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Indefinite Leave to Remain for South Africans

If you have been living in the UK for a certain period of time, you could be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Typically you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after you have spent five years lawfully living in the UK.

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UK Indefinite Leave to Remain

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is a form of permanent residence in the which is available to those who have spent a certain period of time lawfully living in the UK, typically five years.

With Indefinite Leave to Remain status, you can stay in the UK without any conditions and will be classed as someone with UK settled status.

You will be able to apply for British citizenship after you have spent one year living in the UK under ILR status.

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Who is Eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain?

The main condition for Indefinite Leave to Remain is fulfilling a minimum residency requirement in the UK.

Usually, someone can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after they have spent five years living in the UK under a form of long-term immigration permission.

It is also possible for South Africans to apply for ILR sooner under certain circumstances, which will be explained in further detail on this page.

As well as the minimum residency requirements, those applying for ILR will need to meet the following requirements:

  • Must not have broken any laws or breached any immigration conditions pertaining to your UK visa or immigration permission
  • Must not have spent more than 180 days outside of the UK in a 12-month period during your UK residency. If you have, this will break your qualifying residency period
  • Must pass the Life in the UK test. This is a series of multiple-choice questions based on the history, traditions and culture of the United Kingdom
  • You will need to demonstrate that your English language ability is at the level of B1 in speaking, writing, listening and reading as set by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Whilst English is widely spoken in South Africa, South Africans are not exempt from this requirement on the basis of being South African. (Other exemptions do apply)

Which UK Visas are Reckonable Towards the Minimum Residency Requirement?

Generally, any long-term UK visa/immigration permission will count towards the minimum residency requirement.

However, any time spent in the UK under short-term visas such as the Visitor Visa or a short-term Tier 5 Temporary Worker will not count towards minimum residency requirements for ILR.

The following UK visas/immigration permissions all count towards minimum residency requirements for permanent residence in the UK:

  • Spouse Visas/Civil Partner Visas
  • Unmarried Partner Visa
  • Global Talent Visa
  • Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa
  • Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa
  • Tier 1 Investor Visa
  • Tier 1 Innovator Visa
  • Tier 1 Start up Visa
  • Tier 2 (General)
  • Tier 2 Intra company Transfer Visa
  • Tier 2 Minister of Religion Visa
  • Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa
  • Ancestry Visa
  • Retirement person Visa
  • Returning resident
  • ‘Long residence’

When Can I Apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK as a South African?

As mentioned, you can typically apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after you have spent five years lawfully living in the UK.

However, you can apply for ILR sooner if you have been living in the UK under certain visas, including the following:

  • Tier 1 Innovator Visa. Could be eligible after three years, depending on business achievements
  • Tier 1 Investor Visa. Could be eligible after two or three years, depending on level of investments
  • Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa. Could be eligible after three years, depending on business activities
  • Tier 1 Exceptional talent Visa: Could be eligible after three years, depending on nature of last endorsement
  • Global Talent Visa. Could be eligible after three years, depending on nature of last endorsement

As a South African, you will be eligible for ILR after four years if you have served in the British Armed Forces.

Also, there are some circumstances when you will receive settled status automatically even if you have not made a formal application for ILR. This includes:

  • Adult dependents of a UK citizen or person with settled status who require long-term care
  • Child dependents of a British citizen or person with settled status

What is the Life in the UK Test?

The Life in the UK test is a necessary component of Indefinite Leave to Remain applications. It is a multiple-choice computer test which tests your knowledge of the culture, history, traditions and geography of the United Kingdom.

The test consists of 24 questions and you must score at least 75% to pass the test. It costs £50 to sit the test, and you have 45 minutes to complete it.

The test can be undertaken at over 30 test centres in the UK. However, usually you can only sit the test at one of the five test centres nearest to your home address.

If you fail the test, you can sit it again after seven days. You can resit the Life in the UK test as many times as you need.

You will need to bring some official identification with you to the test centre to prove your identity. This could be your passport, driving licence or biometric residence permit. You will also need to bring a letter such as a tax bill or bank statement which shows your address.

You will be exempt from the Life in the UK test if:

  • You are under 18
  • You are over 65
  • You have a long-term mental or physical condition

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What is the English Language Test Requirement?

You will need to demonstrate that your English language ability is up to a certain standard as a South African. Indeed, South Africa is not one of the countries on the exemption list for the English language test requirement.

