If you have been living in the UK on a spouse visa for five years, getting the Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is your next critical step. The spouse visa grants the ability to study and work, but its temporary nature casts doubt on long-term plans in the UK.
Transitioning to ILR eliminates the need for visa renewals and associated costs and offers a sense of permanence and stability. It marks the end of immigration control over your stay and lays the foundation for applying for British citizenship after a year.
This guide offers a detailed look at securing ILR as a spouse visa holder, highlighting the process, requirements, and important considerations to ensure a smooth transition to a settled life in the UK.
When Can I Apply for ILR as a Spouse?
To be qualified to apply for an ILR from a spouse visa, you must have lived continuously in the UK for five years. This duration should be fulfilled through the initial 2.5 years of the spouse visa, followed by 2.5 years further through the spouse visa extension.
There’s also the option of the 10-year-long residence route. This alternative is particularly relevant if you’ve accumulated over five years in the UK under various visa types, such as worker or partner visas. It allows for the combination of different periods spent in the UK on various visas, providing a flexible pathway to ILR.
However, selecting the most appropriate route can be complex. In such cases, consulting with an immigration lawyer is advisable to navigate the ILR application process effectively and ensure compliance with the requirements of the immigration rules.
Importantly, the timing of your application is crucial: you are eligible to apply 28 days before completing these five years. Applying earlier than this window may result in the refusal of your ILR application, as it’s seen as premature. Besides, delaying your application beyond the expiry of your current spouse visa can make you an overstayer, which may lead to application refusal and affect your immigration status.
Also Read: When to Apply for Spouse Visa Extension
Requirements for Applying for ILR from Spouse Visa
Transitioning from a spouse visa to Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK involves meeting several key requirements:
It’s vital to prove that you have been in the UK for the specified duration, typically five years for spouse visa holders. This period must exclusively account for the time spent in the UK with your current partner under a spouse visa.
It’s essential to demonstrate a continuous intention to live with your partner in the UK. If you’ve had lengthy absences from the UK, you’ll need to justify them as compatible with your ongoing intention to reside with your partner.
You must show that your circumstances, which qualified you for the spouse visa, persist: your partner is either a British national or an ILR holder, you’ve cohabited since your last visa renewal, and you intend to continue your life together in the UK. The Home Office assesses these factors to confirm that the relationship is genuine and not merely a means to obtain ILR.
The financial criteria for ILR mirror those of the family visa applications.
There will be an increase in the financial threshold for family visas in the UK, rising from £18,600 to £29,000 on April 11th 2024 and further to £38,700 by early 2025. This threshold is subject to regular modifications by the UK government. For the most recent information on how to fulfil these financial requirements, we encourage you to read our page on family visa financial requirements or get in touch with us.
Income sources include employment, self-employment, cash savings, pension, and non-work income like property rentals.
Knowledge of Life in the UK
Applicants must pass the “Life in the UK” test, demonstrating a fundamental knowledge of British culture and civilisation. Exempts are available for those who are over 65, under the age of 18, or who have certain medical or mental health issues.
English Language Requirement
English proficiency is required and is often evidenced by an English-taught degree or a CEFR certificate at the B1, B2, C1, or C2 level. Exemptions are granted based on age, education level, health conditions, or nationality from certain English-speaking countries.
Finally, you must prove that your family has appropriate accommodation in the UK. This means the accommodation should not be overcrowded, should meet health regulations, and should not require public funds.
Documents Required for ILR Application
Applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) as a spouse visa holder demands thorough documentation, both for yourself and any dependents included in the application. The following is a list of important documents required for a successful ILR application:
- Valid Passport or Travel Document: This serves as your primary identification and evidence of nationality.
- Proof of English Language Command: A certificate from an authorised test provider showing that you have passed a language test at the mandated level.
- Details of Absences from the UK: Documenting any periods spent outside the UK is crucial. This includes dates and reasons for each absence to prove your continuous habitation in the UK.
- Biometric Residence Permit (BRP): If issued, your BRP must be included in your application to confirm your current immigration status.
- Accommodation Details: Proof of adequate living arrangements in the UK. This could include property ownership documents, rental agreements, or a letter from a host.
- Life in the UK Test Certificate: Evidence of passing the Life in the UK test, a mandatory prerequisite for ILR applicants.
- Completed ILR Application Form (Set M): This form specifically caters to spouses applying for ILR and must be filled out accurately and comprehensively.
Please note that this list is not exhaustive. Based on the individual case, you might need to show additional documents. All submitted documents must be original copies. Photocopies or uncertified copies are generally not accepted. If your documents are not in English or Welsh, they must include a certified translation.
How Long Is the Processing Time for an ILR Spouse Visa?
Upon submitting your application for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) as a spouse visa holder, expect the processing time to potentially take up to six months. During this period, you’re permitted to remain in the UK, provided your application was timely submitted before the expiry of your current visa.
For those seeking a quicker decision, the Home Office offers premium processing services. The ‘priority service’ is an option at an additional cost of £500 over the standard ILR application fee, promising a decision within five working days. An even faster alternative is the ‘super priority’ service, costing an extra £1000, with a determination by the end of the subsequent working day after your appointment, provided the appointment falls on a weekday.
It’s important to note that certain circumstances can extend the processing time. If the Home Office needs to verify your supporting documents or if an interview is required—especially in cases involving previous criminal or immigration issues—the processing of your ILR application may face significant delays.
This highlights the importance of submitting a comprehensive and accurate application, as any need for additional scrutiny can prolong your wait for a decision.
How Spouse Visa Lawyers Can Help?
Navigating the complexity of Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) can be challenging. Our experts are ready to provide expert guidance and support to make your application successful. Our team of proficient immigration lawyers specialises in spouse visa ILR applications, ensuring your journey towards permanent residence in the UK is smooth and stress-free.
We understand that each ILR application is unique with its challenges. That’s why we offer personalised assistance, from assessing your eligibility to meticulously preparing your application. We’ll guide you through gathering the necessary documents, meeting the financial and accommodation requirements, and preparing for the Life in the UK test and English language assessment.
At Spouse Visa Lawyers, we’re committed to maximising your possibilities of a prosperous ILR application. Whether it’s advising on the standard or premium processing options, addressing complications, or offering representation during interactions with the Home Office, our aim is to be your trusted partner in securing your future in the UK. Contact us today, and let’s make your ILR application successful.
You Ask, We Answer
The information provided in our articles is intended solely for guidance and should not be considered legal advice. We do not assume responsibility for any liabilities arising from the information in written articles and recommend that all readers seek professional advice before taking any action. For those wishing to discuss their case with a professional, please feel free to contact us directly.
Dr Bernard Andonian has over four decades of experience as a London-based UK Immigration Solicitor and was also a former immigration Judge. He has been awarded a PhD in Law from the University of West London for his in-depth knowledge of UK immigration and nationality law. He has served on the Law Society Immigration Law Panel, achieved numerous groundbreaking decisions in higher courts whilst representing clients in the UK, and is featured in the Legal 500’s Hall of Fame.