What is Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)?
ILR stands for Indefinite Leave to Remain and is otherwise known as 'settlement'. In one sense it is the primary goal of travelling down any of the immigration routes. It does as it says on the tin... at this stage you have an indefinite right to remain in the UK. But this is not an absolute right that cannot be taken away - ILR can be lost in certain circumstances and citizenship is a much more secure immigration status. It is quite common for the phrases 'settlement', 'getting my passport' and 'citizenship' to be used interchangeably as if they mean the same thing. However, this is not so and the best way to look at it is to see ILR/settlement as the final hurdle to cross before you apply for naturalisation as a British Citizen - at which final stage you would then receive your passport. Indeed, there is usually a requirement to wait at least one year from gaining ILR before having the right to apply for 'your passport' i.e. citizenship.
What are the ILR Requirements?
To take the spouse visa route as an example, the ILR requirements are set out within Appendix FM to the Immigration Rules and the relevant application form is SET (M). In simple terms, assuming that you are on the '5 year route', you must have been with the same partner for the preceeding 5 years and fulfil/evidence all of the usual spouse visa uk requirements including all of the spouse visa financial requirements. In addition, you will now have to show that you have English Language to B1 standard and have passed the Life in the UK test.
ILR Salary Requirements
There is some welcome news at this stage in relation to the calculation of salary - savings over £16 000 are not then divided by 2.5 in order to calculate their contribution to the salary threshold. In short, the Home Office will simply take all savings that you and/or your UK partner have held for the last 6 months, subtract £16 000 then simply add that remainder onto the pre-tax income of you and/or your partner. That said, the £18 600 'rule' still applies, including in relation to any children who are not settled and/or British.
Criminal Offences and ILR
One of the negative differences however is that the criminal offences criteria are increased in comparison with simply applying for a spouse visa extension such that you cannot apply for indefinite leave to remain until 2 years has lapsed since any offence for which you did not receive a sentence of imprisonment went onto your criminal record. Accordingly, you will need to have had a clean record for at least 2 years prior to making the application. And if you have ever received a custodial sentence then the situation is much more serious also. Even a sentence of less than 12 months means that at least 7 years needs to have lapsed between the end of the sentence and the date of the application.
The documentation and other requirements are complex and the stakes are very high once you reach the ILR stage. A wrong move can set the clock back to zero and you may have to start all over again. To see how we can help you, please contact us via the web form above.