If you are a foreigner who is living in the United Kingdom or you are seriously considering pursuing UK immigration, you are likely concerned about your future or potential status in the country. If you have looked into the process by which a non-British national receives a more permanent form of status in the UK, you may have heard about a status called ILR (the ILR meaning is Indefinite Leave to Remain) and be wondering, “Is ILR British citizenship?” Today’s blog will therefore address the difference between ILR and British citizenship and answer questions about the ILR to citizenship application process. In addition to learning how to apply for British citizenship, you will also discover the answers to commonly asked questions like, “When can you apply for citizenship with ILR?” And, “How long is ILR valid in UK?” And finally, “Does ILR make you a citizen?” 

Summary: “Is ILR British citizenship?” No. Indefinite Leave to Remain is not the same thing as British citizenship; if you have Indefinite Leave to Remain, you are not a British citizen. You do not have a British passport and you do not have access to the same rights and privileges.

What is ILR?

  • The ILR meaning (Indefinite Leave to Remain) alludes to the nature of the status held by those who possess it; if you have ILR, you can stay in the UK “indefinitely” as a “settled” person. 
  • ILR holders can work, study, receive healthcare, reside in the UK, and travel outside of it for as many years as they hold the status, without a visa. 
  • How long is ILR valid for in UK countries? If you receive ILR in the UK, you can live in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, or Wales theoretically forever, unless you are deprived of your status because you are found to have pursued it fraudulently, you are deported, you lose your refugee status, or you spend too many days outside the country (among other extreme reasons).
  • Applicants are typically eligible to pursue ILR status once they have resided in the UK for a minimum of five years. 
  • ILR holders receive a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) from the UK government, which they should use to come back into the country after traveling abroad. 

The difference between ILR and British citizenship

  • Does ILR make you a citizen? No. The main difference between ILR and British citizenship is that individuals with ILR are not UK citizens; they therefore have different rights than UK citizens. 
  • Another key difference between ILR and British citizenship that the UK citizenship requirements are fundamentally different and distinct from the ILR requirements. The process for becoming a UK citizenship is different (you must take certain tests and demonstrate a facility with British culture, among other requirements). 
  • Another key difference: ILR holders, unlike British citizens, are ineligible for a UK passport. While you do not automatically receive a UK passport once you become a citizen, you automatically become eligible for one, and can therefore apply for one once you receive citizenship. 
  • Critically, ILR can expire for holders who do not spend enough time in the UK. In contrast, once you obtain British citizenship, you cannot be deprived of it. 

When can you apply for citizenship with ILR?

  • You can begin the ILR to citizenship application process one year after you have held ILR status (i.e. once you have resided in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, or Wales for a minimum of 12 months). 
  • Please note that the timeline and process for applying for citizenship with ILR is different from the timeline and process for applying for citizenship with Settled Status via the EU Settlement Scheme. For specific information about applying for citizenship under the EU scheme, contact us here.

How to apply for British citizenship

  • ILR holders can apply for British citizenship either online or through the mail by fulfilling the various UK citizenship requirements, which include the following: 
    • Being of the correct age (18+). 
    • Demonstrating your fluency in either English, Scottish Gaelic, or Welsh.
    • Taking and receiving an acceptable grade on the “Life in the UK” test.
    • Being judged to possess a moral character. 
    • Conclusively demonstrating your plans to reside in the country going forward.
    • Paying the application fee (£1,330 per applicant, minus the cost of biometric data collection).
    • Having your Biometric data collected-i.e. submitting one’s fingerprints and photos, which is required for security and identification purposes. 
    • Attending a post-application citizenship ceremony (for ILR holders who are approved for UK citizenship).
    • Returning (and compromising) your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) to the Home Office. 
  • In addition to proving that they have resided in the country for at least half a decade, applicants for citizenship must also prove that they have not spent too many days abroad (while living in the UK with ILR status) and meet additional residency requirements.
  •  Contact us here when you are ready to apply for British citizenship.
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