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Indefinite Leave to Remain

Those who have lived in the UK legally for some time may be able to apply for permission to settle permanently, known as indefinite leave to remain.

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Entitlement to apply for settlement depends upon the applicant's current immigration category - more details are below.

The only migrants who are eligible for application for settled status from outside of the UK are a select number of partners and family members of British citizens and already-settled persons.

Applications more than 28 days prior to eligibility may not be accepted, with no refund of application fee. The application must be made prior to expiry, however.

Those already within the UK that have not been resident for a long enough period for a settlement application may be eligible to apply for extension of temporary permission to stay.

Settlement protection route

Refugees and migrants who have been given permission to stay in the UK for five years after being granted humanitarian protection will need to apply for indefinite leave to remain when this expires.

Indefinite leave to remain application

The application form you'll need to fill out depends on your situation - see below for details.

Form SET(M)

Form SET(M) is used to apply to settle within the UK as the:

  • husband
  • wife
  • civil partner
  • unmarried/same-sex partner

of a person who is settled within the UK or a British citizen.

Form SET(F)

Form SET(F) is to be used for settlement applications by family members of British citizens or people who are settled here. Form SET(F) is not to be used by partners and is only for those who are:

  • children under the age of 18 of a parent(s) or relative of a person currently living within the UK with permanent residency
  • an adopted child under 18 years of age of a parent or parents who are currently living in the UK and are permanent residents; or
  • the parent, grandparent or other dependent relative 18 years or over of a person who is currently living in the UK and is a permanent resident

Form SET(DV)

Form SET(DV) is for applications for settlement of any victims of domestic violence. This form is for those who have been granted temporary authorisation to reside within the UK as the partner of a permanent resident, in the instance of relationship breakdown due to the applicant suffering from domestic violence.

Form SET(BUS)

Form SET(BUS) is to be used for application of settlement as a person that has since retired from employment and is not seeking further employment. The applicant must be of independent means or a sole representative of an overseas firm.

Form SET(O)

Form SET(O) is for various other forms of settlement application. Form SET(O) can be used by those currently in any of the following immigration categories if they have been living within the UK in a relevant category for five years or more:

  • Tier 1 or Tier 2 of the points-based system; this excludes the Post-study work category of Tier 1
  • businessperson
  • innovator
  • investor
  • work permit holder
  • representative of an overseas news agency, newspaper or broadcasting organisation
  • self-employed lawyer
  • writer, composer or artist
  • overseas government employee
  • UK ancestry
  • domestic worker in a private household
  • private servant in a diplomatic household
  • minister of religion, missionary or member of a religious order
  • airport-based operational staff of an overseas-owned airline
  • highly skilled migrant under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) – however in the instance that the application was made to the HSMP prior to 3 April 2006 entering the UK on the basis of that application, applications can then be made again after being in the UK for only four years

Former members of HM Forces are eligible to apply for settlement using the SET(O) form if they have been UK residents for four years. However there are alternative requirements for former Gurkhas, with application for settlement from outside the UK, provided they have served within the British Army for four years.

Those who have been granted temporary permission to reside within the UK as the partner of a British citizen or person settled whose partner then dies may be eligible to apply for settlement as a bereaved partner. Applications can be made using the SET(O) from, but must be immediately after the death of the partner.

Any applicants within the UK for any other purposes or reasons that are not covered by any other application forms, excluding asylum, may be able to apply with form SET(O). This process can include any applications for reasons of long periods of residence, relevant to those who have been living continuously within the UK for 10 years or even 14 years in some instances.

Form ECAA 2

Form ECAA 2 is for application for settlement of those who are citizens of Turkey and within the UK under the rules of the European Community Association Agreement with Turkey for establishing business within the UK.

Dependants can be included on the ECAA 2 form. If however an applicant's dependants are applying separately from them for settlement, then form ECAA 3 should be used instead.

Form HPDL

Applicants are advised to use form HPDL to apply for settlement or form an extension of their authorised visit if they were granted any of the following:

  • humanitarian protection
  • discretionary leave to remain
  • exceptional leave to remain for anything under four years, or for a series of separate periods that amount to a total of four years

Form SET (Protection Route)

Form SET (Protection Route) is for settlement applications from refugees or any people that have been granted humanitarian protection, whose five-year entry clearance is soon due to expire.

Knowledge of language & life in the UK

If you want to apply for indefinite leave to remain, you must demonstrate a strong knowledge of language and life within the UK. Most applicants will be required to do this through:

  • passing the 'Life in the UK' exam if able to communicate English to a reasonable degree; or
  • completing and passing a course on English and citizenship, if not able to speak English.

