The United Kingdom remains a desirable destination for many people from outside the EU in search of a better life for their families. Obtaining permanent residence UK status is usually a lengthy process, taking an average of 5 years, depending on which route you are applying under.
This article explains who is eligible for permanent residence in UK, the various routes to residency, how to apply and how long it all takes.
Permanent resident UK
Also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain, UK permanent residence is an immigration status granted to a person without the Right of Abode.
An individual with permanent resident status can live and work in the UK indefinitely. You will no longer have any immigration restrictions on working or business in the UK and no time limits on your stay.
However, the right can lapse if an individual spends more than 2 years continuously outside the country.
If you’re looking for a residence permit in Europe that does not require you to live continuously in the country, you may be interested in Portugal’s Golden Visa program. It has a stay requirement of just 7 days per year.
Who is eligible for resident status?
Applying for Permanent Residence UK for non-EU citizens is reasonably straightforward. If you have lived in the UK for a set number of years, legally or otherwise, you can apply for permanent residency.
Below is a list showing the length of time you must spend in the UK on various visas to be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR):
- Marriage or unmarried partner to UK citizen: 2 years
- Lawful stay on any basis (long stay): 10 years
- Unlawful stay: 14 years
- Tier 1 and Tier 2 work permit: 5 years
- Investor, sportsperson, business owner, arts: 5 years
- Ancestry: 5 years
If your stay in the UK is within any of the categories above and you have completed the stated length of time, you may be eligible to apply for residency.
Check out our article about UK Visa.
How to get Permanent Residence UK for Non-EU Citizen
Applying for indefinite leave to remain is often complex in some cases. However, if you have lived legally in the UK for at least 5 years, chances are you qualify for residency.
When it comes to residency, completing the application is, indeed, one of the last things you will do. First, you need to check your eligibility and collect all the relevant paperwork. Then you need to ensure you have access to all details about your immigration history, especially if you have been on a variety of visas since your arrival in the country.
Finally, when you put all this together, you can complete the application form with a degree of confidence.
There are two types of application forms you can use, make sure you choose the correct form applicable to your personal situation:
You can use this application form if you are the partner of a UK citizen or the parent of a child settled in the UK.
Use this form if you have lived in the UK in any one of the immigration categories above.
You will need to provide documents as proof of your legal stay in the UK as part of the application process. These may include:
- Bank account statements
- Council tax letters
- Letter from employer on company headed paper
Registering your non-EU family members in the UK
If you’re a citizen of a non-EU country and would like to settle permanently in the UK, you may apply for permanent residence.
The eligibility criteria above applies to all family members wishing to join you. Each member of the family has to submit an application form in their own capacity as an individual. For children under the age of 18, you will make the application on their behalf as they are considered as minors.
If you’re here on Tier 1 or Tier 2 visa, your family may join you in the UK, considering you meet the criteria under each particular permit for sponsoring a spouse or dependent children.
Read about the changes to Tier 1 Visas.
Settling as a family member of a UK Citizen
This is one of the most common pathways to UK residency and you can apply if your partner is a UK citizen or settled in the UK.
Eligibility for settlement
Many people thinking about the settlement because they are a partner of a British citizen are currently on a family visa as a partner or spouse. This type of visa has three routes:
- 2-year route
- 5-year route
- 10-year route
If you are on any of the above visas, you need to have lived the UK for 2 years, 5 years and 10 years, respectively. Once you meet the time spent in the country criteria, you are ready to submit an application, on the condition you meet the other criteria below:
Your current visa should be in the partner category, so you must either be married to your British partner or be in a civil partnership or in a subsisting relationship though not married.
You must provide proof that you’re living together and intend to continue doing so after you are granted residency. Evidence may take the form of joint bank accounts, a joint tenancy agreement and other official documents.
To demonstrate your knowledge of British life, you must pass the ‘Life in the UK’ test.
Also, if English is not your first language, you must prove you can speak and understand the language by meeting the English Language requirements. An English qualification or holding an educational qualification from a recognised UK institution will often be enough to satisfy this requirement.
Proof of finances
You will need to provide proof of funds to support your family if you’re on the 5-year route visa. The funding expectations are currently as follows:
- At least £18,600 a year if you no dependent children
- At least £22,400 a year if you have one child
- Extra £2,400 a year for each child
Count all the children under the ages of 18 even if you’re not including them as part of the application. Children who are British or European Economic Area citizens should not be included when you’re calculating your annual earnings. Note, the earnings are joint and take into account both partners earnings.
There is no minimum earnings requirement on the 2-year route. However, you will need to provide evidence that you have enough money to support your family without public funds. If you’re on the 10-year route, there’s also no requirement to meet the minimum earnings but you will need to provide proof of income.
Permanent residence as a family member of someone settled in the UK
If your partner is settled in the UK after coming here on a work visa (Tier 1, 2 or 5 visa), you could be eligible for settlement.
You must be married or in a civil partnership or be in a relationship for at least two years.
Eligibility for partners
You must currently be on a visa as your partner’s dependent. If you received your visa after your partner was already settled, you will need to apply as a partner of a settled person.
If your current visa was issued before 9 July 2012, you must have lived with your partner for at least 2 years. This will go up to 5 years if your visa was granted on or after 9 July 2012.
When you apply, you must still be living together with your partner and intend to continue doing so. You should not be claiming benefits (accessing public funds) when you apply.
English Language and knowledge of life in the UK requirements also apply so you should make sure you satisfy these requirements before making your application.
How to apply
You can make your application online. You will receive a response to your application within 6 months.
If you prefer to use the premium processing service, you can. You will receive an appointment where your application will be considered in person and you can get a decision on the day.
Residency application fees and processing times
You should expect up to 6 months of processing time for permanent residency applications made in the UK. Some applications may exceed the time limits, but most applications are decided within 6 months.
A processing fee is applicable, and as of the time of writing, the cost is £2389 for an individual application by post. You will pay more if you decide to make an application in person. The benefit of an in-person application is that you will receive a decision on the day and will not have to wait up to 6 months for your request to be processed.
Things to keep in mind about permanent residency
Although it is called permanent residency, there are a few conditions that apply, otherwise, it may not be permanent.
Although the status removes any time limits to your stay in the UK, if you spend more than 2 years outside the country, you will lose the status. If this happens, you will need to reapply for it.
Secondly, if you commit any criminal offenses which could lead to deportation, you may lose your right to stay in the UK as a permanent resident.
Global Citizen Solutions provides expert advice on residency and property investment in Portugal.