UK Residency Routes

The UK is a sought-after country to live in for many; however, the country has a vast array of residency routes. Many people even want to settle in the UK without any specific ideas of what they will do once there.

This means that many understand the fastest way to UK settlement and their different options. It is best to seek out legal advice from an immigration lawyer to best understand the variety of routes to UK residence. Call us at Total Law at +44 (0)333 305 9375 or message us online, to speak to one of our immigration lawyers.

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    What Are The Routes To Residency In The UK?

    Permanent residence in the UK will allow applicants to work, live, and study in the country without any need to apply for a new visa. Permanent residency in the UK is also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain.

    There are many key eligibility criteria for this; however, the main requirement is that the applicant must have continuously resided in the UK for a minimum of 5 years.

    That being said, the specific duration that is required for obtaining a UK permanent residence status will depend on the type of UK visa that the person has.

    Several common UK immigration routes will qualify for UK residence, including the following:

    • Family Visas: 5 years
    • Work visas: 5 years
    • Business Visas: 3 to 5 years
    • Long residence to indefinite leave to remain: 10 years

    Each of these routes will require a different amount of time spent in the UK before an individual can apply for permanent residence.

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    Routes For UK Residency

    There are a variety of routes to settle in the UK; however, each will require different time frames for being in the UK. The fastest route will only take 2 years but does require substantial finance; the longest will take 10 years.

    2 Years

    The fastest route to ILR in the UK is the Accelerated Settlement route in the Tier 1 investor category, which can settle in the UK after only two years. Those who have invested and have maintained an investment of a minimum of £10 million in the UK are eligible for this.

    This is an option now closed; however, those who already have entry clearance or leave to remain or enter under this route may be able to apply to extend their stay or apply for IDR.

    3 Years

    There are many options available that will take three years in the UK to achieve ILR. Some of these options include:

    • Accelerated settlement for Tier 1 investors
    • Accelerated settlement for Tier 1 entrepreneurs
    • Endorsement of the Global Talent visa category
    • Endorsement of the Innovator category

    Investors who wish to settle after 3 years will need to invest and maintain said investment of £5 million in the UK. However, Tier 1 investor routes are now closed, but those existing on this route are still able to apply for ILR.

    Entrepreneurs that wish to settle after 3 years need to show that the experience and investment they contributed has created 10 jobs in the UK (minimum) for the settled UK population or show there has been a turnover in business at a minimum of £5 million. This route is closed until April 2025, however.

    Global Talent visa holders who continue to meet the requirements for an extension can be eligible for ILR after spending 3 years in the UK under the following criteria:

    • The individual was endorsed by the UKRI, the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, or the British Academy
    • The individual was endorsed under the Exceptional Talent criteria via Tech Nation or by the Arts Council England
    • The initial application was granted using a prize that was listed in Appendix Global Talent: Prestigious Prizes

    Innovator visa holders who have been endorsed by a UK endorsing body that is UK government-approved and can demonstrate 2 business achievements in line with Immigration Rules can qualify for ILR after 3 years in the UK.

    5 Years

    Many categories can be applied for that have a five-year route to ILR. These include the following:

    • Tier 1 Investor at £2 million investment
    • Tier 1 Entrepreneur for 2 jobs
    • Global Talent for exceptional promise
    • Skilled Worker
    • Scale-up Visa
    • International Sportspersons
    • Minister of Religion
    • Sole Representative of Overseas Business
    • Spouse visas, civil partner visas, or unmarried partner visas
    • UK ancestry visa
    • Hong Kong visa

    10 Years

    The most typical way that different categories of leave are combined to obtain settlement is via a long residence route. This is the longest period that it can take to acquire UK residency; however, it can let the applicant combine periods and leave in all possible categories, including visitor visas, student visas, and so on.

    This means that a person who has spent six years as a student and then switches to the skilled worker category can settle on this route.

    We can assist with applying for the appropriate visa, if you're planning on residing in the UK. Contact Us

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      Requirements To Apply For Residency In The UK

      The requirements for indefinite leave to remain will depend on the specific circumstances of the applicant. Depending on the individual’s specific circumstances, there are a variety of ways they would apply to live permanently in the UK.

      An applicant may be eligible to apply for residency (ILR) in the UK in the following situations:

      The Applicant Meets The Qualifying Residence Requirement

      A person who has lived in the UK for the minimum qualifying period will be eligible. The minimum qualifying period will depend on the individual visa type and the status they currently hold in the UK. In the majority of cases, this is five years, but it varies.

