UK Spouse Visa ILR: Indefinite Leave to Remain Requirements

This relates to spouse visa ILR requirements in 2023. Transitioning from a UK Spouse Visa to Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is a crucial step for long-term residents in the UK. ILR offers increased stability, security, and access to various benefits, such as unrestricted work rights, access to public funds, and eligibility for British citizenship. This comprehensive guide for 2023 will walk you through the process of obtaining ILR, covering eligibility criteria, required documents, and the application process. By following this guide, you will be better equipped to navigate the transition from a UK Spouse Visa to ILR and improve your chances of a successful outcome.

Spouse Visa ILR Requirements
Understanding the Essential Criteria for Spouse Visa ILR in 2023

1. Introduction

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is a critical milestone for those on a UK Spouse Visa. This status marks a significant transition from temporary to permanent residency, granting the applicant more stability, security, and access to various benefits within the UK. These benefits include the ability to work without restrictions, access to public funds, and ultimately, the opportunity to apply for British citizenship.

This comprehensive guide aims to provide you with a clear understanding of the ILR application process for UK Spouse Visa holders. We will cover eligibility criteria, requirements you must meet, necessary documentation, the application process, common reasons for refusals, and the steps to take if your application is refused. By following this guide, you will be better equipped to navigate the ILR application process and improve your chances of a successful outcome.

UK Spouse Visa ILR Success and Refusal Rate

Between 2008-2017, 331,532 Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) grants were given to spouses or partners. The highest number of grants occurred in 2009, with 55,600. However, there has been a significant decrease in spouse visa ILR grants based on marriage since then, with the share of spouse settlement grants in total ILR grants dropping from 32.64% to 6.57%.

The average ILR success rate for spouses during 2008-2017 was 95.03%, peaking at 96.94% in 2013 and hitting a low of 91.89% in 2016. The average refusal rate for the same period was 5.23%, with the highest rate of 8.11% occurring in 2016.

During this period, 216,886 wives and 114,646 husbands received ILR grants based on marriage. The majority of these grants were given to spouses of British citizens. Notably, there was a decrease in ILR grants across all major and minor sub-categories, except for domestic violence and bereaved partner visa categories.

Same-sex partner categories experienced the most significant decline, with ILR grants plummeting from 53 for wives and 212 for husbands in 2008 to just 1 and 3 in 2017, respectively.

2. Eligibility for ILR After a Spouse Visa

Before applying for ILR, it is essential to understand the key criteria for eligibility and the differences between the 5-year and 10-year routes. These routes determine the timeline in which you can apply for ILR based on your specific circumstances.

Key Criteria for Spouse Visa ILR Eligibility:

  1. Continuous Residence: You must have been continuously living in the UK for either 5 years (on the 5-year route) or 10 years (on the 10-year route).
  2. Relationship: You must still be in a genuine and subsisting relationship with your partner, who is a British citizen or settled in the UK.
  3. Immigration Status: You must have been granted a UK Spouse Visa and have successfully extended it, meeting all the requirements during your stay.
  4. Financial Requirement: You must meet the financial requirement, proving you and your partner can support yourselves without recourse to public funds.
  5. English Language Requirement: You must demonstrate proficiency in the English language, meeting the required level as per the Home Office guidelines.
  6. Accommodation: You must have suitable and adequate accommodation for you, your partner, and any dependents.

5-year and 10-year Routes: Differences and Eligibility

The 5-year route is the most common route for those on a UK Spouse Visa. You can apply for ILR after 5 years of continuous residence in the UK, provided you meet all the eligibility requirements mentioned above.

The 10-year route, also known as the Long Residence route, is typically for individuals who have lived in the UK legally for 10 continuous years. While this route is less common for Spouse Visa holders, it may apply to those who have had various types of visas during their 10-year stay, including the Spouse Visa. In this case, the applicant must still meet the eligibility requirements for ILR, with some exceptions to the financial and English language requirements.

In summary, it is crucial to understand the eligibility criteria and the differences between the 5-year and 10-year routes to ensure a successful ILR application after holding a UK Spouse Visa.

Get Expert Guidance for All Types of UK Visa and Immigration Applications, Reapplications, Refusals, and Appeals.

    Enquiry Form

    What Happens Next?

    Our multilingual, qualified London-based immigration specialists will get back to you, usually within 2-3 working days. If you have not attached any documents, the UK-based law firm may ask for relevant case-specific documents such as refusal letters, deportation orders, application forms, etc. After reviewing the documents and information, the legal advisor may suggest a course of action and quote the fees for processing the application.

    Have a Wonderful Day!

