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Refugee Settlement - Indefinite Leave to Remain in UK

Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) is a settlement pathway to the UK. Foreign nationals who have permission to stay in the country as refugees, or as persons with humanitarian protection status, or with Discretionary Leave, may apply for ILR.

For more information and/or legal advice regarding how to apply for ILR in the UK or whether you are eligible, dial +44 (0)161 826 9783 today to speak with our expert immigration advisers.

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    Overview of Refugee Settlement in the UK

    ILR is also known as ‘refugee settlement’, since it is a settlement route for people with refugee status, humanitarian protection or Discretionary Leave in the UK.

    Foreign nationals who have fled their home countries fearing persecution because of their racial origin, religious or political beliefs, nationality, sexual orientation, etc., or because their home countries are at war or undergoing internal armed conflicts, may claim asylum in the UK. Such people are referred to as asylum seekers while the Home Office processes their application.

    Successful asylum seekers may be granted refugee status in the UK, if their conditions meet the criteria as defined in Article 1 of the 1951 Refugee Convention. If they are not a refugee within the meaning of the said article, they will be considered for humanitarian protection instead.

    Discretionary Leave to remain in the UK, on the other hand, is a type of immigration permission that is given to certain immigrants who cannot be processed under existing immigration rules.

    Discretionary Leave is granted if an immigration application involves exceptional or special compassionate grounds that justify the individual being allowed to stay in the UK, e.g. medical grounds, victims of human trafficking etc.

    Foreign nationals with any of the above permission (i.e. refugee status, or humanitarian protection, or Discretionary Leave) may be able to apply for ILR in the UK, subject to fulfilling certain terms and conditions as specified by the Home Office.

    ILR allows foreign nationals the right to live, study, work or run their own businesses, and use public services (e.g. healthcare and education) in the UK for an indefinite period. They can also apply for social benefits and pensions if they fit the eligibility criteria for so.

    People with ILR can travel outside the UK using a Home Office travel document. Their family members may also be able to apply.

    Last but not the least, foreign nationals with ILR can also apply for British citizenship after a minimum of 12 months.

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    Eligibility Requirements for ILR for Refugees


    People having protection status (i.e. permission to stay as a refugee or persons with humanitarian protection) in the UK will need to meet the following criteria to be able to apply for ILR:

    • They must have a residence card
    • They have spent five years continuously in the UK with protection status

    To be able to apply for ILR, foreign nationals with Discretionary Leave must:

    • Continue to meet the eligibility criteria for Discretionary Leave in the UK (check your documents to understand what these criteria are)
    • Spend at least six years in the UK if they were first given Discretionary Leave on or before 8 July 2012
    • Spend at least 10 years in the UK if they were first given Discretionary Leave on or after 9 July 2012

    Additionally, ILR applicants must not:

    • Have been convicted of an offence resulting in imprisonment of:
      • Four years or more
      • One to four years, unless 15 years has passed since the end of that sentence
      • Less than a year, unless seven years has passed since the end of that sentence
    • Have been convicted of, or admitted to, an offence in the preceding 24 months of a decision on their ILR application, for which they have received a non-custodial sentence or other out-of-court disposal that is mentioned on their criminal record
    • Have, in the view of the Secretary of State, caused serious harm by their offending or persistent offending and shown a particular disregard for the law
    • Have their protection status revoked or renounced

    Changes Brought by the Nationality and Borders Act 2022

    The Nationality and Borders Act 2022 has brought significant changes to immigration and asylum policies in the UK.

    Under the new Immigration Rules, if a protection claim was made before 28 June 2022, successful applicants will be eligible for refugee settlement on completion of those five years.

    However, for protection claims made on or after 28 June 2022, successful applicants will be granted ‘temporary humanitarian permission to stay’ for 30 months. They will be eligible to apply for refugee settlement after 10 years under the separate long residence rules.

    Foreign nationals who have made their claim after 28 June 2022 and who have since been granted refugee status, will be subject to further conditions.

    Asylum seekers determined by the Home Office to be ‘Group 1 refugees’ will be granted five years leave to remain, with eligibility to apply for refugee settlement in the UK after those five years as before.

    However, people determined by the Home Office to be ‘Group 2 refugees’ will be granted ‘temporary refugee permission to stay’ for 30 months. They will, similar to the people with humanitarian protection, be eligible for settlement after 10 years under the long residence rules.

    Family Members Applying as Dependants

    Certain family members of people with protection status or Discretionary Leave can also apply to stay in the UK.

    Depending on their country of residence at the time of the application, i.e. whether they are already in the UK or outside the UK, the application processes will vary.

    Family Members in the UK

    Following dependent family members can apply for ILR to stay with you in the UK if:

    • They are your spouse or civil partner, or the person you have been in a genuine relationship with for two years before applying to settle in the UK
    • Your dependent children, including any children born in the UK
    • You have formed your family before you left your home country

    Partners and Children Outside the UK

    If your eligible family members are not in the UK, they may a) apply to be reunited with you if you formed your family before you left your home country, or b) apply for a family visa if you formed your family after you left.

