Indefinite Leave to Remain vs. British Citizenship: A Complete Guide

While planning a life in the United Kingdom, you must weigh your options for Indefinite Leave to Remain and British Citizenship. This article will give you all the information on Indefinite leave to remain vs. British Citizenship. Read on and understand which option might be the most suitable for you.

 ILR and Permanent Citizenship in the UK

Understanding Indefinite Leave to Remain vs. British Citizenship

ILR, or Indefinite Leave to Remain and UK Citizenship, offer certain privileges, including permanent residency and the right to work to foreigners living in the United Kingdom. Since these two statuses are similar in many ways, many foreign nationals get confused about their differences. Before planning your life in the UK, you must clearly understand both of these concepts. While ILR will give you the freedom to reside and do a job in the country, it does not quite have the advantages and fundamental rights of a UK citizen. Let us take a good look at each of these concepts and help you decide your choice. 

Definition of Indefinite Leave to Remain

Indefinite leave to remain is a special permit for foreigners for living and working in the UK without any time bounds. If you happen to possess the ILR status in the region, you do not need to be bound by immigration rules any longer. It can grant you the freedom to enter and leave the country without tricky immigration laws. Of course, there are specific regulations associated with this status. But even then, indefinite leave to remain status can be a stepping stone toward your chance at British citizenship as it proves a permanent residence in the UK for the applicant.

How to Obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain status?

The primary requirements for being granted ILR status are:

  1. You don’t have any immigration infringement records or no criminal records as a minor or an adult while you are living in the UK.
  2. You must meet the residency requirements for ILR and UK citizenship. You should not spend more than 180 days outside of the country in a particular year within the last five years.
  3. You must be able to prove your English language proficiency through any qualifying test or as part of any degree fulfillment. 
  4. You should be qualified for the ‘Life in the UK’ test to prove you carry subjective and in-depth knowledge of British history, society, and culture. You can prepare for the test with the help of the official handbook and take the test in any approved center.

Indefinite leave to remain is a convenient residency option for foreigners living and working in the UK

The following table shows the time duration necessary for different UK visa categories before applying for ILR:

Category Time Spent in the UK
Married to or in a civil partnership with any UK Citizen 2 years
Long stay Visa (Lawful stay in the country) 10 years
Unlawful and illegal stay 14 years
Tier 1 Investor Visa 2 years 

(£10 million investment)

3 years 

(£5 million investment)

5 years 

(£2 million investment)

Tier 2 Work Permit 5 years
UK Ancestry Visa 5 years
Retired Person Visa 5 years
Innovator Visa 3 years

Student visas, intra-company transfer visas, and Youth Mobility Scheme visas (Tier 5 visas) are not eligible for ILR.

Benefits of the ILR Status

  • You can freely live and do a job permanently in the UK without worrying about regular Visa extensions.
  • You can have access to UK’s various benefits systems.
  • You do not need to pay the immigration health surcharge fee for accessing the National Health Service.
  • You are one step closer to achieving British citizenship through naturalization.

Definition of British Citizenship

British citizenship is the ultimate status in the UK, which offers a wide array of lucrative benefits, including unconditional freedom of going in and out of the country and fundamental rights such as voting. You must already have an ILR status before going for a permanent citizenship application. After becoming a British Citizen, you can obtain a British passport, meaning that you can travel out of the country as and when you want without worrying about immigration troubles. You can also enjoy dual citizenship. Know about all British Citizenship requirements exclusively from us. 

Following are the basic requirements for obtaining a British Citizenship:

  • Born in the UK.
  • Having British parents.
  • If you are currently stateless.
  • If you have renounced your previous citizenship status.
  • If you have permanent residence in the UK.
  • If you possess the ILR status for twelve months at least before your application.

You can enjoy the benefits of a British Passport if you are a permanent citizen

Benefits of British Citizenship

  • You can apply for your children’s citizenship born in the UK. This policy applies to children born outside the UK as well.
  • People can be eligible to vote in all UK elections and even stand for office as British citizens.
  • You can apply for a British passport which helps you enter and exit the UK without any immigration interference.
  • In the light of the indefinite leave to remain vs. British citizenship debate, another perk of choosing permanent citizenship in the UK is that you don’t have to give up on your original citizenship and possess dual citizenship. This citizenship allows every foreigner to hold dual citizenship simultaneously, with prior permission from the native country.

Indefinite Leave to Remain vs. British Citizenship: Basic Differences

In the indefinite leave to remain vs. British citizenship debate, it is important to note that ILR and British Citizenship both offer some extraordinary privileges. Thus, their essential difference comes down to the advantages you can get with each. 

  • While having an ILR status can help you get a permanent settlement in the country. It is necessary to note that some basic regulations can apply to this status. For example, if you stay outside the country for more than two years, your ILR status will be revoked. If you have British citizenship, there is no rule as to how many years you want to leave the country. Nor do you need any special visa to come back.
  • ILR does not provide you with the same rights such as voting rights as permanent citizenship does.
  • You are not eligible to obtain a British passport with only the ILR status. 
  • However, it is essential to possess the ILR status before you can apply for British citizenship legally.