    3. Requirements for UK Spouse Visa ILR Application

    To successfully apply for ILR after holding a UK Spouse Visa, you must meet specific requirements related to your relationship, immigration status, financial situation, English language proficiency, accommodation, and knowledge of life in the UK. In this section, we will discuss each requirement and their respective exceptions or exemptions.

    a. Relationship and Immigration Status Requirements:

    • You must still be in a genuine and subsisting relationship with your partner, who is a British citizen or settled in the UK.
    • Your partner must either be your spouse, civil partner, or an unmarried partner with whom you have been living together for at least two years.
    • You must have held a UK Spouse Visa and successfully extended it, meeting all the requirements during your stay.

    b. Financial Requirement and Exceptions:

    • You and your partner must meet the financial requirement, which is a minimum annual income of £18,600. This amount increases if you have any dependents.
    • Some exceptions apply, such as receiving specific disability or carer’s benefits, which may exempt you from meeting the financial requirement.

    c. English Language Requirement and Exemptions:

    • You must demonstrate English language proficiency at level B1 or higher, according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
    • Exemptions apply to applicants aged 65 or older, those with a physical or mental condition that prevents them from meeting the requirement, or individuals from majority English-speaking countries.

    d. Accommodation Requirement:

    • You must provide evidence of suitable and adequate accommodation for you, your partner, and any dependents without overcrowding, as per the Housing Act 1985.

    e. Life in the UK Test and Exceptions:

    • You must pass the Life in the UK Test, which assesses your knowledge of British culture, history, and values.
    • Exceptions to this requirement include applicants under 18 or over 65 years old and those with a long-term physical or mental condition that prevents them from taking the test.

    Understanding and meeting these requirements is crucial for a successful ILR application after holding a UK Spouse Visa. Make sure to gather all the necessary evidence and documentation to demonstrate your eligibility for ILR.

    4. Required Documents for UK Spouse Visa to ILR Application

    To support your ILR application, you must provide several documents that demonstrate your eligibility and compliance with the requirements. Here is a list of the essential documents you’ll need to submit with your application:

    a. Proof of Relationship:

    • Marriage or civil partnership certificate, if applicable
    • Evidence of cohabitation for at least two years if you are in an unmarried partnership
    • Correspondence that shows you and your partner have been living together at the same address

    b. Financial Documents:

    • Payslips, bank statements, or tax returns to show you meet the financial requirement
    • Evidence of any applicable exceptions, such as disability or carer’s benefits

    c. English Language Certificates:

    • A valid English language test certificate at CEFR level B1 or higher from an approved test provider
    • Evidence of any exemptions, such as age or medical conditions

    d. Accommodation Evidence:

    • Mortgage statements or rental agreements
    • Utility bills or council tax statements showing your name and address
    • A letter from your landlord, if applicable, confirming your living arrangements and that the property meets the Housing Act 1985 standards

    e. Life in the UK Test Pass Notification:

    • A copy of your Life in the UK Test pass notification, which demonstrates your knowledge of British culture, history, and values
    • Evidence of any exceptions, such as age or medical conditions

    f. Additional Documents (e.g., for children):

    • Birth certificates or adoption papers for any dependent children
    • Evidence of financial support for dependent children, if applicable

    Ensure that you gather all the necessary documents and submit them with your ILR application to avoid delays or refusals. Providing accurate and complete information is essential for a successful application.

    5. UK Spouse Visa to ILR Application Process

    Applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after holding a spouse visa involves several steps. Follow this process to ensure a smooth and successful application:

    When to apply for ILR:

    • Apply for ILR no earlier than 28 days before completing the qualifying period (either 5 or 10 years, depending on your route).
    • Ensure you have passed the Life in the UK Test and, if required, met the English language requirement before applying.

    Completing the SET(M) application form:

    • Use the SET(M) application form to apply for ILR as a spouse or partner.
    • Fill out the form accurately and completely, providing all the required information about your relationship, financial circumstances, and immigration history.

    Biometric Information and Appointment:

    • As part of your ILR application, you’ll need to provide your biometric information (fingerprints and photograph).
    • Once you have submitted your application, you will receive instructions on booking an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) center to provide your biometrics.

    Application Fees:

    • The current ILR application fee for the SET(M) form is £2,389 per applicant (fees are subject to change, so always check the latest fees before applying).
    • Additional fees may apply for premium services, such as priority processing or super-priority service.

    Processing Times:

    • Standard processing times for ILR applications can take up to six months, though many applications are decided within a shorter timeframe.
    • If you opt for priority processing (for an additional fee), your application may be processed within 5 working days.
    • The super-priority service (also for an additional fee) aims to process applications within 1 working day.

    Carefully following the application process and submitting all the required documents on time will increase your chances of obtaining ILR without delays or complications

    6. Common Reasons for Spouse Visa ILR Refusals

    It’s essential to be aware of common reasons for spouse visa ILR refusals to avoid potential pitfalls in your application process. Some of the most frequent causes of refusals include:

    Insufficient documentation:

    Failing to provide all the necessary documents to support your application can lead to a refusal. Double-check the list of required documents and ensure you have gathered everything needed to prove your eligibility.