The requirement is that your English language ability is at the level of B1 in speaking, writing, listening and reading as set by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. You will need to pass an English language SELT test of at least the level of B1 at an approved testing centre.

On the day of the test, you will need to provide some official documentation such as your passport, driving licence, government identity card or biometric residence permit. If you pass the test, you will be given a unique reference number which you will need to provide in your Indefinite Leave to Remain application.

You will be exempt from the English language test requirement if:

  • You are over 65
  • You have graduated in a course at degree level or higher which was taught in English at a recognised institution
  • You are a victim of domestic abuse
  • You are suffering from a long-term mental or physical condition
  • You are the partner or spouse of a person who has died who was a British citizen or person with settled status in the UK

Periods of Absence Rules

As alluded to above, there are certain rules around the minimum residency requirement which you must adhere to for your UK residency period to not break.

In the vast majority of cases, you must not have spent longer than 180 days outside of the UK in a 12-month period during your UK residency.

Under certain exceptional circumstances, your UK residency period will not break if you have spent longer than 180 days outside the UK.

These exceptional periods of absence include:

  • Serious illness of the applicant or a close relative
  • A conflict in the country which the person was in
  • A natural disaster in the country which the person was in
  • A Tier 2 (General) holder who was sponsored to work in a PhD level occupation
  • Work undertaken overseas by certain full-time HM Armed Force reserve members

Also, under certain conditions, absences taken by applicants with a Global Talent or Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa will not be classed as periods of absence.

If you are unsure about whether your periods of absence have broken your UK residency period, we can help. Call us now on 0333 305 3612 for more information about periods of absence.

What are the Required Documents for Indefinite Leave to Remain Applications?

You will need to provide a substantial amount of evidence to prove your eligibility for ILR status in the UK.

You must provide information and documents about yourself and also any dependents who you will be including in your application.

The documents which you provide need to be in their original form. The Home Office will not accept photocopies unless there are very exceptional circumstances which mean you cannot provide original documents.

Any documents which are not in English or Welsh must be translated by an accredited translator. You need to include both the translated documents and the originals in your portfolio of evidence.

The specific documents and information which you will need to provide depends on your individual circumstances.

You will definitely need to provide the following information and documents:

  • Passport and travel documents. (You also need to provide any previous passport which expired during your UK residency)
  • Birth or adoption certificate
  • Information and documents which detail time which you have spent outside the UK during your qualifying period and the reasons for these periods of absence
  • Financial information, including bank statements and salary information
  • Two identical passport-sized colour photographs
  • A full immigration history
  • Pass certificate/reference number for Life in the UK test (unless exempt)
  • Pass certificate/reference number for English language test (unless exempt)

Indefinite Leave to Remain Application Form and Fees

We always recommend that any ILR applicant prepares their portfolio of evidence before completing the application form. This is to ensure that all your information and documents are in order and you will not run into any problems when you complete the application form.

There are two different Indefinite Leave to Remain application forms:

  • Form Set (M): This is the form to complete if you are applying for ILR on the basis of being a partner of someone, or parent of a child who is already settled in the UK
  • Form Set (O): This is the form for all other ILR applications, including those who have been living in the UK under a Tier 1 or Tier 2 work visa and the Ancestry Visa

The Indefinite Leave to Remain application fee is £2,389. However, there are a number of other costs to bear in mind if you want to apply for ILR, including £50 for the Life in the UK test, the cost of the English language test and translation fees if any of your documents need translating.

You can expect to receive a decision on your application within six months of the date you submit the application. However, the processing stage could be delayed if UK immigration officials have any concerns with your application.

For example, it is not uncommon for the UK Home Office to request additional information or for certain documents to be verified. In the worst-case scenario, your application could even be rejected. This is why it is imperative that your application includes all the required documentation and information and adheres to all necessary standards.

Our UK immigration lawyers are highly experienced in Indefinite Leave to Remain applications. We can help you through the entire ILR application process with our specialist application package. This includes full support with your portfolio of evidence and the completion of the application form. We will also write a letter of representation to support the merits of your case.

To find out more about how we can help you to receive settled status in the UK with ILR, please call us now on 0333 305 3612.

Get in touch with our expert immigration lawyers to learn how to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain Contact us

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Can Indefinite Leave to Remain be Revoked?

If your application for Indefinite Leave to Remain is accepted, you will not be subject to any immigration conditions in the UK. This means that you can live in the UK without any restrictions and without the need to extend your visa or immigration permission.

