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Standard Visa Application

Picture of boat at Port of Entry, Image by Tim Hill from Pixabay


If you are looking to enter the UK either temporarily or permanently, you will probably need to make a standard visa application. There is a general process most applicants will go through in order to gain permission to enter the UK (Entry Clearance) and then regularise their immigration status once they are there (Limited Leave to Remain, Indefinite Leave to Remain, Naturalisation/Settlement). To apply for standard visas, applicants generally must apply online with the appropriate form, upload supporting evidence and attend a biometric appointment to provide fingerprints and photos.

This blog will provide an overview of the UK’s general immigration routes.

  1. Entry Clearance
  2. Limited Leave to Remain (LLR or LR)
  3. Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)

Entry Clearance (Visa)

What is ‘Entry Clearance’?

Entry clearance is the official term for ‘visa’, and applies to those making a visa application from outside the UK, hence they have not ‘entered’ the UK yet. Under UK Immigration rules, all nationals (EEA Nationals are no longer completely exempt) coming to the UK as either a visitor, to work, to study or to settle, will usually need to apply for entry clearance in advance of their arrival to the UK.

There are a few exceptions, for instance, EEA Nationals visiting for a short tourist/business trip and they are usually permitted to stay up to 6 months without a visa. However, they will not be automatically granted the right to work, study or access public benefits.

N.B. Entry clearance entitles you to travel to the UK port of entry (airport, port) to seek admission (leave to enter) but does not guarantee entry. The authority to admit someone to the UK ultimately rests with the Immigration Officer (IO) at the border. However, it is exceedingly rare that entry clearance does not translate into leave to enter.

How do I gain ‘Entry Clearance’?

There are several routes to gaining entry clearance (visa), each with different eligibility criteria. You can use the official government website to check whether you need a visa and if so, which one. You can also book a consultation with our experienced immigration lawyer, Matthew Williams, to discuss what route is best for you.

Here are some common entry clearance (visa) routes:

Partner Visas: are you in a relationship with a British National and looking to settle in the UK? If so, this may be the right route for you.

  • Spouse Visa: for those married to or in a civil partnership with a British Citizen, UK Settled Person or UK Refugee. You can gain leave to enter for 30 months and begin a path to Indefinite Leave to Remain and, eventually, British Citizenship.
    • You will need to prove you:
      • are in a ‘genuine relationship’
      • meet the specific financial requirements
        • The UK sponsor needs a minimum income of £18,600 before tax, then £22,400 if you have one dependent child, then an extra £2,400 for each subsequent child.
      • your knowledge of the English language
      • you have suitable accommodation
      • you do not have Tuberculosis (TB) (depending on your country of residence)
    • You will have the right to work, however, you will not have recourse to public funds (NRPF)
    • It costs £1,523 for applications made from outside the UK, and £1,033 from within. This charge will increase if you are applying with dependents. Moreover, there are other additional costs like paying for an approved English Test, TB test, official documents translation etc.
  • Fiancé Visa: for those who intend to get married in the UK within six months from the date of the application.

Work Visas: see ‘Commercial Matters’ for an explanation of routes in to the UK for workers and investors.

(Definite) Leave to Remain

What is Leave to Remain?

Leave to remain is when an applicant is permitted to enter and stay in the UK for a limited period of time. After a qualifying period of residency in the UK, an applicant may then become eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

The visa holders must continuously meet the conditions of their visa, i.e. having a valid certificate of sponsorship if you have a Skilled Worker Visa. Moreover, most conditions also include meeting a specific financial requirements, not accessing public funds and being able to accommodate yourself and your dependents.

The applicant must either leave the UK before their visa or apply for an extension in the form of ‘Visa Extension’, ‘Further Leave to Remain’ (FLR) or ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ (ILR).

How do I gain LR?

There are several immigration routes for LR.

The most common include:

  • Study Visas
  • Partner Visas
  • Dependent Visa
  • Work Visas (see Commercial Matters)
  • Asylum (see Contentious Matters)

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)

What is Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)?

ILR, or UK Settlements, indefinitely (with no time limit) grants an applicant the right to live, study, work and access public funds in the UK without immigration restrictions. The applicant is also free from limitations on leaving and entering the UK. However, it does not provide you with the right to vote or apply for a British Passport.

ILR provides these rights indefinitely but not unconditionally. Someone’s ILR can be revoked if they are absent from the UK for more than two years (‘excessive absence’) or if they are facing deportation after a conviction.

ILR is a settlement route for nationals.

How do I gain ILR?

There are strict eligibility criteria for who should be granted ILR which varies according to which visa the applicant holds. Usually, once an applicant has held Limited Leave to Remain for 5 years they are eligible for ILR.

Below is a table shows how long (qualifying period) an applicant must hold each visa in order to become eligible for ILR:

Immigration StatusQualifying Period
Spouse VisaAfter two years for visas issued prior to 9 July 2012, after five or ten years if applied on or after 9 July 2012.
Tier 1 visaAfter five years Tier 1 Investor Visa holders can become eligible for fast-tracked settlement where they make qualified investment in the UK £2 million à ILR after 5 years£5 million à ILR after 3 years£10 million à ILR after 2 years
Tier 2 visaIn limited circumstances only, after five years
UK ancestry visaAfter five years
Retired Person visaAfter five years
Discretionary Leave to RemainSix years
Long residenceAfter ten years continuous legal residency in the UK
Returning residentIf settled in the UK prior to departure and returning to the UK within two years of departure, then may be able to apply immediately on return

What’s after ILR?

To gain the right to vote and apply for a British Passport, you will need to apply for British Citizenship (https://www.gov.uk/apply-citizenship-indefinite-leave-to-remain).

Applicant can apply for citizenship after living in the UK for 5 years and have had one of the following for 12 months:

  • ILR in the UK
  • ‘Settled Status’ (ILR under the EU Settlement Scheme)
  • Indefinite Leave to Enter the UK (permission to move to the UK permanently from abroad)

N.B. There are some exceptions, such as those married to a British national who do not need to wait 12 months.  

How much does citizenship cost?

It costs £1,330 to apply (additional costs apply such as securing a biometric appointment).

See our article commenting on these extortionate fees in respect to Child Citizenship.

Are you looking to apply for a visa or extend your stay in the UK? Our highly experienced immigration team can provide you with the help and guidance you need.

July 12,2021 at 4:55 pm


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