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Obtaining UK Residency

Obtaining permanent residency in the UK means that individuals can live and work without restriction in the UK on an indefinite basis.

If you have any questions regarding the UK residency process, you can contact our expert immigration lawyers to discuss any concerns you may have, or for some help navigating the application process. You can call us on 0333 305 9375, or contact us online seven days a week via our live chat.

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    What are the eligibility criteria for UK residency?

    There are various methods and pathways to applying for UK permanent residency, based on your individual circumstances. The most common of these is by spending a certain length of time in the UK on a qualifying visa, such as a work or a family visa.

    You already have the right to live and work in the UK permanently if:

    • You hold ‘settled status’ per the EU Settlement Scheme
    • You already have ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’
    • You are an Irish citizen
    • You are a Commonwealth citizen with ‘right of abode’

    If you’re in any one of those situations,  you don’t have to apply for permanent residence and you are permitted to stay in the UK for as long as you wish.

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    Pathways to Residency

    If you don't fall into those categories, there are a number of ways to apply for UK residency, based on your individual circumstances. These permanent residence statuses are as follows:

    1.     You have a work visa in Britain

    You may be able to apply for UK residency if you have a work visa. To be eligible, you usually would need to have worked and kept continuous residence in the UK for 5 years.

    This time frame does vary, however, as with an Innovator or Global Talent visa it can be after 3 years.

    You will also have to provide bank statements that prove you meet financial or salary requirements. All this will depend on the exact work visa you hold. Work visas in the UK include the following:

    • International Sportsperson or Skilled Worker visa
    • Global Talent, Entrepreneur or Investor visa
    • Innovator visa
    • Represent an overseas business
    • Turkish Worker or Businessperson visa
    • A private servant in a diplomatic household with an International Agreement visa, or a domestic worker

    2.     You have family members in the UK

    You may be eligible for indefinite leave to remain if you have one of the following circumstances applies to you:

    • A partner – with your family visa
    • A partner – as a dependent on your partner’s work visa
    • A parent – with your family visa
    • A child – with your family visa
    • A child – as a dependant on your parent’s work visa
    • An adult-dependent relative on a family visa

    The standard length of time you must normally be in the UK for with a family visa to be eligible for permanent settlement is 5 years.

    You can also apply if your partner has died or if your relationship ends due to domestic violence.


    3.     You have lived in the UK for 10 years

    If you have lived in the UK for the qualifying period of 10 years of continuous and legal stay, you can apply for permanent residence status in the UK.

    4.     You have ‘Settled status’ per the European Union Settlement Scheme

    EU nationals and their family members who, by 31 December 2020, had been continuously living in the UK for five years are eligible for settled status. EU citizens and their family members who arrive after this date or have not been living in the UK for five years are eligible for ‘pre-settled’ status, which allows them to stay in the UK, and after five years can apply for settled status.

    Settled status is an equivalent status to UK permanent residency, removing immigration restrictions.

    5.     You have been living in the UK on an Ancestry Visa

    You may be eligible for UK residency if you’ve spent 5 years in the UK on a UK Ancestry visa.

    Other ways to get residency include:

    • Having refugee status, humanitarian protection or holding Discretionary Leave
    • Returning to the UK having previously had indefinite leave to remain
    • Having served in the armed forces
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      Why apply for UK residency?

      People with UK residency are permitted to live and work in the UK, free from any immigration or additional visa restrictions. They can access benefits and study. However, they cannot vote in elections or take a job in public office.

      It also grants you the chance to apply for British citizenship, if you so wish, after 12 months (1 year). However, if you are married to a British Citizen, you may be eligible to apply immediately for British Citizenship.

      Either way, once you naturalise as a British Citizen, you are then permitted to apply for your first British passport.

      To qualify for UK residency, the person must satisfy the following criteria:

      In addition to the aforementioned criteria above, applicants cannot have been absent from the UK for more than 180 days in the five consecutive 12-month periods.

