After all the hard work, late nights studying for exams and processing tons of documents to get your worker visa, Congratulations! You can now proudly say that you are living your UK dream. As a health and care worker (formerly known as Tier 2) visa holder in the UK, you may be thinking about applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) to maximize your stay in this beautiful country. Who would not? Higher salaries, improved working conditions, better healthcare system, improved quality of life and of course possibility of permanent residency - these are some of the main factors why Filipinos would want to settle in the UK. Now that you are living and working in the UK, you may want to take your stay one step further—by applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) status. But with so much information out there, it can be difficult to know where or how to start your application for ILR. The process can be daunting and overwhelming, but don't you worry! This step by step guide will help you understand the requirements and make your ILR application process as smooth as possible.
What is ILR?
Before we dig in with the detailed steps on how to apply for ILR, let us understand what ILR is. Indefinite Leave to Remain, also known as "settlement," is the key to making the UK your permanent home. With this status, you are free to live, work, and study in the UK for an indefinite period and may also be eligible for benefits. Additionally, holding indefinite leave to remain is a step towards applying for British citizenship. For me, it’s like the cherry on top of the cake after a long and sweet journey of living and working in the UK as a skilled worker visa holder. This status will allow you to be officially settled in the UK because you will be able to work and study without restrictions on hours and access to public funds. It will also give you an unrestricted right to re-enter the UK without needing a visa. Imagine being able to call the UK your permanent home and never having to worry about visa renewals or restrictions on your life and career again. That's what ILR can offer.
When To Apply
You can apply for ILR as early as 28 days before you’ve been in the UK for five years with your Tier 2/Health and Care worker/skilled worker Visa. You do not need to wait for your current visa to expire. If your current visa expires before your application for ILR, you need to renew your visa first.
Requirements & Eligibility Criteria for ILR
You must have lived in the UK continuously for at least five years, with no absences of more than 180 days in any 12-month period. To know more about allowed breaks and continuous residency, click here.
You must be able to support yourself without requiring public funds. You must also meet certain salary requirements, depending on the specific visa category.
If you are a nurse in the UK or your occupation is included in the shortage occupation list, you are exempted from the £25,600 per year financial requirement for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
For those that are not in the shortage occupation list, they need to be paid at least whichever is highest out of the following:
· £25,600 per year
· £10.10 per hour
· The “going rate” for the type of work you’ll be doing
If you do not meet the first and second financial requirements, you may check the going rate for your job in the going rates table here.
If you have a spouse or children that you wish to include in your ILR application, it's important to ensure they meet the eligibility criteria before doing so. You can find more information on their eligibility requirements here.
Proof of English Knowledge
This is also a requirement for one to be granted settlement status in the UK. There are different types of tests required, depending on the route you are taking. For nurses or those under the Health and care visa, one has to provide evidence of a secure English language test of at least BI score. This can be an IELTs certificate, degree certificate from a UK University or integrated skills in English certificate.
For nurses, we can still use the B1 certificate we had when we previously applied for the skilled worker as long as the test is still in the current list of recognised tests. However, for your dependents, they may need to take an English test to qualify for the settlement (ILR) status.
To find out more about the approved test and test centres, click here.
Life in the UK Test
This is a 45-minute test which covers 24 multiple choice questions focused on various areas of British life- from the UK history, tradition and customs. Questions are from this handbook. One can be exempted from taking this test if you are under 18 years or over 65 years old, are suffering from a long term illness or disability that restricts your ability to move or attend classes or have a mental impairment.
You need to book the test online. Cost is £50. To book for the test, please click link here.
Fees and Turnaround Time
The cost of the application for ILR for skilled worker visa holders is £2,404 per person. You have the option to include your partner and eligible children on the same application form. As part of the application process, you'll need to provide biometric information, including fingerprints and a photo, which is free of charge.
Note that traveling outside of the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man is not permitted while your ILR application is being processed. Doing so may result in your application being withdrawn.
If you do not want to wait 6 months for a decision and you’ve got extra pounds to spare, you can take advantage of the expedited processing options:
Priority Service - additional fee of £500, get a decision within 5 business days
Super Priority Service - additional fee of £800, get a decision within either 1 business day (after providing your biometric information) if your appointment falls on a weekday, or 2 business days if it’s over the weekend.
Please note that weekends are not considered as working days and that weekends and bank holidays are not included in the count.
How To Apply
The ILR application must be submitted online and can be saved for later completion. Upon submitting the application, you will be informed of the necessary documents that need to be provided, such as proof of passing the Life in the UK Test, meeting the salary requirements, and your employer/sponsor need to provide a document confirming that you are still needed in your job even after getting ILR.Payment of the fee will also be required as part of the application process.
Once you have gathered all the needed documents and you already checked that you are eligible to apply for ILR, you may submit your application by filling out the Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) application form (Form SET(O)) here.
Finally, you will be asked to make an appointment with the UK Visas and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) centre. You will be required to provide your biometric (fingerprints and photo) and you also need to submit your supporting documents either by uploading them into the online service or you can have them scanned at your UKVCAS appointment. You may enter your postcode here to check for the nearest UKVCAS center in your area.
And there you have it , the journey to obtaining ILR for skilled worker visa holders in the UK. It's a test of patience and a test of funds, but the end result is worth it all. Just like nursing, securing your ILR status requires patience and preparation, but the end result of being able to live and work in the UK without restrictions is a goal well worth striving for. Just think of it as a little vacation from worrying about visas, without actually having to go on vacation. Now sit back, relax and let the UKVCAS do the rest!
Guidance provided is applicable to most skilled worker visa holders. There are some cases where different routes or approach may need to be taken. If you need further advice, please reach to Lawyery.co, an immigration consultant or solicitor.