For many people living in the UK on a visa, Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) represents the end of a lot of uncertainty.
While it does not make you a naturalised British Citizen, IRL does grant you the right to live and work in the UK without too many immigration restrictions.
Applying can be an exciting time.
However, you may come to apply, only to realise your previous visa has expired. In these cases, it is natural to feel nervous about how this impacts your chances of successfully applying for indefinite leave to remain.
In this article, we are going to look at how you can apply for ILR, along with what to do if your visa has expired.
Before we do, though, it is important to note that IRL applications can be complex at the best of times, so you should always consider seeking the support of an experienced immigration solicitor.
Indefinite leave to remain is not just given to anyone. Unsurprisingly, there are a number of eligibility criteria you need to qualify for. These include:
Once you are confident you are eligible, you will need to complete the relevant paperwork. This will vary depending on whether you are applying as the partner or parent of someone already settled in the UK, or applying following living in the UK on a visa.
Alongside this paperwork, you will need to compile supporting documentation, such as a valid passport or travel document. Other documentation will vary from case to case, but you will likely need to also provide evidence of your finances and evidence to support any absences you have had from the UK.
Finally, you will need to pay a fee to submit your application.
Once you have submitted your application, you will need to provide biometric data. This will include your fingerprint, along with a digital photo of your face and your signature.
This information will be used to build your biometric residence permit, which will be provided to you if your ILR application is approved. You can then use it to confirm your right to work or study in the UK and your right to access public services or benefits.
In some cases, you may be asked to attend an interview. This will be to verify any facts or documentation or because the Home Office requires further information.
These interviews typically only take place in complex applications, so your solicitor should be able to give you an idea of whether you should expect to attend an interview.
The window for when you can apply for indefinite leave to remain is narrow. You should not apply more than 28 days before your current leave ends. If you do, your application may be refused and you will lose your fee.
We all know life can be hectic, and with such a limited time to apply, it is not surprising that in some cases, people fail to apply in time. This is made worse by the fact that the Home Office does not notify you when your visa expires.
So, what are your options when applying for indefinite leave to remain after your visa has expired?
Once your visa has expired, you will be considered an ‘overstayer’. This means you will not be entitled to the same rights you previously had. For example, you may lose your right to work. However, even as an overstayer, you can still send children to school until they turn 16, use emergency services and access emergency healthcare.
Under previous rules, overstayers could apply for leave to remain within 28 days of the expiry of their previous leave to remain. The Home Office allocated this time to deal “fairly and consistently with people who may have made an innocent mistake.” As a result, a late application did not have to damage your chances of success.
Unfortunately, this changed some years ago, and the rules around applying for ILR after visa expiry tightened.
Now, applications may be refused if you have stayed after your visa has expired. However, you may have a small period of overstay disregarded if you apply within 14 days of the end of your visa.
Not only has the time you can apply in been halved, but you also have to show that you had ‘good reason’ for applying late. That means if you simply forget to apply, it is likely that your application will be refused.
While there is no concrete information about what constitutes as ‘good reason’, the Home Office has offered some examples, such as:
Due to the speed in which you need to apply, acting quickly is vital if your visa has expired. While there are a few places to get help, your best chance for completing your application in time is to seek the help of an experienced immigration solicitor.
If your visa has expired and you have not yet applied for Indefinite Leave to Remain, there may still be time to do so. However, as with any element of UK immigration law, the paperwork and documentation required can be complex and time-consuming to pull together.
For that reason, it is important that you speak to a solicitor as soon as possible.
If you need to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain and your visa has expired, get in touch with our experienced immigration solicitors to find out how we can help you.