      Applicants must demonstrate good English unless they are national from one of the following countries (inside and outside the European Union):

      • Antigua and Barbuda
      • Australia
      • The Bahamas
      • Barbados
      • Belize
      • Canada
      • Dominica
      • Grenada
      • Guyana
      • Jamaica
      • Malta
      • New Zealand
      • St Kitts and Nevis
      • St Lucia
      • St Vincent and the Grenadines
      • Trinidad and Tobago
      • USA

      Life in the UK Test

      You must demonstrate sufficient knowledge of what life in the UK is like. This is done by completing the ‘Life in the UK’ test. This is a mandatory 45-minute test with 24 questions about British nationality, national traditions, and customs, devised for foreign nationals by immigration experts seeking indefinite leave to remain in the UK or naturalisation.

      There are more than 30 centres that can administer the test across the UK. Applicants are required to book their Life in the UK Test online, a minimum of 3 days in advance. The test costs £50.

      Applicants have to score 75% or more to pass the test. If you pass, you’ll get a ‘unique reference number’, which is required to complete your permanent residency application. The Home Office (UK government) will use the reference number to check that you’ve passed.

      If you fail the test, you have to wait 7 days before taking the test again, but you can take the test as many times as you need to and you will need to book and pay again each time.

      You do not need to take the Live in the UK if:

      • You are under the age of 18
      • You are 65 years or older
      • You have passed the Life in the UK test before, such as if you’re applying to become a citizen and already passed it as part of your settlement application
      • You have a long-term physical or mental condition. If this is your situation, you must provide either a form or letter from an official doctor confirming your physical or mental condition.
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      What is the application process?

      Applications are done online, from inside the UK. The correct application form will depend on which immigration category you are applying to, based on your visa. The most common form of online application are:

      • Apply to Settle in the UK including work-based categories, known as SET O application
      • Apply based on Long Residence in the UK, known as SET LR
      • Apply to settle as the partner or parent of a settled person, known as SET M.

      You will be asked to provide documents, too. Please note, that this is not an exhaustive list and it may vary depending on visa types:

      • Your valid passport
      • Your current valid visa that is allowing you to live in the UK
      • Proof of any (if any) absences and/or holidays in which you left the UK
      • Payslips from your employer to prove you meet the minimum income requirements (for Skilled Workers;)
      • Proof you meet the English language requirement
      • Sufficient results from the Life in the UK test.
      • Biometric details (varies on application type)

      Common reasons for refusal of UK residency include:

      • Wrong or insufficient documentation
      • Wrong or incomplete application forms
      • Failure to provide additional documents or information within a specified period

      Should your application be refused, you can:

      • Resubmit your application
      • Appeal the decision
      • Lodge an Administrative Review
      • Issue Judicial Review

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        What are the fees?

        The fee is £2,389. This is not inclusive of the mandatory £19.20 biometric fees. You can opt for super-priority processing for an additional £800 (which takes 24 hours) and priority processing (which takes 5-day processing) for £500 (only when eligible).

        How long does the application take?

        The typical time is about 6 months. There is the optional “super-priority processing”, which takes only 24 hours but it will cost you. It costs an additional £800, and priority processing which is 5-day processing but costs an additional £500. This is only available when eligible.

        How Total Law Can Help

        Obtaining UK residency is a significant step for those who wish to settle in the UK long-term.

        If you’re a foreign national inside or outside the UK looking to settle in the UK on a permanent basis, reach out to Total Law.

        We are experienced, empathetic and efficient immigration lawyers who have worked with thousands of clients to help them settle in the UK. As part of our services, we offer advice sessions and application packages to help de-mystify and simplify the process of applying for permanent residency. One of our experienced lawyers will work with you one-on-one to get the full measure of your circumstances and guide you towards the best path to you being able to successfully obtain permanent resident status.

        For more information about us and how we can help you, reach out to us today on 0333 305 9375, or reach out to us online.

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                  Frequently Asked Questions

                  Continuous residency requirements state that you should not have left the UK for more than 180 days in any 12 month period when you were in the UK on your visa.

                  Yes, permanent residents of the UK are eligible to receive UK benefits.

                  International students in the UK are not directly eligible for permanent residency. However, graduates are able to apply for a Graduate visa after completing their studies, which allows them to stay in the UK for an additional two years. They may then be able to apply for a work visa that directly leads to permanent settlement after that.