How To: Apply for ILR in the UK

Okay – due to frantic FB statuses and angsty tweets – most people have figured out that I’ve been in the process of applying for my Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK. After a few questions from friends, thought it would be helpful to do a post on the process and need-to-knows! Before I begin:

DISCLAIMER: I am not an immigration guru, do not quote me! The information here is from my own research and experience but I have compiled it to the best of my abilities to help where I can :) If you read this and spot any mistakes or mis-information, please let me know so that I can correct it. Everything I have written here is applicable to laws/rules currently in place now (i.e. February 2011).

As background and for a basic definition, check out this Wiki-Link. After the abolishment of the 2 year working visa a while ago, it’s safe to say that most Seff Efricans these days are here on Mud Island with Tier One or Ancestry visas, perhaps some on on Spouse or various other dependency visas… Whatever – after a full 5 years in the UK and within 28 days of your visa expiring, it is necessary for you to apply for ILR unless you are planning to leave and move home…

In summary, applying for ILR is subject to the following:

– You have to have lived and worked here continuously for 5 years
– You need to apply for ILR within 28 days of your visa expiring
– Any absences (i.e. holidays, traveling etc outside of the UK) should not exceed 3 months at a time, preferably not more than a month though…
– Your absences from the UK (i.e holidays, traveling etc) may not exceed 6 months (180 days) in total over the 5 year period <NOTE: This fact has been confirmed with the Home Office…>

Visa Agency vs. DIY Applications

Given the extortionate costs we have to pay to apply for ILR (which I’ll get to in a bit), some of you may ask “Should I use a Visa Specialist?” who will inevitably add more expense, or “Should I do this on my own?”… The answer to that depends on your confidence, organisation and available time.

Agency Pros:
– most agency’s have a “no win, no fee” policy and will not submit your application if they are not 100% satisfied with it
– someone else can double check that you have supplied sufficient and all required evidence
– they will arrange your bookings and/or collections for Fast-Track applications etc (I’ll get to that later too!)
Cons: their services obviously come at a price…

DIY Pros:
– you only pay fees required by the home office, no extra agency fees!
Cons: if you make a mistake, you make a mistake – there is no-one (unless you have a super-informed friend) to check your documents before you submit your application…

The choice is yours! Because I am basically a paranoid schizophrenic, and because hubby slash best friend is a dependent on my visa which adds a bit of spice to the mix, we decided to go the Agency route for peace of mind – if you are organised, confident in your checking and research, and give yourself enough time – I don’t see why a DIY application would cause too many issues.

The Deets

Here’s the knitty-gritty, regardless of whether you go via an agency or not. The application form you will use (based on your current visa being a Tier 1, Ancestry or HSMP visa etc) is the SET(O) form (click here for more info, scroll down to the SET(O) section…)

There are 2 ways to apply:
1. send your application in by post
2. apply in person at a Public Enquiry Office (nearest to London is the Croydon office of joy) – but note that this is a premium service, and you will need to pay a premium fee (you will also need to make an appointment). The benefits are that it is faster (processing-wise) and that your ILR ’12 months’ may start sooner than it would if you were to go the postal route (the 12 months starts from the date of processing). Read here for more info on applying in person – note that cash is not accepted, but you can pay by credit card, banker’s draft or postal order.

How long will it take?
According to their service standards, the Home Office will:
– decide 95% of postal applications within six months; and
– decide 90% of applications made in person at a public enquiry office within 24 hours.

How much will it cost?
Refer to the form available below for details of Home Office costs. If you decide to go with an agency, obtain a quote from them on their services. (You’ll be looking at around £600-£800 on top of Home Office fees if you choose to use a visa specialist service – up to you to decide whether it is worth the risk and/or money…)

FORM: click here for a PDF version of the form. Section 9 of the SET(O) form lists the documents that you must send with your application as proof that you have lived here for 5 years and that you can support yourself without any recourse to public funds.

You require all of the following documents in support of your application (please also refer to the SET(O) form which details all of this):

For ALL visas:

1) Your current passport or travel document. If you last entered the UK on a previous passport or travel document, please also provide this document if you have it. Include your Biometrics Residence Permit  and the original Home Office approval letters for your this (the ‘credit card’ thing) if you have been issued with one since entering the UK.

2) Evidence of your finances – original bank statements for the last three months. You can provide evidence of your current account and/or savings account. Ensure that the most recent statements are dated within 1 month from the date of submission of the application to the Home Office. (These cannot be printed from your online account, they must be original paper statements or statements printed and stamped by your bank.)

