Last updated on November 2nd, 2021

Permanent Residence in the UK:
The Definitive Guide

The United Kingdom has one of the strongest economies in the world. It has for decades, been a desirable destination for young professionals, expats, and those looking for a better future for their families. Obtaining a permanent residence in the UK is a fairly lengthy process. It usually takes about five years. This, of course, depends on which route you follow to gain your residency.

In this article, I’ll be discussing who can be eligible for permanent residence in the UK, how you can obtain one, and how long the process takes.

Indefinite Leave to Remain: Permanent Resident UK

In the UK, permanent residence is referred to as an Indefinite Leave to Remain. This is an immigration status that is given to any person without the Right of Abode.

If you have permanent residence status in the UK, you’ll have the right to live and work there indefinitely. This means that you won’t have any immigration restrictions on joining or creating a business in the UK and you may stay there as long as you wish.

It’s important to note here that you might lose that right if you spend two years continuously outside of the UK.

Eligibility

Non-EU citizens applying for permanent residence in the UK will find that the process is fairly straightforward. There are various conditions which make you eligible for permanent residency. Usually, you will have to live in the UK for a specific amount of time, whether legally or otherwise. Each type of visa or stay requires you to stay a specific period in the UK before becoming eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Below you’ll find the different types of visas/stays and how long it takes to become eligible for permanent residence:

Unlawful stay: 14 years

Lawful stay under any basis “Long Stay”: 10 years

Business owner, investor, sportsperson, arts: 5 years

Ancestry: 5 years

Tier 1 and Tier 2 work permit: 5 years

Marriage or partnership with a UK citizen: 2 years

Once you stay in the UK under any of the above categories and fulfill your stay requirement you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency.

Benefits

The benefits of having permanent residency in such an economically strong and stable country are hardly a secret. As a permanent resident, you will enjoy access to healthcare in the UK, which is one of the best in the world. You’ll also access social benefits such as pensions, social security, and so on.

Additionally, you will have the right to work, live, and study in the UK permanently. Better yet, you can apply for your family members to join you.

How to Get Permanent Residence in the UK as a Non-EU Citizen

While the process to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain is fairly straightforward, the bureaucratic part of it can get a bit complex. Usually, if you’ve lived in the UK for at least five years, you might qualify for residency.

First, you will need to collect all the necessary paperwork and check your eligibility. Then you will need to make sure that you have access to your immigration history in the country. More often than not, foreigners would have a variety of visas since their arrival in the country.

After completing all of the above steps, you can then complete the application form and would most probably receive your permanent residence.

There are two types of forms you can use to apply for permanent residence. I’ll present them to you below so you can be sure to choose the correct one for your case:

Set (O) Application

This is the form you’ll want to use if you are the spouse/partner of a UK citizen. Alternatively, this form can be used if you are the parent of a child who is settled in the UK.

Set (M) Application

This is the form you’ll want to use if you have resided in the UK under any of the immigration categories I mentioned above.

You’ll have to provide some documents which prove your stay in the UK as part of the application process. These could be:

  • Payslips
  • Rental contract
  • Bank statements
  • Council tax letters
  • A letter from an employer in the UK on a company letterhead

Registration of Family Members for Permanent Residence in the UK

After becoming a permanent resident, you may wish that your family joins you in the UK. Or perhaps not, I don’t judge…

If you do wish that they join you, the eligibility criteria that I mentioned above applies to all of your family members. Each of them needs to submit an application form as an individual. For your children under 18 years of age, you will make the application on their behalf. This is because, in the UK, those who are under 18 years of age are considered minors.

The Tier 1 or Tier 2 visa also allows your family members to join. This is on the condition that you meet the criteria for sponsoring a spouse or dependent children. Keep in mind that each particular permit has its own sponsorship criteria.

Settling to the UK as a Family Member of a UK Citizen

This tends to be one of the most popular routes to UK residency. You can apply for this process if your partner is a UK citizen or settled in the UK.

Eligibility for Settlement

Foreigners wishing to settle in the UK because they are a spouse/partner of a British citizen are usually on a family visa. This type of visa has three distinct lengths:

  • 2-year
  • 5-year
  • 10-year

If you are on any of the visas above, you’ll need to have lived in the United Kingdom for two, five, or ten years, respectively.  Once you meet the minimum stay criteria you can submit your permanent residency application. There are other criteria that you also need to meet for this type of visas:

Living Together

To meet this criterion, you’ll need to provide proof that you are living together with your partner or spouse. You also need to prove that you intend to keep living together after your residency is granted. This can be done by providing a joint bank account, joint tenancy agreement, or other official documents.

Marriage

Your visa under which you’re staying in the UK has to be in the “partner” category. This means that you must either be married to a British partner, be in a civil partnership with them, or be in a long term relationship, where you are not yet married. Often you’ll have to prove this through a marriage license, personal correspondence, or other supporting documents.

‘Life in the UK’ Test

The British government is careful to grant residency only to those who are invested in Britain. This is why you need to demonstrate your knowledge of British life through a “Life in the UK” test.

