The United Kingdom remains a desirable destination for many people around the world in search of a better life for their families. Obtaining permanent residence UK (PR UK) status is usually a lengthy process, taking an average of five years, depending on which route you are applying under.
This article explains who is eligible for permanent residence in the 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 – the UK green card or permanent residence card UK.
An individual with permanent resident status can live and work in the UK indefinitely. You will no longer have immigration restrictions on working or business in the UK and no time limits on your stay. You will have a permanent residence card that allows you to stay in the country with no time limitations.
However, the right can lapse if an individual spends more than two years continuously outside the country or is convicted of a criminal offense.
Who is eligible for resident status?
You can apply for permanent residence in the UK after having legally resided in the nation for a certain amount of years. Generally, you must have lived and worked in the UK for at least five years. If you have a Tier 1 Visa, this can be reduced to two or three years. If you have an Innovator or Global Talent visa, you can apply for permanent residency after three years. You may also need to meet the salary or other financial requirements – this depends on your visa.
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 family member: five years
- Lawful stay on any basis (long stay): ten years
- Ancestry: five years
- Skilled Worker, T2 or tier 2 visa: five years
- Tier 1: two to five years, depending on the investment or number of jobs created
- Global Talent Visa: three to five years, depending on endorsement
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 British residency and obtain a permanent UK residence permit.
Check out our article about UK Visa.
How to Get Permanent Residency in the UK
Permanent residence in the UK is more commonly referred to as Indefinite Leave To Remain (ILR). With IRL status, you can live and work in the UK permanently. You may also be eligible to apply for British citizenship after 12 months. If you have lived legally in the UK for at least five years, chances are you qualify for residency and PR UK is on the cards. Here we will provide how to get PR in the UK.
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.
You must 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
Permanent Residence for European Nationals
After Brexit, European nationals who were living in the UK before 31 December 2020 were able to apply for permanent residence under the EU settlement scheme until 30 June 2021. Currently, in 2023, European nationals have to follow the same immigration rules as non-EU nationals.
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. This is a UK permit for non-EU nationals who can apply for permanent residence in the UK.
The eligibility criteria above apply to all family members wishing to join you. Each family member 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 minors.
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
As the partner of a British citizen, you can have a family visa, as a partner or spouse, as a pathway to settlement. 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 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 include 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 to get PR in the UK. An English qualification or holding an educational qualification from a recognized 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 five-year route visa. The funding expectations are currently as follows:
- At least £18,600 a year if you have 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 age 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 that the earnings are joint and take into account both partners’ earnings.
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.
When you apply, you must still be living together with your partner and intend to continue doing so, and you should not be claiming benefits (accessing public funds).
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 for residency in the UK.
How to apply
For the UK PR process, you can make your application online. You will receive a response to your application within six 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 six months.
There is a fee of £2,404 for each person applying. Also, every applicant must have their biometric information (fingerprints and a photo) taken – there’s no fee for this.
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. The status removes any time limits to your stay in the UK, however, if you spend more than two 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.
If you want to know more about UK visas and British citizenship, have a look at these articles:
- Innovator Visa UK
- Entrepreneur Visa UK
- Indefinite Leave to Remain vs. British Citizenship: A Complete Guide
- UK Citizenship By Investment – The Ultimate Guide By Experts
- UK Citizenship by Descent
- Everything about the British Citizenship Application
- Global Talent Visa UK
- British Citizenship: How to Become a British Citizen and Live Legally
- UK Secondment Worker Visa – All You Need to Know!
- UK Expansion Worker Visa – The Ultimate Guide by Experts
- UK Graduate Trainee Visa: Expert Guide 2024
- UK Visa: Options Open to You and How to Apply
- Start-Up Visa UK
Frequently Asked Questions About Permanent Residence in the UK
What is permanent residence in the UK?
A permanent resident card in the UK – also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) – entitles the holder to live, work and study in the UK indefinitely without immigration restrictions while still holding a foreign citizenship status and passport.
Who is eligible for permanent resident status in the UK?
Foreign citizens who have lived in the UK for five to ten years, depending on their visa, can apply for permanent residence. In some cases, they must fulfill financial and English language requirements.
Is indefinite leave to remain the same as permanent residence?
Yes, Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is the official name of the UK permanent residence status. It entitles the holder to live, work and study in the UK indefinitely without immigration restrictions while holding a foreign citizenship status and passport.
Does permanent residence in the UK expire?
The right to permanent residence can lapse if an individual spends more than two years continuously outside the country or if they are convicted of a criminal offense.
How to get a green card in the UK?
You may apply for a green card in the UK, which is called Indefinite Leave of Remain (ILR), after having resided there for three to ten years, depending on your specific circumstances. You can expect to receive permanent residency six months after filing your application.
How much does it cost to get PR in the UK?
The application for Indefinite Leave to Remain, or permanent residence, costs £2,404 for each person. Every applicant must have their biometric information (fingerprints and a photo) taken – there’s no fee for this.
How many years to get PR in the UK?
You must be living in the UK for a certain number of years in order to be eligible for permanent residence or Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). The minimum period necessary depends on what type of visa you have.
If you have a business, investor or talent visa, it can vary from two to five years. If you have a Skilled Worker, T2 or tier 2 visa, are a family member of someone with permanent residence, or are a Commonwealth citizen, the minimum period is five years. Any other person that doesn’t fit these categories can apply for permanent residence after ten years living in the UK.
Is it difficult to get PR in the UK?
Although obtaining permanent residency in the UK is straightforward, it requires a lot of time and commitment. You must be able to fulfill the eligibility criteria, including length of residence, English language, etc.
How do I get permanent residency in the UK?
To obtain permanent residency, or Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), in the UK, you must:
- Choose the relevant visa category based on your circumstances (e.g., work, family, long residence, or investment).
- Check that you meet eligibility criteria like residency duration, financial requirements, language proficiency, and character assessments.
- Gather supporting documents, pay the fee, and submit your application. You will have to attend biometric appointments and sometimes undergo interviews.
- In approximately six months the Home Office will process the application, and, if you are successful, you will receive ILR.
Can a US citizen get permanent residency in the UK?
Yes, US citizens can obtain permanent residence in the UK, also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), through work visa routes (e.g., Tier 2 or Global Talent), family visa routes (e.g., Spouse Visa), long residence (ten years of continuous lawful residence), or investment routes (e.g., Innovator or Tier 1 Investor). Each route has specific eligibility criteria, including residency duration, financial requirements, English language proficiency, and character assessments.