However, ILR status can be rescinded under certain circumstances. Your settled status might be revoked if:

  • You are convicted of a criminal offence
  • You are liable to deportation
  • You are found to have been granted ILR through deceiving the Home Office

Your ILR status could also be revoked if you leave the UK for South Africa (or any other country) for a period of two years or more in a single period.

When Can I Apply for British Citizenship?

Indefinite Leave to Remain is the first step towards British citizenship by naturalisation. If you plan to remain in the UK in the future, British citizenship is the obvious final step on your immigration journey.

As a South African, you do not need to renounce your South African citizenship if you want to apply for British citizenship. Instead, you can choose to become a dual citizen.

You can apply for British citizenship by naturalization after you have spent one year living in the UK under ILR status. This is assuming that your circumstances haven’t changed significantly since you have been living in the UK under ILR.

As a British citizen, you can apply for a British passport and enjoy the full benefits of British citizenship. As a dual citizen, you will be able to hold both a British and South African passport.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Continuous lawful period refers to the time someone has spent in the UK as a lawful resident. Generally, your stay in the UK will be deemed to be lawful if:

  • You have not spent any time in the country without leave to remain
  • You can provide adequate details of any time you have spent outside of the UK
  • You have not taken any employment abroad whilst you have been living in the UK
  • You have not overstayed your immigration permission
  • You have not spent any time in prison

You can stay in the UK without any restrictions imposed as an ILR holder. This is known as permanent residence.

You can apply for British citizenship after you have spent one year living in the UK under Indefinite Leave to Remain status.

Those in the following situations will not need to apply for ILR:

There are two different ILR application forms:

  • Form Set (M) is for those who are applying for ILR on the basis of being a partner of someone or parent of a child who is a British citizen or person with settled status
  • Form Set (O) is for all other ILR applications

The UK Indefinite Leave to Remain application fee is £2,389 per applicant. This does not include the Life in the UK test fee (£50), the English language test fee and any translation fees.

Whilst English is widely spoken in South Africa, ILR applicants from South Africa will still need to sit an English language test as South Africa is not on the exemption list.

You will need to meet the level of B1 in speaking, writing, listening and reading as set by  the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

You are exempt from this requirement if:

  • You are over 65
  • You have graduated in a course at degree level or higher which was taught in English at a recognised institution
  • You are a victim of domestic abuse
  • You are suffering from a long-term mental or physical condition
  • You are the partner or spouse of a person who has died who was a British citizen or person with settled status in the UK

If you have been living in the UK under a long-term visa or immigration permission for five years, you can usually apply for ILR. This includes those who have been living in the UK under a Spouse Visa, Tier 2 work visa and Ancestry Visa.

You could be eligible sooner if you have been living in the UK under the Investor Visa or Innovator Visa.

Yes, you will need to sit the Life in the UK test as part of the Indefinite Leave to Remain application process.

This is a multiple-choice computer test based on the history, culture, customs, traditions and geography of the United Kingdom. You need to score at least 75% to pass the test.

Those under 18 or over 65 are exempt from the test, as are those with a long-term physical or mental condition.

If you have been living in the UK under a Spouse Visa, you will be eligible for ILR after you have spent five years living in the UK, as long as your circumstances haven’t changed significantly.

You will need to fulfil all the standard ILR requirements, including the Life in the UK test and the English language test.

Any criminal conviction, whether spent or unspent, will be taken into consideration when you apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. Depending on the severity of the crime, your application could automatically be rejected.

Each case is considered on an individual basis. You are not automatically ineligible for ILR if you have a criminal conviction.

Our UK immigration lawyers are very well versed in Indefinite Leave to Remain applications. With many years of experience in the complex field of UK immigration law, we know the common pitfalls to avoid and what it takes to formulate a successful application.

We can help you through the entire application process with our specialist application package. With this service, we will pair you with one of our immigration lawyers who is experienced in settlement applications.

They will take the time to understand your case and help you to gather all your required information and documentation together to form your crucial portfolio of evidence. This guidance is invaluable, and can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful application.

They will complete your application form too, ensuring it adheres to all necessary administrative standards. We will also write a letter of representation to support your case when we submit your full application to the UK Home Office.

We will liaise with the Home Office throughout the processing stage and will keep you informed on the application’s progress.

We are confident in saying that if you choose to hire our services, we will maximise your chances of securing your settled status in the UK.

To find out more about our application package, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Call us now on 0333 305 3612 to speak with one of our friendly team.