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Settling in the UK

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.

Changes to settlement from 6 April 2011

The rules for settlement have now changed, with new and amended requirements for people who want to settle permanently in the UK.

Read more

Applying for settlement

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, Partners and family members or Asylum) 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.

There are two ways of applying for settlement, by post or through a public enquiry office. If you apply by post, you can use the settlement checking service to submit your application; a service offered by local authorities in partnership with us.

To find out more about sending your application, the categories of migrant who can apply and which application form to use read How to apply for settlement section.

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 (where a fee is charged). 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.

Returning to the UK if you have been living abroad

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is my immigration status while my application is being decided?

    If you make an application before your authorised stay ends, your existing immigration status will continue until your application is decided, even if the decision is not made until after the end of your permitted stay. If your existing visa or other permission to stay here allows you to work, you can continue to do so until your case is decided.