    In cases where the family was formed after the main applicant left their home country, the eligible family members will have to first apply for a family visa to join the main applicant in the UK.

    If there is an adult relative who is dependent upon you, they can also apply for a visa to join you in the UK if:

    • The are over 18 years of age
    • They have a family visa as your adult dependent relative
    • You have protection status in the UK

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      Document Requirements for ILR

      The supporting documents you must submit along with your ILR application include:

      • Your current and/or expired passports, or any other valid travel documents
      • Birth certificate
      • National Identity Cards, if any
      • Current Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)
      • Any documents that prove that you have established a life in the UK
      • Any documents that shows that you have had a continuous residence in the UK for the period required in your case (i.e. five, six or 10 years)
      • UK proofs of residence
      • Police certificate, if applicable
      • Proofs of any social benefits you may be receiving in the UK
      • Documents that explain any absence from the UK, where applicable
      • Evidence of cohabitation (if applying in the partner-visa route)
      • Marriage certificate for spouse and birth certificates for dependent children included in your application

      Please note that the above list is not an exhaustive one. The Home Office may ask for additional documents supporting your case.

      How to Apply for ILR as Refugee in the UK


      ILR application is an online process. You will have to apply in the last month of your current permission to stay in the UK.

      Depending on your situation, i.e. whether you are a person with protection status or with Discretionary Leave, you will have to choose your relevant form on the Home Office website.

      You will also be required to submit relevant documents along with your application, which we have discussed in the next section.

      Application Process for People with Protection Status

      Please select your relevant form on the Home Office website. You may include your dependent family members in your application, or they may apply separately.

      You will be required to prove your identity at the time of your application. You may either use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan your identity document, or provide your biometric information at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) point. This information is required to get a BRP.

      You can also upload your supporting documents online, or can have them scanned at a UKVCAS service point, if you are required to attend one.

      Your dependent family members will also have to prove their identity with their biometric information at a UKVCAS service point as part of their application, if they are applying separately.

      Application Process for People with Discretionary Leave

      People with Discretionary Leave will have to choose their relevant form on the Home Office website depending on why they originally got Discretionary Leave. They will need to make an appointment at a UKVCAS service point to provide their biometric information.

      They will have to upload their relevant supporting documents online, or can have the documents scanned during their UKVCAS appointment.

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        ILR Processing Time

        Typically, the Home Office takes up to six months to reach a decision on ILR applications.

        People with Discretionary Leave may opt for the ‘super priority service’, and get a decision within two working days by paying an extra £1,000. People with refugee status or humanitarian protection cannot use the super priority service.

        The processing time may increase if your supporting documents will need to be verified, or you will need to attend an interview, or because of your personal circumstances, e.g. a criminal conviction etc.

        Please do not travel outside the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man while your ILR application is being processed, since your application will be withdrawn if you do so.

        ILR Processing Fees

        You will not be required to pay any fee if you have permission to stay as a refugee in the UK, or if you have humanitarian protection. Your spouse/civil partner and children will not have to pay any fees either if they are applying as your dependent family members.

        Foreign nationals with Discretionary Leave in the UK will, however, have to pay a fee of £2,885 for each ILR application, i.e. for themselves as well as any eligible family member included in their application.

        What Can I Do If My Application Has Been Refused?

        After reviewing your ILR application, the Home Office may refuse the same, even if you are granted further leave to remain. You will have no right to appeal against the refusal of settlement.

        Only if your application has been refused because of your protection status being revoked, you will have a right to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber), even if you have been granted further leave to remain in the UK on non-protection grounds.

        How Manchester Immigration Lawyers Can Help You

        Applying for ILR in the UK for yourself and your dependent family members is a reasonably straightforward process.

        However, you will need to have a clear and thorough understanding of the processes and policies involved before you make your ILR application, especially with the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 now in place.

        It is necessary that you have the relevant supporting documents ready with you, and are aware of the present situation in your home country. You must not have travelled to your home country while staying in the UK with protection status or applied for a national passport.

        You should also be aware that any criminal conviction while in the UK may jeopardise your chance to settle in the UK.

        In short, if there are any circumstances present in your case that may lead to your ILR application being refused or your protection status being revoked by the Home Office, please have a detailed answer ready that explains the said circumstances as well as satisfactorily pleads why you must continue to have a protection status in the UK.

        At Manchester Immigration Lawyers, our team of expert immigration advisers can advise and assist you with your ILR application and supporting documentation, regardless of the complexity of your case.

        Please consider booking a one-to-one advice session with one of our immigration lawyers to find out more information about the refugee settlement route in the UK, and whether you are eligible to apply.

        We also offer document and application checking services to ensure your supporting documents and application are at par with the Home Office standards and guidelines.

        Call us today on +44 (0)161 826 9783 to speak to our legal team.

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                  Related pages for your continued reading.

                  Frequently Asked Questions

                  No. Foreign nationals living in the UK with a refugee status or humanitarian protection, or with Discretionary Leave, are exempted from the English Language Requirement.

                  Yes. If you travel back to your home country where you sought asylum from, or stay outside the UK for more than 48 months, you may lose your indefinite leave to remain in the country.