Indefinite Leave To Remain vs. British Citizenship

Updated: 30 March 2023

Many foreign nationals are confused by the differences between Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and British citizenship, giving them the freedom to live in the United Kingdom permanently. There are, however, important distinctions between the two that should not be overlooked.

The primary difference between being a British citizen and having ILR status is that each offers many privileges. You can reside and work in the UK without restrictions as long as you have ILR status, but you don’t get the same rights as a UK citizen. British citizens have several fundamental rights, including voting, applying for a British passport, and holding public office. 

In this article, we’re going to explain what these terms mean and how they differ from each other.

What Is Indefinite Leave to Remain 

Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) is a permit that allows you to live and work in the United Kingdom without limitations or a time limit. You’re no longer subject to UK immigration controls after obtaining ILR status, allowing you to enter and depart the country as desired. If you desire to apply for a British citizenship via naturalization, being granted ILR status is a crucial stage since the settlement is required before applying for British citizenship.

What Is British Citizenship

The first step in obtaining ILR is to spend time living in the UK. After you’ve earned your ILR, you may apply for British citizenship. A British passport and all of the privileges of a UK citizen are open for you as a result of British citizenship. 

You may travel freely in and out of the nation using your passport, and you can spend as much time outside of the UK without worrying about immigration restrictions. Becoming a British citizen will allow you to apply for citizenship for your children born outside of the United Kingdom and any descendants you may have in the UK who are automatically given citizenship. 

Dual citizenship is allowed in the UK, so you don’t have to give up your original citizenship to become a British citizen. However, it’s worth noting that you can only have dual citizenship if your native country permits it.

Differences Between ILR and UK Citizenship

As you may know, citizenship in the UK is a big thing. An ILR can help you on this path to becoming an official resident of the UK with all its benefits. The following are the primary differences:

Residency Requirements of ILR

If you’ve been absent from the UK for more than two years, your status might be revoked. You’ll have to appeal for a Returning Resident visa but it’s up to the Home Office’s discretion whether or not to grant the visa. Plus, you’ll need to show that you intend to return and reside in the UK permanently.

Citizenship Is for Life

Your citizenship can be revoked under certain conditions, but it is uncommon. You may live and work in the United Kingdom indefinitely as a UK citizen. You can be away from the country and come back anytime you want.

Having a British Passport

As a UK citizen, you’re entitled to a British passport. With a British Passport, you can travel to 185 countries either visa-free or through visa arrival. This brings a huge convenience if you’re a frequent traveler. 

Voting Rights

As a British citizen, you’ll have the right to vote. You also have the right to stand for public office. However, ILR doesn’t give you such rights.

How To Get ILR in the UK Through Investor Visa

One popular route to ILR is the Investor Visa. The Tier 1 Investor visa can be the perfect choice for investors who want to gain residency in the UK while paving their way toward citizenship. The process is fast-track and offers an expedited route, allowing them a chance at getting a permanent residence only after five years. 

To be acceptable for the Tier 1 investor visa, you’ll need to fulfill a series of criteria. These include:

  • You need to be 18 or older 
  • You’re in possession of at least £2 million 

In addition, you’ll need to demonstrate that the money you’re offering is yours or your partner’s. Your funds are required to be in a reputable financial institution that the UK regulates. They’re also required to be accessible to spend in the UK.

When you apply, your money can be in the UK or outside of the country. However, if you’ve saved your investment funds for less than two years, you’ll need to show where they came from, and the Home Office will need to be satisfied with their origin in every case. 

Once granted an Investor Visa, you can apply for ILR after a period of time. Typically, you’re required to have resided in the UK for at least five years before you may apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR UK), but you can do so after three years of residence in the UK or even two if certain conditions are met. The basic requirements for applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain are:

  • No immigration infractions while you’re staying in the UK, and no criminal record as an adult or minor
  • You’ve met the residency requirement in the UK – you’ve not spent more than 180 days outside the country in any 12-month period in the last five years
  • Meet the language requirements 
  • Pass “The Life in the UK” test which is an exam based on British culture, history, and traditions

Getting residency and citizenship in a foreign country can be a long journey. Working with professionals and legal advisors during this process will save you time and time. Contact us today to be introduced to legal advisors in the UK who can guide you through your quest for indefinite leave to remain and British citizenship.

    How To Get UK Citizenship After ILR

    After obtaining ILR, you can seek British citizenship. British citizenship, also known as naturalization, grants you the right to a British passport as well as all of the rights and privileges that come with being a British citizen.

    The following are the general requirements:

    • When applying for naturalization, you shouldn’t have spent more than 450 days outside the UK five years prior and 90 days in the last 12 months
    • All applicants, regardless of age, have to acquire English proficiency and pass the Life in the UK examination
    • Applicants with no criminal or administrative offenses can easily apply

    It’s worth noting that the requirements for naturalization as a British citizen may alter depending on whether you’re applying based on your marriage or civil partnership with a British citizen.


    As we’ve explained, there are obvious differences between ILR and UK citizenship. However, ILR is a rewarding status and it’s a path to UK citizenship. Before starting your search or making an application, please feel free to contact us for any questions you might have.

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