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Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR): Frequently Asked Questions

Not quite British citizenship, and yet more than just a visa…the status of ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ has its own specific characteristics. In this post, we take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions from those who have been granted this status, including how to prove it, the rights that it gives you, and how it can be lost or maintained. 

Q: What is ILR?

A: Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is an immigration status which allows the person who holds it to live and work in the UK for an unlimited time, without any need to apply for a visa extension. 

If you are granted ILR, you are able to leave and re-enter the UK without any immigration restrictions. Unlike British citizenship, which is granted for life, an individual’s ILR can lapse in certain circumstances, for example if they leave the UK for a period of two years or more (see section: Can my indefinite leave to enter or remain be taken away?). 

Q: How do I prove that I have Indefinite Leave to Remain?

A: There are various ways in which ILR can be documented: 

  • a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). If you are settled in the UK your BRP will display either ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’, ‘Indefinite Leave to Enter’, or ‘No Time Limit’;
  • a No Time Limit (NTL) stamp in your passport (expired or otherwise), stating ‘There is at present no time limit on the holder’s stay in the United Kingdom’;
  • an Indefinite Leave to Enter (ILE) stamp in your passport (expired or otherwise), stating ‘Given indefinite leave to enter the United Kingdom’;
  • an ILR stamp in your passport (expired or otherwise), stating ‘given leave to remain in the UK for an indefinite period;
  • an ILR endorsement in your passport (expired or otherwise);
  • a letter from the Home Office confirming your right to remain indefinitely in the UK. 

Q: What if I do not have a document to prove that I have ILR?

A: If you have ILR, but you do not have a document to prove it, you can apply for confirmation of this status in the form of a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). You can do this through an administrative process called a no time limit (NTL) application. 

You are also able to make an NTL application if you previously held a passport which contained proof of your ILR but this has been lost or stolen, or has expired. If this is the case, you may have to provide extra information such as a crime reference number or a police report, in order to prove to the Home Office that you are the same person who has previously been granted ILR. 

If you make an application for a permit showing your ILR and you do not have any documentary evidence of your ILR, the Home Office will check all their available systems and files for any records that provide evidence that you have been granted ILR. 

It is not mandatory for you to apply for a residence permit, or indeed to have any documentary evidence of your ILR. However, there are benefits which make it more convenient for you to do so. A BRP has enhanced security features which make it less likely to be used fraudulently than old-style passport stamps or endorsements. It can be used when you travel to and from the UK to facilitate your travel, as it evidences your right to enter and remain in the UK. 

Also, it proves to any employer that you have the right to work in the UK. Employers are required under Section 25 of the Immigration Act 2016 to check that their employees have the right to work. If you do not have any documents to prove that you have ILR, your employer will have to contact the Home Office’s Employer Checking Service to verify that you have the right to work. If you have an NTL BRP, you can demonstrate your entitlement to work more easily by simply showing it to your employer. 

Q: Do I need permission to work in the UK once I have ILR?

A: Once your application for ILR is approved, you do not need permission from a Government Department to take up new employment, or to change your employment. Moreover, any restrictions that were previously placed on your hours or type of employment are lifted. 

You may engage in any kind of business or profession, self-employed or otherwise (as long as you comply with any general or statutory regulations for that business or professional activity). 

Q: Can I live or work in the UK after I have been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain?

A: Once you have ILR, there are no longer any restrictions on your living and working in the United Kingdom. 

However, if you are thinking of going to live or work in the Isle of Man or one of the Channel islands, you should first consult the immigration authorities of the Island concerned. 

Q: Can I study in the UK with ILR?

A: Once you have ILR, you are free to study in the UK. You will also be eligible to pay home tuition fees (i.e. the same rate as British, EU, EEA and Swiss citizens) at higher education institutions, and to apply for student finance, provided that you have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years before the first day of the academic year of your course. (‘Ordinarily resident’ means that you are habitually and normally resident in the UK, and any absences have been of a temporary or occasional nature). 

Q: Can I vote in the UK once my settlement application has been approved?

A: If you have ILR, you can only vote in national and local elections and referenda in the UK if you are a qualifying Commonwealth citizen. The definition of a Commonwealth citizen can be found on the Electoral Commission’s website

Q: Can I access healthcare once I have ILR?

A: Generally, healthcare will be available to you if you have ILR and you are ordinarily resident (you are habitually and normally resident in the UK, and any absences have been of a temporary or occasional nature). 

For more information, see the government’s guidance on healthcare. 

Q: Can I access public funds once I have Indefinite Leave to Remain? 

A: If you have ILR, you have access to public funds. You are able to claim job seekers’ allowances and other benefits. 

Q: Do I still need to register with the police once I am settled in the UK?

