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When can a spouse apply for indefinite leave to remain?

If you are the married partner of a British citizen or a settled person on a Spouse visa, an application to indefinite leave to remain could be a logical next step to begin settling in the UK together. Here we go through making the application on a Spouse visa. If you need advice or support with this or any other immigration-related topic, call us on 0203 411 1966.

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    Applying for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) is key for people who wish to settle in the UK.

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    What is indefinite leave to remain?

    Indefinite leave to remain is an immigration status you can apply for after residing for a certain amount of time living in the UK lawfully. Being successful in your application means you can have permanent residency in the country. It is designed for people who wish to build a life long-term in the UK.

    ILR could be the next logical step from many visa routes, including a Skilled Worker visa or Innovator visa.

    Can someone on a Spouse visa apply for indefinite leave to remain? 

    As a foreign national married partner or spouse, you will have entered the UK on a Spouse visa. Being able to achieve settled status means you and your partner can begin planning your life together.

    Your first grant of leave with a spouse visa will only be 30 months if you apply from inside the UK.  Indefinite leave to remain requires you to have been resident in the country for five years. Therefore, you will have to extend your residence requirement via spouse visa for another 30 months, to then be eligible to apply after five years.

    Is there a three-year route to settlement for people on Spouse visas?

    For people on Spouse visas, the promise of being able to achieve settlement in three years sounds like a positive prospect. However, this can be a trap that applicants can accidentally fall into. Spouse visa applicants are technically able to apply for British citizenship after three years.

    However, to be a citizen, you must have already achieved settlement in the UK and not be under any immigration restrictions – meaning you must have successfully received indefinite leave to remain for a full 12 months. To apply for this, you will need to have lived in the UK for five years, as already stated.

    Therefore, while there is technically a ‘shortcut’ route to citizenship for spouses, this doesn’t take into account the need for civil partner to have already been ‘settled’ for a year. After that, the individual could then apply for British citizenship.

    Applying for indefinite leave to remain from a Spouse visa 

    The rules on eligibility criteria for applying for settlement can be found under Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules. These provisions state the person would be eligible to apply if they had:

    a) at least 60 months in the UK with:

    (i) leave to enter granted on the basis of entry clearance as a partner

    (ii) limited leave to remain as a partner or,

    (iii) a combination of (i) and (ii)

    Essentially, this means most people who are married to a settled person or British citizen will qualify for indefinite leave to remain after five years of residency in the UK with limited leave under a Spouse visa. An applicant could also be on the 10 year ‘Partner Route’, which means they can only apply for indefinite leave to remain after 10 years of lawful residence in the UK. This would require them to make an application for ‘Further Leave to Remain’ every 30 months.


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    What are the requirements to apply for indefinite leave to remain as a married partner? 

    Indefinite Leave to Remain requirements not only cover how long the person has been in the UK, but many other factors too. On top of being in the UK for five years, it’s important that your application can also evidence all of the below:

    • Lawful residence without breaking any immigration rules
    • No more than 180 days spent outside of the country in any 12 month period
    • A pass for the Life in the UK test
    • Evidence of English to a B1 level

    To have successfully applied for a Spouse visa, the applicant will have already passed an English language test to the required level. This could be from taking a test at a certified test centre, or that you have an equivalent qualification that shows English proficiency at the required level.

    An applicant could also show this having completed university degree studies in the UK. If the degree was taken outside the UK, the language requirement may still be met if the degree was researched and undertaken in English. In both cases, the original degree certificate will be required as proof, as well as confirmation that the degree was taught in English.

    Financial requirements 

    To apply for indefinite leave to remain from a Spouse visa, the applicant must be able to prove finances of £29,000 (as of Spring 2024) which will gradually increase to £38,700 in the next couple of years. To meet this financial requirement, applicants can include:

    • Income from employment or self-employment
    • Savings over £16,000 in any currency held for at least six months
    • Stocks, shares and other investments

    You must prove that you and your UK national partner meet the Spouse Visa financial requirement. You must meet the combined income threshold for a Spouse Visa of at least £29,000, with planned increases to £34,500 and eventually £38,700.

    Importantly, from Spring 2024 onward, the minimum income requirement will no longer include a separate child element. This eliminates the need for additional funds per child.

    Please note that these figures are subject to change once the new immigration rules come into effect from Spring 2024.

    Just as with the Spouse visa application, the spouse and their partner must show they have adequate accommodation in the UK. Conditions must be sage and the accommodation requirement have enough rooms to have space for all family members.

    Genuine relationship requirement

    Again, just as with applying for a Spouse visa, you must be able to prove your married relationship is still ‘genuine and subsisting’. After five years on the Spouse visa, the Home Office will want to review the relationships circumstances to ensure it remains the same from the last application, before granting indefinite leave to remain.

    Applicants could be asked to provide proof including:

    • Texts or chat logs or any other form of communication
    • Documents to prove you live together, such as mortgage or tenancy agreement
    • Shared bank accounts

    Immigration Advice from IAS

    It is recommended that you seek immigration advice from a trained legal professional when making an application for indefinite leave to remain from a spouse visa holder. IAS is here to provide the support you need to settle together in the UK as a married couple. Get in touch with us by calling 0203 411 1966.