Weigh your pros and cons before choosing between the ILR status or applying for citizenship in the UK.

Factors to Consider before Choosing ILR or UK Citizenship

ILR Residency Requirements 

Indefinite Leave to Remain status enforces a specific rule regarding the nature of residency in the UK. Any ILR permit holder can not leave the country for more than two years. If you stay abroad more than that while holding an ILR status, your permit will be canceled. Moreover, you will need a Returning Resident Visa to come back to the country and to be able to continue your work and residency. It is up to the decision of the Home Office if they want to grant you this visa or not. You must prove your intent to continue your work and permanently reside in the country.

Lifetime Validity of British Citizenship

Of course, certain legal complications can lead to the revocation of your permanent British citizenship, but they are not common. Once you become a permanent British citizen, you are free to live abroad or enter and exit the country as you want. You can also enjoy the benefits of having a UK visa with this special status. 

Benefits of Having a British Passport

You are only allowed to enjoy a British Passport when you are a permanent citizen of the UK. You can travel to almost 185 countries without visa restrictions or visa arrivals. If you travel for business or leisure quite frequently, this advantage helps greatly in resolving your indefinite leave to remain vs. British citizenship conflict.

Enjoying Voting Rights

According to UK legislation, only a permanent resident of the country possesses voting rights. If you have British citizenship, you are eligible to vote in all parliamentary processes.

Indefinite Leave to Remain vs. British Citizenship: ILR status helps in getting permanent citizenship through naturalization.

How to get ILR in the United Kingdom through the Investor Visa

One of the most convenient ways of obtaining an ILR in the United Kingdom is by going for an Investor Visa. The Investor Visa, also known as Tier 1 Visas, is an excellent opportunity for high net-worth individuals (HNWI) who want to settle down in the country and gain permanent residency. This visa can be a stepping stone for foreigners looking to secure British citizenship. This process is relatively fast and follows an expedited route through which you can apply for indefinite leave to remain after five years.

You can know all about earning the Tier 1 Investor Visa UK from us. The following criteria have to be fulfilled to become Tier 1 Visa holders. 

  • The applicant must be 18 years of age or above.
  • The applicant must be in possession of £2 million at least to be eligible.
  • Your original country of residency should belong to any Non-European Economic Area(EEA).

In addition to the above clauses, you should be able to demonstrate the nature and owner of the money to be invested. Make sure the fund is accessible through any reputed financial institution in the UK, and they can be spent and utilized in the country as well. In case your funds are accumulated under two years, you have to disclose the detailed source of origin. The Home Office is ultimately responsible for inspecting and allowing all foreign funds to be considered for Tier 1 Investor Visas. 

Benefits of having an Investor Visa

Once you possess a Tier 1 Visa through bulk investments, you are eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain after a few years. Typically, one must continuously reside in the country for five years before applying for ILR. But under certain conditions, you can apply just after three years. Check the rules of eligibility for the ILR application beforehand. 

Additionally, you can also check out the option of having an Entrepreneur Visa UK. This visa is designed for any foreign national who intends to set up any new business or wants to take over any existing business under the UK Government. 

Learn how making investments in UK can help you in earning an indefinite leave to remain status.

Getting UK Citizenship after ILR

You can apply for British citizenship through naturalization after obtaining the ILR status. The application can be made online and by post. However, you will have to wait for twelve months minimum after being granted the settled status before you can apply for your citizenship. This process is time-consuming and involves many strict criteria apart from ILR possession. 

  • According to the regulations, you must not spend more than 450 days in the last five years or more than 90 days in the previous year outside of the country.
  • You must qualify for the English language proficiency test and the Life in the UK test.
  • You should not possess any criminal record or administrative offense record during your stay. 
  • You must meet the ‘Good Character’ provision during your past stay. To elaborate, you must pay regular income tax or national insurance contribution fees, etc.

Final Words

As explained throughout this article, there are significant differences between indefinite leave to remain and British Citizenship as ILR does not quite offer the same rights as citizenship. Though both offer some valuable privileges – you must consider the advantages of British citizenship over ILR. You can easily achieve your permanent citizenship after ILR if you meet the necessary requirements. For more information on ILR vs. citizenship, please feel free to get help from our qualified immigration experts.

Frequently Asked Questions on Indefinite Leave to Remain UK vs. Citizenship

Is ILR a form of citizenship?

ILR is a form of permanent residency in the UK, but it does not offer the same advantages as citizenship.

How long after indefinite remain to stay can you become a British citizen?

After possessing ILR for twelve months, you can apply for British citizenship with help from legal professionals.

Can I apply for ILR and citizenship at the same time?

You can directly apply for citizenship if you satisfy the immigration criteria or belong to the settled status under the EU Settlement scheme. But having ILR for at least 12 months is mandatory before applying for citizenship.

Is permanent residence the same as citizenship in the UK?

No. Permanent residence does not offer the same benefits as citizenship.

When can I apply for my ILR status?

If you have lived in the UK for more than five years, you can apply for ILR. Check out our detailed description of how to obtain ILR above.

How long does a British citizenship application take?

It takes about six months to process your UK citizenship application. You need to attend the UK citizenship ceremony within three months of your application process.