A: If you were previously required to report any changes in your circumstances to the police, you no longer need to do so once you are granted ILR. Your police registration certificate will be stamped to show this. 

Q: What happens to my ILR if I leave the UK?

A: In order to be considered as settled in the UK, you will have to be able to show that you are habitually and normally resident in the UK, and that any absences have been of a temporary or occasional nature. 

If you leave the UK, you will normally be readmitted for settlement as a returning resident, provided that: 

  • you did not receive assistance from public funds towards the cost of leaving the UK;
  • you had indefinite leave to enter or remain here when you last left;
  • you have not been away for longer than two years; and 
  • you are returning for the purpose of settlement. 

If your absence from the UK is for longer than two years but you can still demonstrate that you had indefinite leave to enter or remain here when you last left, and you are returning for the purpose of settlement, you may still qualify for admission as a returning resident if, for example, you have maintained strong connections with the UK.

You do not require a visa to return to the UK provided you are returning for settlement after an absence of two years or less. However, if you are returning for settlement to the UK after an absence of over 2 years, you are advised to apply for entry clearance at the nearest British Diplomatic Post in the country in which you are living. This should then facilitate your re-admission to the UK. 

You will not be re-admitted as a returning resident if you are resident overseas and only return to the UK for short periods. 

Q: What if I was outside the UK for 2 years due to COVID-19? 

A: If you were prevented from returning to the UK due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result you spent 2 years or more outside the UK resulting in the lapse of your ILR, you will be able to apply under the Returning Resident visa route if: 

  • Your ILR lapsed on or after 24 January 2020, and 
  • You have been unable to return to the UK due to travel restrictions in place relating to coronavirus. 

You will still need to complete the online Returning Resident application form and pay the fee of £516. As part of your application you will need to explain how coronavirus restrictions prevented your return to the UK.

For more information, please see our previous blog post on Returning Resident Visa Applications and Covid-19

Q: What if I have a child born in the UK? Will they be British?

A: If you have a child who is not a British citizen, but who was born in the UK on or after 01 January 1983, they may be able to register as a British citizen once you have ILR.

Any child born to you in the UK while you remain settled in the UK may be a British citizen automatically at birth. 

Q: What about family members who want to live with me in the UK?

A: Family members who are not British citizens may be able to join you in the UK. There are different rules depending on what type of family member they are (partner/spouse/fiancé(e), child, parent, or adult coming to be cared for by a relative). The different rules for applying for family visas can be found here

Q: Can my indefinite leave to enter or remain be taken away?

A: It is possible to lose ILR in certain circumstances. 

If you commit a serious crime and you are deported from the UK, your ILR will be invalidated. 

Your ILR will be revoked if: 

  • you are liable to deportation but cannot be removed for legal reasons, such as the UK’s obligations under the Refugee Convention or the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR); 
  • you obtained leave by deception; or 
  • you were granted leave as a refugee and cease to be a refugee.

Under Paragraph 20 of the Immigration Rules, your ILR will lapse if you stay outside the UK for a continuous period of more than two years, as you will be considered to be no longer present and settled in the UK. 

If you wish to re-enter the UK after two years, you will have to apply for a Returning Resident visa (see above at What happens if I leave the UK?). 

Q: I have pre-settled/settled status. Is this the same as ILR? 

Pre-settled status and settled status are the two types of status granted to EEA nationals who applied through the EU Settlement Scheme before it closed to applications on 30 June 2021. Settled status is also referred to as “unlimited leave granted by virtue of Appendix EU.”    

Individuals with pre-settled status have the right to live, work and study in the UK. However, this is time limited, lasting only for a period of five years. Those with settled status (unlimited leave granted by virtue of Appendix EU) have the right to live, work and study in the UK indefinitely, without immigration restrictions.

The main difference between ILR and settled status (unlimited leave granted by virtue of Appendix EU) is the length of time that an individual can spend outside the UK. A person with unlimited leave granted by virtue of Appendix EU is able to leave the UK for five years without their settled status lapsing (or four years if the person is a Swiss national). However, a person with ILR can only leave the UK for two years before their ILR will lapse (see above at What happens if I leave the UK?).

Q: If my indefinite leave to enter or remain is revoked, can I challenge this? 

A: There is no longer any right to appeal a decision to revoke ILR so the only way to challenge revocation is by judicial review. There may be a basis on which to challenge revocation under Section 76(2) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 by way of judicial review if the Secretary of State has made an irrational decision to revoke or has otherwise made an unlawful decision to revoke.

For more information, please see our previous blog post: Revocation of ILR which has been obtained by deception

Contact our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance regarding an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain or Settlement in the UK, contact our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.

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