Indefinite Leave to remain status: How hard is the process today?

Written by on 19th April 2024

Millions of people come to the United Kingdom on a visa to study, work  and start a new life, with a whopping number of 685,000 of them being international students. 


But how did obtaining an Indefinite Leave to Remain status change the lives of those who were once on a visa?


An ILR(Indefinite Leave to Remain) is a status where someone achieved a 10 year stay in the UK, giving you the permanent right to leave, study for as long as you want. 


The basic route of staying after being a fresh graduate is going through the 10-year route applying for a skilled worker visa which you need to have a company sponsor you for. If you get married in the process, you will need to apply for a spouse visa if your partner is a citizen. If not, you will have to continue until you reach your 10 year mark and apply for an ILR.

Applicant completing visa application form- Alamy

Olivia Koh, a speech and language therapist from Gateshead, recently got her ILR in 2021 after studying in 2011, graduating in 2015. Despite getting married in 2018, she went on her original route and applied for an ILR in 2021. With her ILR granted in the same year, she now has the right to stay in the UK permanently. 


She said: “After I graduated, the whole time I was looking for a job and I finally got a job. Even if you are in the NHS, you still need to meet the same criteria, which mine was i had to be working. It does not include your student time so you will have to be working for 5 years in total in the UK. I had one year of work visa and another five year work visa.”


“I am married to a British citizen, I would have been able to get my ILR from being married to him but I didn’t do that. I got my ILR through working rather than getting married. I think that one of the hardest parts of it was just being away from my support network, being away from family.”


The Tier 2 visa (now called Skilled Worker visa) in 2014’s application fees started from £773 to £1702 with £200 healthcare surcharge for each year. But as of 2024, the healthcare surcharge is a whopping £1035 per year, however the application fees stays around the £700 to £1700 range. 


In 2023, there were around 3000 refused ILR applications, which increased 40% from 2020 to 2022. (GOV.UK, 2023)  Application grants also decreased from 131,627 applications in 2022 to 119,150 in 2023. How does this affect someone who is in the midst of obtaining one?


Asmaq Bukhari, who has lived in Sunderland since 2011 is on the route to apply for her ILR status after being married for 7 years. After tying the knot with her husband, she switched from a student visa, to a dependency visa then now a spouse visa. Having to extend her visa every 2 and a half years, the family has now spent around £10K, on her second extension with one more left. Then, she can be on her way for an ILR after 2026. 

Asmaq Bukhari Talks about her life in the UK

However, since she is now on a dependency to a spouse visa, she has to meet requirements in order to keep that visa. 


“You need to have a lot of proof. Living together, you need to put in a declaration, bank statements, your earnings as well. If you are working, you have to prove all that.”


“One of the other things that I should say is that part of the requirements that you need for the visa application is actually having to do an English test.”

Bukhari, who works as a team leader in Pallion, said that being employed used to be easier. “I think there’s been a lot of changes(in job opportunities), especially in terms of government requirements, the threshold is higher. So people don’t really want to stay anymore.”


Speaking of job opportunities, in order to obtain an ILR in the first place, you would need to have a job in order to be on a 10 year route. 


Darwish Khan, a recent graduate from Sunderland University has yet to find a job until today. He first came here in 2022, graduated last July and moved to Leeds after obtaining his graduate visa. 


“I took the advantage of moving to Leeds and I have been here for 6 months. I am also actively looking for jobs as of right now.”

Darwish Khan talking about his life in the UK now

“The job market is not good enough, the unemployment rate has increased and it is predicted that it will continue to increase in the next year. I received a job offer last month and they wanted someone who can stay in the country long term.” 


Khan is now hesitating whether he still wants to stay in the UK or go home for good. It can affect people who initially want to stay in the UK and change their mind due to the job markets, inflation and visa requirements. 


ILR applications are slowly declining in the UK as statistics show a decrease in approved grants. With the new requirements today, the UK will see fewer ILR applications to come in in the future and that can affect a lot of families who have family back home and need to spend more money and time to give their own families a better life. 


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