Understanding immigration laws is never easy, so don’t worry if you’re having a hard time working out what residence permit you can apply for and when in the UK. Unfortunately, there’s no short answer to say how many years it takes to get permanent residency in the UK, as it depends on your individual circumstances.

However, regarding what permanent residency is, what visas can lead to permanent residency, and how many years you have to live in the UK on each visa – we can help! Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about permanent residency, so you start your application with the right information.

Permanent Residency: Explained

Permanent residency is also known as settlement and Indefinite Leave the Remain (ILR) in UK law. It allows you to reside in the UK for as long as you like, as well as work and study; it more or less grants you the same rights within the UK as a British citizen. However, permanent residency isn’t the same as British citizenship. 

To get British citizenship, in most cases, you need to have ILR for at least 12 months. You can then apply for a British passport if you wish, and be eligible to vote in parliamentary elections. But back to permanent residency. 

To apply for permanent residency, you need to already be residing in the UK on a valid visa; in most cases, these are work visas or relative visas, so they do not include temporary visas such as Student Visas or Creative Worker visas. For most of the valid visas, you will have to have resided in the UK for at least 5 years before you can apply for permanent residency, although some visas have a shorter waiting time. You can also apply for permanent residency if you have been living legally in the UK for at least 10 years

There is no age limit to apply for permanent residency, however, you have to be at least 18 years old to apply for work visas in the UK due to the UK’s restrictions on working hours for minors. Even if you were born in the UK, you do not automatically become a British citizen, but you can apply for British citizenship after several years, or if you have lived continually in the UK for at least 7 years, you can apply for permanent residency.

Is it Hard to Get Permanent Residency in the UK?

It can be hard to obtain permanent residency in the UK as there are many eligibility requirements, however, many are similar to those required for work visas, so if you’ve already gone through the process of applying for a visa, an ILR application isn’t much harder. It can be significantly more expensive, however, at £2,404 per applicant. You also need to apply long before your visa expires, as it can take up to 6 months to receive a response on your application from the Home Office, or you can pay extra to have a faster response. 

Also, the time you spent in the UK on a temporary visa like the Creative Worker visa, does not count towards your 5 years in the UK. 

Which Visas Lead to Permanent Residency?

There are several visas that allow foreign nationals to receive permanent residence permits in the UK, most of which are work permits.

The visas that can lead to permanent residency are:

  • International Sportsperson visa
  • Exceptional Talent visa
  • Skilled Worker visa
  • Scale-up Worker visa
  • Global Talent visa, 
  • Entrepreneur or Investor visa
  • Innovator Founder visa
  • Turkish Worker or Businessperson visa
  • International Agreement visa
  • UK Ancestry visa
  • Returning Resident visa (if you’ve already had ILR but left the country)

To apply for permanent residency with most of the above visas, you need to have lived in the UK for at least 5 years, with no more than 6 months a year spent outside of the UK. However, there are exceptions to how many years you have to be in the UK on some visas, and some require you to have remained permanently in the UK for the duration of your whole visa i.e. have not travelled outside of the UK, even for a holiday. 

You can also apply for permanent residency if you have protection status and have lived in the UK for at least 5 years. Protection status is the term used for a permit for refugees or people under humanitarian protection. However, you can have your ILR revoked if you travel back to the country you have fled from. A different length of time applies to asylum seekers. 

What Visas Take Less Than 5 Years for Permanent Residency?

While you already have to be in the UK on a valid visa to apply for permanent residency, the following visas permit you to apply after less than five years:

  • Exceptional Talent visa – you can apply for ILR after 2 years in the UK
  • Innovator Founder visa – you can apply for ILR after 3 years in the UK
  • Global Talent visa – you can apply for ILR after 3 years in the UK

If you have Discretionary Leave to Remain (DLR), you can apply for residency after 6 years in the UK if you were granted your DLR permit before or on 8 July 2012, or 10 years if you were granted DLR after 9 July 2012.

Benefits of Obtaining Permanent Residency

You don’t have to apply for permanent residency if you’ve been in the UK for 5 years or more, but it can be helpful for several reasons. Firstly, all other visas have an expiration date, so rather than applying for an extension on your work visa every 3 to 5 years and paying the application fees as well as the immigration health surcharge, you can make your life a lot easier by simply getting permanent residency in the UK. 

Secondly, some visas restrict your travel outside of the UK to a certain number of days a year (usually 180 days, but sometimes even fewer), so by obtaining permanent residency, you’re free to go abroad on holidays, business trips or to see family for up to 2 years at a time. 

Finally, although you still won’t have the same rights or passport as a British citizen, you can access governmental benefits if you’re eligible. Such benefits can include unemployment benefits or disability benefits, so you know you’ll be supported if anything were to happen to you while you’re in the UK.

Can You Have Your Permanent Residency Revoked?

Although permanent residency grants you permission to reside, work and study in the UK with no expiration date, if you no longer meet certain requirements of your application, you can have your ILR revoked. 

Such instances include:

  • If you live outside of the UK continuously for 2 years or more
  • If you commit a serious crime (which can also lead to deportation)
  • If you apply as a refugee and return to the country from which you fled

If you do leave the UK for more than 2 years continuously but wish to return, you can apply for a Returning Resident visa, provided you can prove that you have strong ties to the UK such as property, a job or family. You do not need a Returning Resident visa if you work for the UK government or British Council as a British citizen, resident or partner or spouse of a British citizen or resident.

Need Help Getting Permanent Residency?

Hopefully, the way to obtain permanent residency in the UK is much clearer, however, it’s normal to still wonder about your individual case. That’s why Synergy Immigration Solutions is here to help everyone with their visa and residency permits for the UK. With a team of immigration experts on hand, we’re sure to be able to help you get to the UK with a valid visa, or extend your stay if you’re already there. 

Need help with your visa or residency application? Contact us today, so we can help you get started. 

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