This section explains how you can apply to settle permanently in the UK if you are a migrant from outside Europe. It also tells you whether you can return to the UK if you have gone to live abroad after being granted settlement here.
The UK Border Agency is making important changes to the ESOL provisions within the 'knowledge of language and life' requirement for people seeking settlement in the UK. These changes will come into force on 7 April 2010.
After you have lived legally in the UK for a certain length of time (usually between two and five years), you may be able to apply for permission to settle here. This is known as 'indefinite leave to remain'.
Your right to apply for settlement will depend on your current immigration category. You should read the section for your category (in Working in the UK, Studying in the UK or Partners and family members) to find out whether and when you can apply for settlement.
Most applicants will need to show that they have a knowledge of language and life in the UK.
The How to apply for settlement section lists the categories of migrant who can apply, and explains which application form to use. You must be in the UK when you apply using one of these application forms. The only migrants who can apply for settled status from outside the UK are certain partners and family members of British citizens and settled persons.
Please do not send us your application more than 28 days before you become eligible to apply. If you do, we may refuse your application with no refund of the application fee. However, you must make your application before your current permission to stay in the UK expires.
If you are already in the UK but you have not been here long enough to apply for settlement, you can apply to extend your temporary permission to stay.
If you were given permission to settle here but you then decided to live abroad for some time, you may be able to return to the UK as a settled person. The Returning residents page contains more information.
Indefinite leave to remain (often known as ILR) is permission to stay permanently (settle) in the United Kingdom, free from immigration control.