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What Does Indefinite Leave to Remain Mean?

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Back to basics. When immigration solicitors talk about ‘settlement in the UK’ they mean you securing indefinite leave to remain in the UK. If you want to, you can go onto apply for British citizenship but there is no requirement to do so. In this article our indefinite leave to remain lawyers take a detailed look at what indefinite leave to remain means.

UK Online and London Based Indefinite Leave to Remain Lawyers and Immigration Solicitors 

For advice on applying for indefinite leave to remain or help with any aspect of immigration law call the expert London immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

The meaning of indefinite leave to remain

Put simply, indefinite leave to remain gives you the right to live and work in the UK. It gives you far more freedom and flexibility than living in the UK on a work visa, such as a skilled worker visa or intra company transfer visa, or a business visa, such as a start-up visa or innovator visa. That is because you do not need a sponsoring employer to find work and your business will no longer require endorsement by an endorsing body.

However, indefinite leave to remain lawyers acknowledge that it gets tricky to explain indefinite leave to remain when it is not actually ‘indefinite’. Like many things contained in the immigration rules the ‘indefinite’ in indefinite leave to remain is a bit of a misnomer.

What does indefinite in ILR mean?

If indefinite, according to the Home Office immigration rules, does not actually mean indefinite then what does it mean?

Under the ILR rules you can stay in the UK indefinitely provided you don’t leave the UK and stay outside the UK for a continuous period of two years or more. If you go overseas for more than two years then your indefinite leave to remain status will lapse. Home Office officials will not need to make an application to revoke your indefinite leave to remain status as the cessation of your ILR is automatic. Therefore, there are no warning letters from the Home Office or notification of intended removal of your indefinite leave to remain status.

You may think that losing indefinite leave to remain status would not happen to you but it is easy to do. For example:

  • You go overseas to work.
  • You go abroad to study.
  • You return to see family and a bereavement or family matters keeps you abroad for longer than anticipated.

What happens if you break the two-year rule?

If you have indefinite leave to remain status and you leave the UK for a continuous period of two or more years and then want to return then you can make a returning resident application. Some indefinite leave to remain lawyers say it is best to not get yourself in that situation in the first place by avoiding being ‘continuously’ absent from the UK for two years or longer. With COVID-19 related travel restrictions for much of 2020 and 2021 the Home Office has produced some guidance on the impact of COVID-19 absences and the two-year rule.

Does the two-year absence rule apply to loss of British citizenship?

If you move from indefinite leave to remain status to British citizenship and you are absent from the UK for two years or more then you won't automatically lose your British citizenship. Your decision on whether to apply for British citizenship could be influenced by your travel plans as it is best to avoid the hassle of a returning resident application.

Is indefinite leave to remain the same as settled status ?

Spend any time with an immigration solicitor and you will hear the term ‘settled status‘.  That is because Brexit is still a ‘hot topic’. From an immigration solicitor’s perspective settled status means you are settled in the UK, so indefinite leave to remain. However, the term ‘settled status‘ was coined by the government and is what EU nationals applied for under the EU Settlement Scheme to enable them to retain their rights of free movement derived through living in the UK before the end of the Brexit transition period on the 31 December 2020.

An EU national with settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme does not need to apply for indefinite leave to remain as their permission to stay in the UK with settled status is not time limited. An EU national can apply for British citizenship after they have secured settled status.

Indefinite leave to remain status is therefore for:

  • Non-EEA nationals who are in the UK on time limited entry clearance and who meet the ILR residence requirement and general requirements for an indefinite leave to remain application.
  • EEA nationals who entered the UK after the 31 December 2020 (and who therefore are not eligible to apply for settled status) and who are in the UK subject to immigration controls. The same residence requirement applies to EEA nationals as to other nationalities. The residence requirement is normally a minimum five-year continuous and lawful residence.
  • EU nationals who entered the UK to live before the 31 December 2020 but failed to apply for settled status before the deadline of the 30 June 2021 and who don’t meet the eligibility criteria for a late settled status application. An EU national in this position would need to resolve their immigration status and then meet the relevant residence requirement before being able to apply for indefinite leave to remain.

Indefinite leave to remain tips

The question of who should apply for indefinite leave to remain, the eligibility criteria and when you should apply for ILR can be a bit confusing. Indefinite leave to remain lawyers say it is best to:

  • Get some immigration legal advice on indefinite leave to remain status when you apply for entry clearance into the UK. That way you will know how long you will need to remain on a business visa, work visa or family visabefore you can apply for settlement in the UK.
  • To meet the eligibility criteria for indefinite leave to remain you need to be legally resident in the UK. That means you should not let your visa lapse as you will then be classed as an overstayer who is not legally resident in the UK. If you know that you will need to apply for a visa extension before you can apply for ILR (because of the residence requirement) it is important to submit the visa extension application before your current visa expires.
  • To meet the eligibility criteria for indefinite leave to remain you need to be continuously resident in the UK. The normal minimum period is five years but, in some situations, (referred to by indefinite leave to remain lawyers as ‘accelerated settlement’) it is less time and, in other scenarios, more time. Whilst you can leave the UK during the period you are meeting the residence requirement for an indefinite leave to remain application there are strict time limits unless exceptional circumstances apply. It is therefore best to understand the limits applicable to you and to your travel outside the UK as non-compliance with the immigration rules on meeting the continuous residence requirement could delay or jeopardise your indefinite leave to remain application.

UK Online and London Based Indefinite Leave to Remain Lawyers and Immigration Solicitors 

For advice on whether you meet the indefinite leave to remain eligibility criteria and for help with applying for indefinite leave to remain or assistance with any aspect of immigration law call the expert London immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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