    Failing to meet the financial requirement:

    The financial requirement for ILR is essential to demonstrate that you and your partner can maintain yourselves without recourse to public funds. If you don’t meet the minimum income threshold or don’t provide sufficient evidence, your application may be refused. Review the financial requirements and gather all the necessary documents to prove your income.

    Inadequate accommodation:

    You must provide evidence that you have suitable accommodation for yourself, your partner, and any dependents. If your living arrangements don’t meet the required standards or you fail to provide sufficient proof, your application could be refused. Ensure you have the necessary documentation to demonstrate suitable accommodation.

    Tips to avoid UK spouse visa ILR refusals:

    • Thoroughly review the spouse visa ILR requirements and ensure you meet all the eligibility criteria.
    • Gather all the necessary documents and double-check their accuracy and completeness.
    • Be mindful of the application deadline and submit your application within the appropriate timeframe.
    • Consider seeking professional advice from an immigration lawyer or adviser if you have concerns about your application.

    By addressing these common issues and following the tips provided, you can improve your chances of a successful ILR application.

    7. What to Do If Your Spouse Visa ILR Application Is Refused

    If your ILR application is refused, it can be disheartening, but there are still options available for you to consider. Here are the steps you can take:

    Right to appeal and administrative review:

    In some cases, you may have the right to appeal the decision or request an administrative review. If you believe the refusal was based on an error in the assessment of your application, you can submit an appeal or request a review within the specified time frame. Check your refusal letter for details on your rights and the procedure to follow.

    Reapplying for Spouse Visa ILR Application:

    If your application was refused due to insufficient documentation or failure to meet certain requirements, you may be able to reapply for ILR once you have rectified the issues. Before reapplying, carefully review the refusal reasons and ensure you address them adequately in your new application. Keep in mind that you will need to pay the application fees again, so make sure your application is as strong as possible to avoid further refusals.

    In both scenarios, it might be helpful to consult with an immigration lawyer or adviser who can guide you through the process and help you strengthen your case. They can provide valuable advice on how to improve your application or assist you with the appeal or administrative review process. Remember, it’s essential to act promptly and follow the required procedures to maximize your chances of success.

    8. Frequently Asked Questions

    UK Spouse Visa ILR Requirements: Key Points

    In this section, we will address some common queries related to the UK spouse visa ILR process.

    Can I apply for ILR before completing five years on a spouse visa?

    You must complete five years on a spouse visa before applying for ILR under the 5-year route. If you apply before completing five years, your application may be refused. However, if you are on the 10-year route, you can apply for spouse visa ILR after 10 years of continuous lawful residence in the UK.

    What happens if I don’t pass the Life in the UK Test before applying for spouse visa ILR?

    Passing the Life in the UK Test is a mandatory requirement for spouse visa ILR applications. If you do not pass the test before applying, your application may be refused. It is advisable to start preparing for the test well in advance and take the test as soon as you meet the eligibility criteria.

    Can I travel outside the UK while my spouse visa ILR application is pending?

    It is generally recommended to avoid travelling outside the UK while your spouse visa ILR application is being processed, as this may cause complications with your application. If you must travel, ensure you have a valid visa to return to the UK and inform the Home Office of your travel plans.

    What if my spouse and I separate or divorce before I apply for ILR?

    If your relationship with your spouse ends before you apply for ILR, you may no longer be eligible for ILR under the spouse visa route. In such cases, you should consult an immigration lawyer or adviser to explore other options for remaining in the UK, such as applying for a different type of visa.

    Do my children need to apply for ILR separately?

    Yes, your dependent children must also apply for ILR separately. You will need to provide documentation to prove their relationship to you and your spouse, and ensure they meet all the other eligibility criteria.

    If you have any additional questions, it is always a good idea to consult an immigration lawyer or adviser who can provide personalized guidance based on your unique situation.

    9. Conclusion

    In conclusion, obtaining Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is a crucial step for spouse visa holders who wish to secure their long-term future in the UK. Throughout this guide, we have discussed the spouse visa ILR eligibility criteria, requirements, application process, and potential reasons for refusal, aiming to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the UK spouse visa to ILR process.

    To recap, it is essential to ensure that you meet all the eligibility criteria, including the relationship, financial, English language, accommodation, and Life in the UK Test requirements. Providing accurate and complete documentation is crucial for a successful application. By diligently following the steps outlined in this guide, you can significantly increase your chances of obtaining ILR and enjoy the benefits of permanent residency in the UK.

    Remember that each individual case is unique, and consulting an immigration lawyer or adviser can provide personalized guidance tailored to your circumstances. We encourage you to use this guide as a starting point and wish you the best of luck in your ILR application journey.

    For further details relating to UK Spouse Visa to ILR please refer Gov.UK Appendix FM Immigration Rules.