Home » Immigration Law » What is a UK settlement visa?

A UK settlement visa is a type of visa category which allows a person to live, work and study in the UK. There are almost no restrictions to a settlement visa in the UK. Having permanent settled status in the UK is commonly referred to as having ‘indefinite leave to remain’, so if you are granted it this is what it will say on your letter from the Home Office.

Who can apply for UK settlement?

There are a range of people who can apply for settlement, and how they do so will depend on how they originally entered the UK.

Many people choose to settle in the UK on the basis of their long-term, continuous residence. In order to do so, you must have been living in the UK legally for a continuous period of at least ten years. You must not have left the UK for a continuous period of 180 days or more in this ten-year period, because this is seen as breaking the necessary ‘continuous residence’ period.

If you have lived part of your life in the UK unlawfully, for example if you originally entered illegally or have spent some of your time here in prison, you could still apply for settlement. However, if this is the case you will have to wait until you have accumulated a period of twenty years continuous residence in the UK before applying for your settlement visa. Any time in prisons, secure hospitals or young offenders’ institutions does not count towards your twenty years.

It is also possible to apply for a UK settlement visa as a family member of a settled person or British citizen. This option can be taken up by unmarried and married partners, couples in a civil partnership, or children of British citizens or settled people. There are certain requirements that family members must meet, including:

  • Providing evidence of a romantic relationship with their partner
  • Providing evidence of adequate finances for the five-year partner visa route
  • Providing proof that children will live with the settled person/British citizen when in the UK

These are just a few general requirements for obtaining a settlement visa on the basis of a relationship with a family member. In order to be certain that you fulfil all the requirements, it’s best to seek the advice of experts in immigration.

When you can apply for UK settlement

The period of time after which you can apply for a UK settlement visa depends on how you gained entry into the UK originally, and on what basis you are applying for settlement.

If you are applying for settlement on the basis of your relationship with a family member who is a UK resident or British citizen, the minimum amount of time you must be a continuous resident in the UK for, is five years. If you are applying on your own merit, you will either be able to take the ten or twenty year route, all depending on whether you have been living in the UK lawfully for the whole time or not.

You should take into account that any UK settlement visa application can take a long time to complete and get a decision on, so you will likely have to wait a while to receive your settled status. Thus, you should submit your application before the end of your current permitted stay in the UK. You will have to submit your application 28 days or less before the end of a ‘qualifying period’, which runs either from the date you entered the UK with a visa, or the date on which you were first granted permission to remain in the UK.

If you are granted settlement in the UK, you can remain indefinitely (hence – indefinite leave to remain). This means there are pretty much no restrictions, and you can come and go as you please as long as your main residence is in the UK. After one year of holding indefinite leave to remain, you can apply for British citizenship if you are an adult or to register a child (which is applying for their citizenship).

Applying to settle in the UK is a complex and often confusing process, so it’s always a good idea to seek the help of a professional immigration solicitor if you are unsure of anything.

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