Indefinite Leave To Remain Vs Citizenship: What's The Difference?
Many people come to the UK to live and work every year. Most arrive on a UK visa. But if they decide to stay in the UK on a longer-term basis, they can apply for indefinite leave to remain.
Indefinite leave to remain is sometimes known as settlement, and it means you can stay in the UK for as long as you like, provided you meet certain conditions. In 2021, the UK government made almost 108,000 settlement decisions. 98% of applicants were granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
Citizenship isn’t the same as indefinite leave to remain — it actually gives you more rights in the UK. There were 183,414 UK citizenship applications in the year ending September 2022.
So what’s the difference between indefinite leave to remain and UK citizenship? In this article, you’ll learn:
- The benefits of indefinite leave to remain vs citizenship
- Who’s eligible to apply for settlement vs citizenship
- How to apply for citizenship if you have indefinite leave to remain.
Is indefinite leave to remain the same as citizenship?
Indefinite leave to remain gives you the permanent right to live and work in the UK. But you’re still ineligible for certain rights, such as voting, standing for public office, and getting a UK passport.
Getting British citizenship gives you the same rights as a person born in the UK to British parents, including all of the above.
The benefits of indefinite leave to remain vs UK citizenship
Most people with indefinite leave to remain become eligible to apply for British citizenship after a year of getting settlement status. But not all people choose to become a UK citizen.
Here are the benefits of sticking with indefinite leave to remain in the UK:
- The UK recognises dual nationality, but not all countries do. Indefinite leave to remain allows you to live in the UK permanently without losing your original citizenship
- There are no restrictions on living and working in the UK, unlike with some visas
- You don’t have to pay the immigration health surcharge to access the NHS
- You’re eligible to apply for British citizenship after a year.
Some people choose to apply for UK citizenship after a year of having indefinite leave to remain. With citizenship, you can:
- Vote in UK elections, and therefore have a say in issues that affect you and your family
- Get a UK passport, which may enable you to travel more freely
- Leave the UK for as long as you like without losing your right to live here.
Whether you choose to stay in the UK on a visa, apply for indefinite leave to remain, or apply for citizenship is up to you.
Can you apply for citizenship if you have indefinite leave to remain?
Yes. If you have indefinite leave to remain in the UK, you can apply for British citizenship no sooner than one year after getting settled status.
How long does it take to get citizenship if you have indefinite leave to remain?
You can start your application one year after you get indefinite leave to remain in the UK. But the amount of time it takes to get citizenship depends on the evidence you already have to support your application.
For example, you may need to study for and pass an English proficiency test if you don’t already have an approved qualification. All citizenship applicants also need to pass a test on life in the UK.
It can take up to six months to receive a decision after you submit your citizenship application.
Can you lose indefinite leave to remain or UK citizenship?
Both indefinite leave to remain and citizenship can be revoked if you’re found to have achieved them fraudulently.
Otherwise, you can only lose your indefinite right to remain in the UK if you leave the country for 2 years or more continuously.
Citizenship can only be lost in limited circumstances:
- The government decides it’s for “public good” and the person won’t be made stateless;
- Citizenship has been obtained through fraud
- The person’s actions could harm UK interests, and they’re eligible for citizenship in another country
It’s rare for the UK government to strip people of citizenship, but it has happened in recent years.
How to apply for citizenship if you have indefinite leave to remain
Indefinite leave to remain is often a prerequisite for UK citizenship if you’re not a citizen by birth. If you decide you want to become a British citizen, you need to make an application. You can do this online or via an agency.
As part of your application, you’ll be asked to provide:
- Biometric information — a photograph and fingerprints
- Identity and permanent residence documents
- Proof of English language proficiency
- Proof that you’ve passed the Life in the UK test
- Your immigration history, including visas you’ve held to enter the UK
- Details of travel outside the UK
- Proof that you have indefinite leave to remain in the UK
You’ll also need to pay a fee (currently £1,330) to apply for citizenship.
What proof can I provide of indefinite leave to remain?
Evidence of indefinite leave to remain is usually one of the following:
- A biometric residence permit
- A ‘no time limit’ passport stamp
- A letter from the Home Office confirming you have indefinite leave to remain.
Learn more about life in the UK
Bloom aims to help all newcomers to the UK create a life for themselves and their families in the UK. In our Learning Hub, find all kinds of essential information about UK life, including: