ILR 5 Year Rule – Spouse/Partner

Have you spent 5 continuous lawful years in the UK? If so, you may be eligible for permanent residence, which is also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain or ILR.

To qualify for ILR under the 5 yea-rule you will need to show that you meet certain requirements:

Eligibility Requirements For ILR

To meet the ILR 5 year rule requirements you must be in a position to show that:

  • You and your partner must be in the UK
  • You are in the UK with valid leave to remain as a partner under Appendix FM
  • You do not fall for refusal under any of the suitability grounds
  • Your relationship is genuine and subsisting
  • You have completed 60 months (under Appendix FM) with leave to enter and remain as a partner – that period runs from the date on which you entered the UK with a visa as a partner; of if you did not enter the UK with such a visa, from the date on which you were first granted leave to remain in the UK as a partner
  • You and your partner intend to live together permanently in the UK
  • You meet the relevant financial requirement under Appendix FM
  • You have adequate accommodation for you and your partner and for any dependants who live with you
  • You have passed the Life in the UK test
  • You meet the knowledge of English language requirement


Absences from the UK

There is no formal limit on absences in relation to applications for ILR as a spouse/partner and excessive absences from the UK should therefore not lead to an application being refused.

However, whilst there is no formal limit to absences for spouse/partners, the Home Office expect that those with visas issued under this category would have spent the majority of the time living in the UK with their partner.

The current form asks applicants to provide details of all periods of absence from the UK.  As the result of this applicants are now expected to provide a comprehensive schedule of absences covering the entire length of their stay.

The Home Office’s internal guidance on absences provides as follows:

“In applications for further leave to remain in the UK as a partner, where there have been limited periods of time spent outside the UK, this must be for good reasons and must be consistent with the intention to live permanently together in the UK.”

Applicants will therefore be expected to be able to explain and justify any excessive absences from the UK to the Home Office when an application is made.

Whilst holidays and short family visits will generally be overlooked, especially if the trips are taken as couple, caution should be exercised when dealing with other type of absences.

If you or your partner or both of you have spent the majority of your time overseas, the Home Office may take the view that you to not intend to live together permanently in the UK. When assessing your application, the Home Office will take into account reasons for travel, length of the absences and whether you travelled together.  If you spent a lot of time apart, the Home Office may also wonder whether your relationship is subsisting.

Detailed explanation and corroborating evidence of the reason for any excessive absences should be submitted in support of a SET (M) application to the Home Office.

We are extensive experienced in assisting spouse applicant, including those with problematic absences and can provide expert guidance to you throughout the process. We appreciate how important it is to you and your family to get the application approved first time around.

If you require legal advice about a spouse visa application, our immigration specialists are available for an initial discussion and can be contacted here.

The Life in the UK Test

Before applying for ILR most applicants will be required to have passed the Life in the UK test.

The test is made up of 24 questions about British history, culture, customs and traditions.

Questions range from the roman invasion leader to the UK’s national flowers / bank holidays, the date of when women were first given the right to vote, or the number of times the UK hosted the Olympic games, ..etc.

The test is a multiple-choice exam, which is delivered at an official test centre and lasts approximately 45 minutes.

You can book the test on the Gov.UK website.

It is highly recommended to read the Life in the UK book before taking the test.

The Life in the UK v Knowledge of English language

We are often asked if having passed the Life in the UK test, one must still show that they meet the English language requirement.

The answer is, in most cases, yes.

Since October 2013 all applicants applying for settlement, unless exempt, are required to pass the Life in the UK test and have an English speaking and listening qualification at B1 CEFR level or above.

Acceptable evidence of passing the English Language requirement

You can meet the requirement if you have one of the following:

  • Passed an English language test at B1 level or above which is on the approved UKVI list
  • A qualification (degree/masters/PhD) taught or researched in English – the qualification must be equivalent to a UK qualification – a NARIC assessment might be required
  • A passport issued by an English-speaking country


FAQs – ILR 5 year-rule – Partner/Spouse

How long does the ILR process take?

It depends on how you file your application.

Applications filed via one of the premium service centres are usually processed on the day of filing.

NOTE: Whilst the decision is made on the same day, the Biometrics Residence Permit (BRP) is normally sent within 7-10 working days from the day of filing.  As the applicants’ current BRPs are retained, applicants are often surprised to find out that despite having paid for the same day service they find themselves unable to travel out of the UK until they are in possession of their new BRP.

Applications made by post can take up to 6 months. Applicants are expected to relinquish their original documents, including passports and BRPs throughout the adjudication period which will preclude them from making trips abroad.

Can my application be refused?

Your application might be refused if you fail to meet any of the requirements, including suitability.  Indeed, your application is likely to be refused if you have, for instance:

  • got a criminal record in the UK or another country
  • provided false or incomplete information to the Home Office
  • broken UK immigration law



If applying later, what form should my dependant use?
SET (M) or SET (O)?

Dependants of settled persons who obtained ILR via the Tier 2 route, should use the SET (O) form as they will be applying under the PBS scheme.

Spouse/Partner of British national or settled person currently in the UK under a partner visa under Appendix FM should use the SET (M) form.

For further information, please contact us.