Exemptions from the test

Some applicants will not have to pass the knowledge of language and life (KOL) test. Exempt applicants include:

  • Foreign and Commonwealth citizens on discharge from HM Forces; including Gurkhas, and/or their husband, wife or civil partner
  • a bereaved partner, husband, wife, civil partner, unmarried partner or same-sex partner of a British citizen or person settled within the UK
  • a parent, grandparent or other dependent relative of a British citizen or person settled within the UK under paragraph 317 of the Immigration Rules
  • any retired persons of independent means
  • any victims of domestic violence
  • any European national or non-European family member of a European national applying under the Free Movement of Persons provisions; not based on the Immigration Rules
  • a Turkish business man/woman under the European Community Association Agreement (ECAA) made with Turkey
  • anyone who has spent the duration of six years within the UK under discretionary leave
  • anyone who has spent the duration of four years within the UK under exceptional leave to remain
  • anyone who has spent five years within the UK under authorisation to remain as a refugee
  • anyone who has spent five years within the UK under humanitarian protection
  • a dependent child of someone within an employment category prior to the points-based system that is listed within paragraphs 128-193 of the Immigration Rules, excluding paragraphs 135I-135K; or
  • anyone here as a business man/woman, or is a self-employed person, investor, writer, composer or artist, under paragraphs 200-239 of the Immigration Rules. This can include children 18 or over at the time of application.

Exemption due to age

Any applicants under 18 years or 65 and above are exempt from KOL requirements. Upon application for settlement, either a passport or birth certificate should be sent as proof of age.

Exemption due to disability

Any applicants with a long-standing or permanent disability preventing them from learning the English language may be exempt from KOL requirements. This applies if the applicant is:

  • suffering from a serious and or long-term illness or disability that restricts mobility and ability to attend language classes; or
  • suffering from a mental impairment meaning that they are incapable of learning another language

Evidence must be provided from an official medical practitioner confirming the disability when applying for settlement.

If the applicant merely requires special arrangements for learning English or taking a language test, KOL criteria requirements must still be met.

Returning resident rules & entry clearance

There are special rules for former UK settlers that left to reside abroad but want to return to settle within the UK.

A settler or resident is someone who has been granted express permission to reside within the UK indefinitely. A returning resident is a resident returning from a period of travel or residency outside of the UK.

Residents may return to the United Kingdom if they:

  • were settled within the UK when they last left; and
  • have been out of the UK for two years or less; and
  • are returning to be a permanent resident; and
  • will not be in receipt or expect any public funds to cover finances of residency or leaving the UK.

If the applicant has been away for over two years, they may still qualify for return of residency within the UK if they can demonstrate strong family ties, have lived within the UK for a notable period of time, or can show any other extenuating circumstances to support their case.

If the resident has been away for more than two years, application for permission to return must be made, also known as entry clearance. Applications should be made to the British diplomatic post within the country of origin. Entry clearance commonly takes the form of either an entry clearance certificate or visa.

If the stamp originally giving authorisation of settlement, or indefinite leave to remain, is in an old passport, both the old passport and new passport should be brought to the UK, supporting the settlement status that has been issued. If the entrant cannot produce the original stamp, they may not be authorised entry into the UK.

Applicants do not need to transfer the stamp to their new passport, provided they can supply both passports on demand; however, a transfer can be arranged if preferable. This is not available at UK passport control, however.

If an applicant is able to sufficiently demonstrate that they are entitled to return for settlement within the UK, an open date stamp will be issued in the new passport by the immigration officer. An application for residence permit should then be placed within the new passport.

Waiting times

95% of all postal applications will be decided within six months, and 90% of applications made in person at a public enquiry office will be made within 24 hours.

British citizenship & UK right of abode

Any person holding a British passport issued on or after 1 January 1983 should have details of citizenship detailed within their passport. Those who are not already a British citizen may be able to register or become naturalised as a British citizen.

Applicants born outside of the United Kingdom or a qualifying territory

The qualifying territories are all the British overseas territories with exception to the Sovereign base areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia (in Cyprus).

Those born outside of the United Kingdom prior to 1 January 1983 became British citizens if, immediately prior to that date, they were a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies and held the right of abode within the United Kingdom.

In some instances citizens may have acquired citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies through descent from a father who had citizenship, or due to registration or naturalisation as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies.

Those with a passport issued prior to 1 January 1983 that describes the holder as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies within the first page probably became a British citizen on 1 January 1983 providing that page 5 says 'Holder has the right of abode in the United Kingdom'.

Those with right of abode due to British Nationality (No2) Act 1964 will not normally have become a British citizen on 1 January 1983, with the exception of their mother becoming a British citizen.

A settler may have the right of abode if:

  • they were adopted, naturalised or registered as United Kingdom and Colonies citizen within the United Kingdom, (in most cases)
  • they had legally settled within the United Kingdom and resided there for five years; or
  • they were born with a parent who held citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies due to their being born, adopted, naturalised or registered within the United Kingdom (in most cases), or because one of their grandparents was.

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