Settling means you can stay in the UK without any time restrictions.
After you have lived legally in the UK under the same visa category for a continuous length of time (normally 5 years) and if that category is eligible for settlement, you can apply for permission to live here indefinitely. A permanent resident visa is also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’.
Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) is the permission to live permanently (settle) in the United Kingdom, free from immigration related restrictions. There are no time limits to permanent residence and no restrictions in terms of employment or business you can undertake here.
However, you should not spend periods of more than 2 years out of the UK: a permanent resident should consider UK as home and spend only short periods of leave time abroad.
As a permanent resident, you may be eligible to apply for British citizenship if you meet the requirements.
You may also apply from outside the UK if you are the dependant family member or partner of a British citizen or of someone who is settled here. More details under ‘Joining your partner or family’.
Most settlement applicants will need to prove their knowledge of language and life in the UK if they are between 18 and 64 years old.
Eligibility criteria and application forms
Your right to apply for settlement depends on your current immigration category.
Categories that should apply on Form SET(O)
You are eligible for ILR if you are currently in one of the following immigration categories and you have spent a continuous period of 5 years of lawful stay in the UK under one of the following immigration categories:
- Tier 1 or Tier 2 of the points-based system
- work permit holder
- dependant of a work permit holder
- PBS dependant
- Employment not requiring a work permit, e.g. representative of an overseas business
- domestic worker in a private household
- overseas government employee
- minister of religion, missionary or member of a religious order
- airport-based operational staff of an overseas-owned airline
- self-employed lawyer
- writer, composer or artist
- UK ancestry
You are also eligible for ILR with Form SET(O) if you are currently:
- A highly skilled migrant under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) – but if you applied to the HSMP before 3 April 2006 and came to the UK on the basis of that application. You can apply after you have been in the UK for only 4 years.
- A bereaved partner, if you have been given temporary permission to remain in the UK as the partner of a British citizen or person settled here and your partner has died. You can make your application immediately after your partner’s death.
To apply under all these categories, you will need to use Form SET(O). You must be in the UK to apply using this application form.
Please check on the website at www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-visasand-immigration that this is the current form for use on the date that you apply
Categories that should apply on other SET forms
You may also be eligible if you are:
- husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried/same-sex partner of a British citizen or someone who is settled here: Form SET(M)
- child of a person present and settled here: Form SET(F)
- a victim of domestic violence: Form SET(DV)
- a retired person of independent means or a sole representative of an overseas firm: Form SET(BUS)
- a long-term resident, having resided legally in the UK for 10 years: Form SET (LR)
- a refugee or person granted humanitarian protection, whose current five-year permission to stay is due to expire: Form SET (P)
A good tool to decide which application form to use is the ‘Apply to settle in the UK’ tool on the GOV UK website.
If you are already in the UK but you have not been here long enough to apply for settlement or you do not satisfy the requisites of eligibility, you can apply to extend your stay instead.
If you are not eligible for extension of stay, you will need to make a fresh application for entry clearance under the relevant immigration category.
The current application fees for Form SET(O) are:
- By post: £2,297 for yourself and each dependant applying at the same time;
- By person at the premium service centre: £2,887 for yourself and each dependant applying at the same time.
Knowledge of language and life in the UK (KOL)
Most settlement applicants aged between 18 and 64 must show that they have sufficient knowledge of the English language and of life in the UK (KOL). If you are not exempt, you can meet this requirement by:
- passing the ‘Life in the UK’ test, if you speak English to a reasonable standard; or
- taking and passing a course in English and citizenship, if you do not speak English.
The course must lead to an approved English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) qualification from an accredited college, which teaches using specified citizenship materials.
An ‘accredited college’ is:
- a publicly funded college which is subject to inspection by Ofsted or its devolved equivalents; or
- a private college which is accredited by Accreditation UK, the British Accreditation Council (BAC), the Accreditation Body for Language Services (ABLS) or the Accreditation Service for International Colleges (ASIC).
You must also be able to demonstrate that you have progressed at least one level in order to obtain your qualification. The level of English required is CEFR level B1.
Certain applicants for settlement are exempt from the KOL requirement. These exemptions are:
- Certain immigration categories: if you are being granted settlement outside the Immigration Rules or if you are applying under specific, non economically active categories (your settlement application form will confirm whether you are exempt or not);
Under this category of exemption, you will however need to meet the KOL requirement if you later apply for British citizenship.
- Exemption because of your age: if you are under 18 years old or at least 65 years old;
- Exemption because of disability:
- If you are suffering from a long-term illness or disability that severely restricts your mobility and ability to attend language classes; or
- If you have a mental impairment, which means that you are unable to learn another language.
When you apply for settlement under this category, you must send evidence from a medical practitioner confirming your disability.
When to apply
You must make your application before your current permission to stay in the UK expires. However, do not send the application more than 28 days before you become eligible to apply, as your application may be refused.
Your existing immigration status will continue until your application is decided, even if the decision is not made until after the end of your permitted stay. If your existing visa or other permission to stay here allows you to work, you can continue to do so until your case is decided.