3) A Life in the UK test pass notification letter (see below for info on Life in the UK tests…)

4) Two recent passport photos (size 45mm x 35 mm). Ensure that your photos meet the Home Office photo requirements

5) Proof of address (tenancy agreement and a recent utility bills etc)

6) Travel list of all trips taken within the past 5 years, including date of departure from the UK, date of return to the UK, country visited and purpose.

7) Home Office application fees

8 ) Completed, dated and signed SET(O) application form – in black ink (note that if you are going the Agency route, your application adviser may fill this in for you after a series of questions from themselves.)

IN ADDITION to the above, depending on which visa you currently hold, you will also require the following documentation:

For work permit holders:
– Recent document(s) from the employer named in your current work permit confirming that you are still needed and that your employment with them is continuing.
– Document(s) confirming that you have spent a continuous period of 5 years in the UK.

For Highly Skilled visas:
– If you are employed, document(s) showing your economic activity and your personal earnings during your stay in the UK (payslips etc).
– If you are self-employed, you should provide evidence of the progress of the business (you need to supply the latest 3 months worth of invoices and dividend voucher slips.)

For Tier 1 visas:

– Evidence that you are economically active in the UK in employment or self-employment or both. The evidence should take the form of documents showing your personal earnings (if you are employed, you need to supply the latest 3 months of pay slips) or business accounts (if you are self-employed, you need to supply the latest 3 months worth of dividend vouchers).

For Ancestry visas (This is the one I did):
– Your full birth certificate showing your parents’ names.
– Evidence that one of your grandparents was born in the UK or Islands. The evidence must be formal documents such as full birth certificates for your parents and grandparent and, where necessary to establish the relationship, marriage certificates and/or adoption papers.
– Document(s) showing that you are able to work and intend to take or seek employment in the UK (letter from boss, payslips etc)

In any cases of the above where Self-Employment is applicable, you will probably need to supply:
– a letter from your managing agent confirming your self-employment
– the latest 3 months worth of invoices / remittance advices
– the latest 3 months of dividend vouchers/ salary slips
– certificate of incorporation if applicable
– business bank statements for the latest 3 months
– original P60 tax certificates for the previous 5 years
– most recent tax calculation

In any case of the above where dependents are concerned: refer to the SET(O) form for guidance on what else needs to be supplied by your dependents. (We also did this so happy to answer questions where I can…)

Life in the UK Tests
All information relating to Life in the UK Tests can be found on the following website: We did our test at the Wimbledon Library (35 Wimbledon Hill Road, London, Telephone: 0845 408 4938) – you need to book in advance for a timeslot. You need to read the ‘Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship‘ book (you can buy it online or at Waterstones etc), and if you want to do some extra work, you can get the ‘Passing the Life in the UK Test: Official Practice Questions and Answers’ book which is quite helpful. The test costs around £30 and is quite easy, but make no mistake, you do need to read the book!

For those with iPhones, check THIS out!

Recommended Visa Agencies

Nexus Visas – although I didn’t use Nexus (I didn’t realise they did immigration visas, my bad) I ALWAYS get my schengan visas through them and would definitely recommend them for this purpose too.

Breytenbachs/BIC – I have used Breytenbachs on three separate occasions – I think they are quite pricey but they have been very helpful and all my applications have been successful so far (fingers crossed on this one!)…

OKAY! I think that is all – my brain is fried from just writing it all out, again, please take note of this: DISCLAIMER: I am not an immigration guru, do not quote me! The information here is from my own research and experience but I have compiled it to the best of my abilities to help where I can :) If you read this and spot any mistakes or mis-information, please let me know so that I can correct it. Everything I have written here is applicable to laws/rules currently in place now (i.e. February 2011).

Shout if any further questions and GOOD LUCK!


17 thoughts on “How To: Apply for ILR in the UK

  1. Tam van Wyk says:

    What a legend!! This info is awesome! Thanks friend and good luck with your application! Lots love, Tam xx

  2. TDR says:

    This is an awesome in depth post. I am so glad I never had to go through such dramas for a passport but I hope that those who will do listen to your advice

    • Andrea says:

      Pleasure, thanks for reading/commenting – nice to know my random blogging is useful ;)

  3. AB says:

    would an ILR application with more 180 days out of the UK be still considered at the discretion of caseworkers (more than 180 days consistent with annual paid leave but not for business)?