      The Applicant Has 10 Years Of Residence

      Those who have lived in the UK for ten years or more (even if on multiple visa types) can be eligible for indefinite leave to remain under the rules for long-term residence in the UK.

      The Applicant Has A Work Visa

      Workers on some of the available immigration routes can become eligible for indefinite leave to remain after they have reached the relevant qualifying period of work and are residing in the UK.

      Those who have Tier 2 or Skilled Worker visas will require at least five years of residence in the UK, whereas Global Talent visas and Domestic Worker visas will be different. However, there will be financial requirements that apply in this case, but these will vary depending on the type of visa that they have.

      The Applicant Is Switching From A Family Visa To ILR

      Applicants may qualify for indefinite leave to remain if they are the parent, spouse, or dependent relative of a UK citizen. It is important to be aware that rules change in situations where an applicant’s partner passes away or if the relationship ends due to domestic violence.

      The Applicant Is Switching From A Marriage/ Partner Visa To ILR

      Those who have a partner visa or spouse visa and apply for ILR will need to be married to their British spouse, or otherwise in a civil partnership or a non-married subsisting relationship.

      In this case, the applicant will need to show proof that they can support their family. This does depend on the overall size of the family.

      • £18,600 is required per year for those who have no dependent children
      • £22,400 is required per year for those with one child
      • £2,400 per year is then added on for each additional child

      It is important to include all children under the age of 18 if they are not a part of your application. Children who are European Economic Area or British citizens shouldn’t be included when calculating annual earnings.

      These earnings are not solely for one person, but joint earnings that cover both partners.

      The Applicant Has Passed the ‘Life In The UK Test’

      For the applicant to demonstrate they know British life, they must pass the ‘Life in the UK’ test. It is a computer-based, multiple-choice exam that applicants must take at an authorised test centre. The applicant will be asked questions on British culture, history, and politics.

      Applicants must obtain a score of at least 75% to pass. This test costs £50 to take.

      The Applicant Can Show Adequate English Language Proficiency

      If English is not the applicant’s first language and the applicant is not exempt from the English language requirement, they will need to provide proof that their English language knowledge is at least B1.

      Alternatively, if the applicant has a degree-level qualification that is taught in English, or if they have an educational qualification from a UK learning institution, this will typically cover this requirement.

      How To Apply For UK Residency


      There are two different types of ILR application forms, and a person will have to complete the correct one in line with their specific circumstances.

      Applicants should use application form SET (O) if they are the partner of a citizen of the UK or the parent of a child who is settled in the UK. Any other applicants will need to use Form SET (M).

      Alongside the form, applicants need to provide supporting documents that evidence lawful status and make them eligible for permanent residence. This can be shown in the form of bank account statements, payslips, and council tax letters, as well as a letter provided by the employer on paper with the company head on it.

      In some instances, applicants may have to attend an appointment, which will be held at a UKVCAS centre. This appointment will be to submit supporting documents and biometric information.

      Not every applicant for ILR will need to use a UKVCAS service, applicants will be informed if they need to attend an appointment for this purpose when they apply.

      Fees And Processing

      Applications for ILR applications will cost £2,389 and typically take 6 months to process. It can be possible for applicants to obtain premium processing, with which an applicant can get a response in days. That being said, premium processing is only available in certain situations.

      • If a person is applying to settle based on UK ancestry using a form SET (O), they can obtain premium processing to get a UKVCAS appointment the next working day.
      • Those who are settling as former members of HM Forces through SET (AF) can get premium processing to get a UKVCAS appointment the next working day.
      • Those who wish to settle as a child under the age of 18 using SET (F) can use premium processing to get a UKVCAS appointment the next working day.
      • Those who are applying to settle in the UK after being in the UK legally for 10 years continuously can use premium processing to get a UKVCAS appointment the next working day.
      • Those applying to settle in the UK who have been working, establishing a business, or investing in the UK can use premium processing to get a UKVCAS appointment the next working day, or within the next five working days.
      • Those who are applying to settle in the UK and are dependent children or partners if they work, establish a business, or invest in the UK can use premium processing. This can be done to get a UKVCAS appointment the next working day or within the next five working days.
      • Those who apply to settle as a partner of a person or the parent of a child who is in the UK presently via the form SET (M) can use premium processing to get a UKVCAS appointment the next working day.
      • Those applying to settle as innovators can use all premium processing services to acquire faster appointments with UKVCAS.
      • Those applying to settle as the dependent partner or child of an innovator can use all of the premium processing services to acquire faster appointments with UKVCAS.

