Under the UK immigration laws there are a number of routes available to obtain ‘indefinite leave to remain’ (ILR) status, commonly referred to as ‘settlement’ or, ‘settled status’. The purpose of this article is to explain what ILR means, the entitlements it brings and how proposed legislation from the UK Government may affect future applicants only.

The Secretary of State for the UK Border Agency, may under S 3 (1) of the Immigration Act 1971, grant ILR to a person who is not a British citizen. However, an individual can lose his right to ILR if he or she is either sentenced to a term of imprisonment of at least 12 months by order of the Secretary of State and is sentenced to a period of imprisonment under the UK Borders Act 2007 or, is absent from the UK for a period of more than two years under the UK Immigration Rules HC 395.

Individuals granted ILR may:

· live and work in the UK;
· have access to public benefits and if eligible
· apply to become naturalised as British citizens.

The UK government is currently seeking, through the ‘Border, Citizenship and Immigration Bill 2009’ (Bill), to remove ILR status to future applicants and replace this with the concept of ‘probationary citizenship’. Once granted probationary citizenship, an individual will have the right to live and work in the UK, but will have no access to public benefits and will face additional requirements, including but not limited to ‘community service’, in order to be eligible to naturalise as a British citizen under the Bill. Therefore, should the Bill become law in its current form, once a person fulfills the eligibility requirements under his or her visa, they will be granted probationary citizenship, but will face tougher requirements to obtain full nationality status.

Individuals, if eligible, should consider applying for ILR now in order to benefit from the existing laws as the proposed new legislation could have implications on their future rights in the UK. There is no set date for the Bill to become law. Furthermore, there is no clear indication as to how this will affect EEA citizens living and working in the UK under the EU ‘Freedom of Movement’ Directive.

For further information, please check with a lawyer authorized to provide UK immigration advice.

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