for another nationality, or to submit an application to retain their own citizenship.

SIT recommends that applicants check with their own embassy or consulate whether their country permits dual nationality, and if they need to follow any other processes, to carefully consider these issues before applying for British citizenship.