ILR for Spouses & Unmarried partners

ILR for Spouses & Unmarried partnersPermission to settle in the UK is also known as indefinite leave to remain. You must meet all the requirements of the Immigration Rules at the time when you apply for settlement. New immigration rules that came into force on 9 July 2012 changed the length of time that family members must be in the UK before applying for settlement. This applies to partners of those who are British citizens, settled in the UK, in the UK with refugee leave or humanitarian protection, or here as a worker in a points-based category.

If you applied to come to the UK or for permission to stay here on or after 9 July 2012 and that permission was granted, you will need to be in the UK for 5 years before you qualify for settlement. You will initially be given leave to enter for 2 and half years and then you can apply for another period of 2 and half years.

You can apply for settlement as a husband, wife or civil partner if:

  • You have completed a period of 5 years in the UK with a visa or permission to remain here in this category
  • You are still the husband, wife or civil partner of the person specified in your visa or permission to remain
  • The marriage or civil partnership is existing and genuine (not a 'marriage of convenience', for example)
  • You and your partner both intend to live together permanently as husband and wife or civil partners
  • You have adequate accommodation where both of you and any dependants can live without needing public funds and at least part of that accommodation (for example, a bedroom) is for you and your partner's sole use
  • Both of you can support yourselves and any dependants without needing public funds
  • You do not have any unspent convictions within the meaning of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974
  • You have enough knowledge of the English language and life in the UK. (You do not need to meet this last requirement if you are aged 65 or over.)


You must be in the UK when you apply. You can make your application by post, by courier, in person at one of our public enquiry offices.

Time spent outside the UK 

The Immigration Rules do not say that you must have been in the UK for the entire 5 years of your visa or permission to remain. Your application to settle here will be judged on its merits, taking into account your reasons for travel, the length of your absences, and whether you and your partner travelled and lived together while you were outside the UK. If you have spent a limited time abroad in connection with your job, for example, this should not count against you.

If you delayed your entry to the UK 

If you were given a visa in this category but you then delayed your travel to the UK by up to 3 months, you can apply for settlement shortly before your visa expires. Provided you meet all the other requirements, we will put your application on hold until you have completed your 5 year qualifying period in the UK.

If you were given a visa in this category but you then delayed your travel to the UK by more than 3 months, you will need to apply for a further probationary period of 5 years. If we give you a further probationary period and you meet all the other requirements for settlement (including the knowledge of language and life), you will be able to apply for settlement as soon as you have completed a total of 5 years' probation (adding together your time spent in the UK under your visa and the necessary number of months from your second probationary period).

Life in the UK Test

This page explains how you can demonstrate that you have a good knowledge of language and life in the UK, in order to apply for settlement as the husband, wife or civil partner of a British citizen or someone present and settled here.

There are 2 ways to demonstrate your knowledge of language and life (KOL) in the UK:

  • If you are an English speaker you must pass the 'Life in the UK Test'.
  • If you are not an English speaker, you must pass a course in English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) which contains citizenship materials.

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