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        Extending Your Stay In The UK

        Regardless of the type of visa an applicant has, in some cases, a visa extension will be required to be able to accrue the stay period necessary to achieve permanent residency in the UK.

        Applicants can apply for extensions for visas; however, it is always critical to apply for a visa extension before your current visa expires. Not applying for a visa extension before the visa expires would put the applicant at risk of being an overstayer.

        Applicants on short-stay visas for the UK, such as visitor visas, can only apply to stay in the UK for longer than 6 months in certain circumstances, such as private medical treatment, academics, or a graduate retaking the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board test.

        Those applying to extend long-stay visas will need to meet the specific requirements to extend the specific visas. The UK visa expiry rules do, however, state that the application needs to have been received by UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) before the original visa expires.

        However, the earliest that an applicant can apply for a visa extension will depend on the type of visa that they hold. A Skilled Worker visa allows people to apply up to 60 days before the visa expires. However, a student visa holder can apply for an extension after 3 months.

        Benefits of UK Permanent Residence

        UK Permanent residence and citizenship have many benefits. The primary way that people can apply for citizenship is through Indefinite Leave to Remain. Having Indefinite Leave to Remain has the primary benefit of leading to a path of citizenship.

        ILR allows the right to enter the UK. ILR does have benefits, making it useful when dealing with authorities and administrative formalities. This is because it may no longer require applicants to prove that they have a job, health insurance, and sufficient resources.

        Those who hold permanent residence in the UK can have their family join them in the UK.
        The UK government also invests in social security and social services. Citizens and permanent residents can use the various schemes, including pensions, tax benefits, subsidies, worker compensation, unemployment insurance, and so on.

        The U.K. has many social welfare programmes that permanent residents can make use of.
        The child of a permanent UK resident will be able to become a British citizen. Someone with permanent residence status will benefit the child’s British citizenship application in the future.

        Permanent UK Residency: British Citizenship Requirements

        Those who have been in the UK with ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain) for a certain period will be able to apply for citizenship in the UK.

        Individuals can apply for citizenship if they have lived in the UK for five years and have either ILR in the UK, settled status, or indefinite leave to enter the UK for 12 months.

        However, those who are married to a British citizen do not need to wait 12 months to apply.
        There are some additional requirements to acquire citizenship in the UK; these include the following:

        • The applicant must be over 18 years of age.
        • The applicant can prove that they were in the UK exactly five years before the day that the Home Office gets your application.
        • The applicant can prove they have knowledge of English, Welsh, or Scottish Gaelic, as applicable.
        • The applicant must have passed the ‘Life in the UK’ test.
        • The applicant can prove that they intend to continue living in the UK.
        • The applicant is of good character.

        Additionally, the applicant must also meet the residency requirements in the UK. The applicant must have lived in the UK for at least five years before their application date. Applicants must not have broken any UK immigration laws.

        Those who have ILR will not often be checked by the Home Office to see if they have broken any immigration laws before this period.

        Applicants also cannot include any time they have spent in the UK when they are exempt from immigration control as a diplomat, member of the visiting armed forces, or member of the diplomat’s staff or household.

        Additionally, the applicant cannot have done any of the following:

        • Spent 450 days or more outside of the UK during the 5 years before their application
        • Spent any more than 90 days outside of the UK in the year before applying
        • They have broken any immigration laws at all, including having lived in the UK illegally.

        How Can Total Law Help?

        UK residency routes depend on the reasoning for being in the UK. Many routes do lead to permanent residence and can lead to UK citizenship. Every route to residency in the UK does have specific criteria that must be met specifically about the reason for entry.

        A person applying for UK residency as the spouse of a UK citizen will have different criteria to meet than someone applying for residency as a Skilled Worker. It is important to know what type of residency you have to apply for, as the requirements that need to be met will reflect this.

        This is why so many applicants for residency in the UK will seek the advice of a legal advisor or immigration lawyer. Immigration lawyers can help you with the paperwork for your application and give you information about the process. Here at Total Law, our immigration laws can even represent you in an appeal if your application is rejected.

        For help with your application, contact our legal team at Total Law today at +44 (0)333 305 9375 or message us online.

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