The British government offers various materials for you to prepare for this test. You’ll have 45 minutes to answer 24 questions about British culture and customs. These questions are based on the Life in the UK handbook, which you can acquire online. You will need to score 75% or more to pass the test.

There are some circumstances where you don’t need to take the test, such as:

  • If you’re under 18 years of age
  • If you’re over 65 years of age
  • If you have a long-term physical or mental condition

English Language Test

If English is not your first language, you will need to take an English language test. The test is designed to assess your understanding and speaking capabilities in English. If you have an English qualification or an educational qualification from a recognized institution in the UK, you don’t need to take this test.

Proof of Finances

You will need to provide proof that you are capable of supporting yourself and your family. If you are on the 5-year visa, the current minimum expectations are as follows:

  • If you have no dependent children, you need at least £18,600 annually
  • If you have one child, you need £22,400  annually
  • For each additional child, you need an extra  £2,400

All your children under 18 years of age must be counted, even if you are not including them as part of the application. If you have children who are citizens of the UK or the EEA (European Economic Area), you don’t need to include them when calculating your annual earnings.

Keep in mind that the earnings are joint between both of the partners.

It’s important to note here that the 2-year and 10-year visas have no minimum earning requirement. However, you still need to provide evidence that you have enough income to support your family without public funding.

Permanent Residence as a Family Member of a Settler in the UK

If you have a partner that is settled in the UK on a work visa (Tier 1, 2, or 5), you may be eligible for settlement there as well. You must be married, in a civil partnership, or in a relationship with them for at least two years to be eligible.

Eligibility

You have to be on a visa as your partner’s dependent. If you get your visa after your partner was already settled, you need to apply as a partner of a settled individual.

Before 9 July 2012, the required time of living with your partner was at least two years. Since then, you must have lived with your partner for at least five years to be eligible.

At the time of application, you must still be living with your partner and show your intent to keep doing so. Also, you should not be accessing public funds (claiming benefits) when you apply.

You also need to pass the “Life in the UK” test and the English Language test. Make sure that you meet these requirements before submitting your application.

Application Process

Once you collect the necessary documents, you can apply online. You’ll usually receive a response within six months.

There is also a premium processing service that you can use. This way, you will get an appointment so your application will be considered in person and you can get a decision on the same day.

UK Permanent Residency Fees and Processing Times

It can take up to six months of processing time for permanent residency applications in the United Kingdom. Depending on the backlog, it might take longer than that. However, most applications are decided within six months.

At the time of writing this article (2021)  the processing fee for an individual application by post is £2,389. If you wish to make an application in person, the fee will be more. The in-person application is much faster, as you’ll receive a decision on the same day rather than waiting for six months.

Permanent Resident Card UK

The permanent resident card that is issued by the British government is an ID card that has your basic information on it. It also states the type of permit and whether you’re permitted to work in the UK or not.

This card also holds your biometric data and photo.

Permanent Resident Card Renewal UK

The residence card is usually valid for five years, so it needs to be renewed every five years. You can apply for your residence card to be renewed through the British government website and you’ll get your new card in the mail.

Tips about Permanent Residence in the UK

The first and most important thing that you need to remember about your permanent residence in the UK is that it can be lost. If you spend more than two whole years outside of the UK, you will lose your right to residency there.

Also, you might lose your permanent residence status if you commit any crimes. Especially those that can lead to deportation.

On the bright side, a permanent residence in the UK can be a great life-upgrade that opens many avenues for you personally and professionally. You will be entitled to access social security and healthcare if you work of course.

One last thing I wish to advise you is to hire a professional to help you in the process. The paperwork can be complicated and sometimes something small that is missing can ruin the whole application process.

FAQ

What is Permanent Residence in the UK?

Permanent residence grants the holder the right to live, work, and study in the UK indefinitely. Check out the Indefinite Leave to Remain: Permanent Resident UK section above for more info.

Who is Eligible for Permanent Residence in the UK?

If you have lived in the UK whether legally or illegally for five years you might be eligible to apply for permanent residence. Check out our Eligibility section above for more information.

How Do You Apply for Permanent Residence in the UK?

After you collect all the proper documents and make sure that you fill all the criteria, you can apply online. You can also apply in-person but that tends to cost more.

How Long Will It Take to Get a Permanent Resident Card in the UK?

Usually, the application processing time takes about six months. There’s also an express service that you can use where you can get an answer on the day, but that costs more.

Can You Change Your Name On a Permanent Resident Card in the UK?

You can report any mistake in names, date of birth, or gender identity on your permanent resident card through the government’s website. In that case, you will need to fill out a form with the mistakes that you wish to have repaired and you’ll get a new card in the mail.

Is There a Permanent Resident UK Contact Number?

You can find the different numbers on the official British website. There is a small form that you need to fill and you will find the number corresponding to your inquiry.

Does Permanent Residence in the UK Expire?

Technically, no, it doesn’t expire. However, it can be revoked under certain circumstances. For example, if you leave the UK for two years or if you commit a serious crime that leads to deportation.