I have some exciting news: I have been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK! After five years of living and working in Britain, I am officially a permanent resident. Take that, Blighty, you’re stuck with me!

British flags at the London Olympics

I frequently get asked how I came to live and work in the UK, and how I’m allowed to stay here. I thought I would take this exciting occasion to detail my not-so-exciting immigration history.

When I first moved to London, I came on the now-extinct Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP), a points-based visa system that allowed foreigners like myself to live and work in the UK for two years without being tied to a particular job or employer.

Two years later, I extended my stay in the UK for another three years by renewing my HSMP visa, which by then was called a Tier 1 visa (for those wondering, they sadly scrapped the Tier 1 program last year, so the only way for Americans to move to the UK to work now is to get sponsored by a company).

British flags and the Queen

Last year at this time I wrote about my four year anniversary in London and my hopes (and fears) about getting ILR, as Indefinite Leave to Remain is known by expats across the UK.

After that, I spent a year in anticipation of more changes in the UK’s immigration laws, hoping that by the time I was eligible, ILR hadn’t gone the way of the Tier 1.

In the meantime, I had to do thrilling things like fill out mountains of paperwork, pull together bank statements from the past 12 months, and have my accountant draw up letters for me.

I also had to take the bizarre Life in the UK Test, which had questions ranging from “On what date is Valentine’s Day celebrated?” (clearly this knowledge is pivotal to a solid understanding of UK culture) to “How many members are there in the Welsh Assembly?” (is there a Welsh Assembly?).


Thankfully, I passed the test and the rules didn’t change. And now, next year, I am eligible for full UK citizenship. While the goalposts could move in the meantime, I’m breathing much easier knowing that regardless of what happens, my Indefinite Leave to Remain grants me the right to live and work in Britain for as long as I want to.

So here’s to another five years…and another…and another…!

34 Comments on Lady Gets Leave to Remain

  1. Congrats! I was not so lucky to make the switch from Tier 2 to Tier 1 before they scrapped it. Glad to know your UK (and international) adventures will continue. Big fan of your blog 🙂

    • Thanks Natalie. That’s too bad you weren’t able to make the switch in time, but I hope you can still get ILR when you reach your 5-year mark.

  2. Congrats! My boyfriend is about to submit his application for permanent residency in Canada…it’s so much work! And it’ll take another two years to know whether he’s approved… I can totally relate to the sense of relief I’m sure you’re feeling. Celebration time!

    • Thanks Lindsay! I hope your boyfriend’s application goes well. It is such a stressful process, but feels so good when it’s all over!

  3. Congrats! I’m so glad you made it before the rules changed – nice to know that next time we’re in London we’ll be able to meet up again. And very glad to know that you’re up on your Welsh Assembly trivia 🙂

  4. Woo hoo! Congratulations! I know my poor husband really swotted hard with his UK Life Test and he finally got his British passport last year. It has been great for him not to have had to get a visa every time we travel! Do you want citizenship? Are Americans allowed to have dual citizenship?

  5. Despite the fact I married an American Woman,
    It still took over a year to obtain the
    “Permanent Resident” status which still
    has to be renewed every 5 years. I am loath however to relinquish my British Citezenship and replace it with an American one. Did you relinquish your American one?

    • I have been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain, which is different from citizenship, so I only have American citizenship.

  6. Congratulations. I am very happy for you.

    Do you have to take the Life in the UK Test again when you apply for citizenship? Or is British citizenship a mere formality now. Any major hoops to jump through?

  7. congrats! I was on tier 2 but my employer got nasty and fired me, thinking I had no other option. Fortunately, my appl for ILR has just been allowed by the Tribunal! …after 13 months of waiting. It’s s a relief ‘cos I’ve got my family here and my former employer would be very happy for me now…NOT!!!

  8. Congratulations glad you got it in time , I’m currently waiting for my ILR was just wondering how long you had to wait before you received yours x

  9. Hello! I realise this is an old post, but just wondering if you could provide an overview of the documents you had to show for ILR? I have been in the UK on a Tier 1 since May 2009 and just trying to anticipate what I should have for my ILR application next year. Thanks!

    • Hi,

      I have just got my ILR and am ecstatic just as all of you.
      Your main application form is SET(0). You will need a letter from your employer to confirm your Standard Occupational Code (SOC) code for Tier 1, the gross annual salary for the SOC code and the appropriate rate or higher salary for the code.
      Then you’ll need the most recent last 3 months original bank statements, most recent original payslips. For the bank statements and payslip, you cannot use online copies, they need to be original from bank and your employer.
      If you have been out of the country on holiday or business you need to provide confirmation from your employer for the dates you were out of the country regardless of how short. For holidays you need to provide proof that you had paid annual leave.
      The dates must include the exit and entry to the UK as stamped in your passport.
      Once you have all these supporting documents, your application should be fine.

      All the best !

      • Congratulations Lauren! It sounds like the process is still similar to what it was when I went through it. Mine was a bit different since I’m self-employed, though. I think it’s important for each person to research exactly what she or he needs to do in order to complete the (rather complicated!) process, as everyone’s situation is slightly different and the rules and procedures change over time.

  10. I am stalking all your UK visa posts, trying to figure out if there’s any way for me, an American, to move from France to the UK to join my French boyfriend who is working there. So sad to hear the only way now is to get sponsored by a company! Do you happen to know where I could find out if there’s a long-stay non-working visa like there is in France? The consulate website has me utterly confused. Anyway, good for you for sticking with the bureaucracy battle and winning!

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