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DISCLAIMER: I am not an immigration guru, do not quote me!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.
– 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…
– 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.
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: www.lifeintheuktest.gov.uk 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!