The Path to Settled Status in the UK
People currently sponsored in the UK under the skilled worker visa or similar will understand that they are entitled to apply for the right to stay in the UK after 5 years of visa sponsorship. This is known as Indefinite Leave to Remain – or ILR. As part of the application for settled status in the UK they will need to complete a test known as the Life in the UK test. This all sounds straightforward in theory but there are key differences between ILR and British Citizenship. Other tests are also required in some circumstances.
What is the Life in the UK Test?
The Life in the UK test is, as the title suggests, a test of knowledge of life in the UK. Part of gaining settled status is demonstrating an understanding of the norms and values of wider British society. This should mean that those who gain settled status will integrate into and contribute to UK society. The test itself should not be too difficult, and it’s generally held to be less challenging than English language tests, for example. Candidates still need to do a significant amount of preparation however, as the result will understandably be very important to them.
What About Indefinite Leave to Remain & Settled Status?
Indefinite Leave to Remain and settled status are essentially the same thing. Settled status, or settlement, is a term used to describe the status of entitlement to permanent residence in the UK. Being granted ILR is like attaining settled status in the UK. It implies the ongoing right to live, work and study in the UK. It also entitles the individual to other rights afforded to other people in the UK such as benefits where appropriate.
What is Pre-Settled Status?
Pre-settled status is distinct from this process as it relates to the EU settlement scheme. This is for people originating from EU countries who were resident in the UK throughout the Brexit process. It is part of the process for those people to retain their right to remain in the UK, and is now drawing to a close for most people.
How is Indefinite Leave to Remain Attained?
It’s no surprise that completing 5 years of a sponsorship visa or similar is the first prerequisite for application. This is the case for people under the skilled worker visa formerly known as the tier 2 visa. There are some other circumstances under which this qualifying period might be slightly longer or shorter. In the case of Tier 1 visas it can be as little as 2 years, for example.
There are other important factors in achieving ILR however, such as having a clean criminal record and being free of immigration regulation violations throughout the period in question. Any absences from the UK totalling more than 180 days during the qualifying period will also disqualify the application. Other more severe circumstances under which an individual would not meet the suitability requirements would be a deportation order, exclusion order or removal decision.
Applicants also need to demonstrate English language proficiency via a SELT to CEFR B1. This might already have been achieved as part of the skilled worker visa application process. People in the UK under a dependents visa applying for settled status will need to complete a SELT test, however.
The final requirement for ILR is the successful completion of the Life in the UK test.
Other circumstances under which you can be eligible to apply for settlement are under family or dependent visas, and some other scenarios in which you have resident in the UK or have family connections with it.
Can ILR be Refused by the Home Office?
Outside the published eligibility and suitability requirements, there are no grounds to refuse an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
It is possible to appeal any visa or immigration related decision directly to a tribunal.
Indefinite Leave to Remain & British Citizenship
Indefinite Leave to Remain and British Citizenship are similar in principle, but there are key differences. Both confer the right to stay in the UK, but ILR is more like a step on the path to British Citizenship and the two things do not grant the same rights. In fact, ILR is a mandatory requirement in applying for citizenship, or ‘naturalisation’.
One important difference is that Indefinite Leave to remain can be retracted, while citizenship is permanent in most circumstances. While ILR does not expire, any absence from the UK of more than 2 years could result in it being withdrawn.
What to Expect with the Life in the UK Test
The Life in the UK Test has been designed for the candidate to demonstrate common knowledge in line with that of natural UK citizens.
The test is part of meeting the ‘KoLL’ requirements of the UK immigration rules. KoLL stands for Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK. This has the dual requirement of proving knowledge of British life and language. SELT tests are used to satisfy the language element.
The Life in the UK test typically comprises a combination of questions on British history, societal values and even modern topics such as soap operas.
There has been some controversy as to whether these questions are truly representative of life in Britain. Britishness can be a difficult thing to encapsulate however, and it should not be difficult to pass with the appropriate revision.
The questions are all multiple choice and there are 24 in total with a pass mark of 75%, or 18 questions answered correctly. The test lasts 45 minutes and can be booked to be sat at over 30 test centres across the UK.
What Happens if a Life in the UK Test Attempt Fails?
Although it costs £50 per exam, there is no limit to how many times the Life in the UK test can be taken.
The only restriction is that it cannot be retaken within 7 days.
What About ESOL with Citizenship?
It was once possible to sit a combined test to satisfy the KoLL requirements of knowledge of life & language, but this has now been superseded. Two separate tests are now necessary to satisfy these requirements.