    • Andrea says:

      Hi AB,

      I’m not an expert by any means but from chatting with friends etc, I think if there is a good reason you have gone over your 180 days (eg. a family death or illness etc) then your app might probably still be considered (you’d have to get doctors notes etc to prove it), however, if you’ve gone over 180 days just for pure leisure/travel reasons then probably not (I know a couple of people who have had to wait a couple of extra months to a year to ‘make up the time’ for having gone over the limit..)

      Sorry not to be of more help! Good luck,

  4. AB says:

    Thanks Andrea. Some people say that it should be fine to get an employer letter to confirm that absences were consistent with annual leave (even if the absences were not for work), others say what you just said, wait to make up the time and have total absences less than 180 days and make a clean and strong application. It looks like it alos depends on the caseworkers and the place PEO where one applies to. Similar cases might be regarded differently in different PEOs.

    • Andrea says:

      True! It’s very subjective and with rules changing all the time, I always think it’s safer to make the strongest possible case :)
      Good luck!

    • Andrea says:

      PS. Im busy waiting for my actual passport application to go through so watch this space for updates on that whole process! Cant wait for it to be over!

  5. Wilmarie says:

    Hi Andrea,

    My husband and I need to apply for ILR at the moment. He is currently on a Work Permit and I am dependent on his Visa.

    I’m so nervous about the whole thing, can hardly sleep! My main concern is the fact that although his salary is higher than is required for his job type (according to the SOC papers), we have had a few dips and we aren’t doing very well financially…by this I mean that our overdraft is in constant use, with the odd Pay Day Loan as well. No defaults, CCJ’s or anything like that though.

    Did you find that finances mattered much with your app, or are they mainly concerned with the income you do receive?

    Due to the above, I am also very dubious as to whether we should use an agency. Obviously I want the case to be stronger and I want the additional peace of mind, but at the same time, I’m already getting worried about the money to pay for this additional service! Our case is very straight forward (I’ve done a few free assessments with Visa Agencies, under the pretense of using them for the app) and they have all said this to me, “straight forward.” Would you ever have attempted doing this on your own when you were applying?

    Great post, thank you for all the info!!

    (= W

    • Wilmarie says:

      Sorry, just another point….are the pre-check centres that UKBA offer (cost £40) worth it??

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Wilmarie,

      Try not to worry about it too much – there is nothing you can change about what your bank account reflects and I assume you will go through with the application regardless, right? (Or is there an option to do it at a later stage when finances might be more settled?)

      Either way, as far as I know, they are just checking to see that you can stand on your own two feet and have regular income coming in. Their viewpoint is that they don’t want people ‘living off the system’ and claiming too many benefits etc.

      Now that we have gone through this application process – if I had to do it again, I would do it on my own. Obviously using an agency affords you the security of knowing that your submission is fail proof, but as you know, their fees can be quite frightening.

      I haven’t used the UKBA pre-check service myself but I know people who have and they were very happy with it so if you aren’t going the agency route, I’d say that it’s a small price to pay for further piece of mind.

      I would recommend going the ‘fast track/apply in person’ route if possible because I have heard horror stories recently about how long the normal applications are taking.

      Good luck, hope this helps!


      PS. a reminder to check info above – this post was written in the beginning of 2011 so forms and requirements may have changed…

  6. Bridget says:

    Hi, Thank you so much for this – just GREAT! Do you know if the 180 days over the 5 years is still relevant? I ask only because as i read the forms it seems that its ‘no more than 180 days in any 12 month period’.

    Also, if I may, which days do you count when adding up the 180? weekends, bank holidays, but ignore both the flying and landing days?

    thank you again!

  7. Andrea says:

    Hi Bridget,

    No problem, hope it helps :)

    As far as I know, the “180 days over 5 years” thing still stands and you shouldn’t be out of the country for more than 1-3 months at a time. If I recall correctly, everything is counted except for the day on which your flight departs, and the day on which you land back in the UK. Worth checking with Home Office if you are concerned about your numbers, especially if your total is very close to 180 – I had a friend who had to delay her application because she had exceeded the amount, not worth the risk!

    Good luck!

  8. Lee-Ann Milton says:

    Hi there, I am in the process of applying for ILR based on ancestry, do you know if I have to complete section 5 and all the requirements relating to maternity and work permit holders on the set o form. I have completed everything, this is the only bit that racks my brain.


    Lee-Ann ;)

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