This section explains how you can apply to settle permanently in the UK if you are a migrant from outside Europe. It also tells you whether you can return to the UK if you have gone to live abroad after being granted settlement here.
After you have lived legally in the UK for a certain length of time, you may be able to apply for permission to settle here. This is known as 'indefinite leave to remain'.
If you are applying to enter the UK as the child of a British citizen or a person who is settled here, we may be able to give you immediate permission to settle here permanently. For more information, see the Partners and families section.
If you are currently in the UK, your right to apply for settlement will depend on your current immigration category. You should read the web pages for your category (in Working in the UK,Partners and families or Asylum) to find out whether and when you can currently apply for settlement.
If you are considering applying for settlement in the future, please note that the Immigration Rules are subject to change. You must meet all the requirements of the Immigration Rules at the time when you make your application.
Most applicants for settlement must show that they have a knowledge of language and life in the UK.
Applying for settlement from inside the UK
There are two ways of applying for settlement: by post or through a public enquiry office. If you apply by post using application form SET(M), you can also use the settlement checking service to submit your application. This is a service offered by local authorities in partnership with us.
As part of your application for settlement, you must enrol your fingerprints and facial image (known as 'biometric information') and obtain a biometric residence permit, which will confirm your immigration status and entitlements. Any dependents who apply at the same time as you will also need to do this. We will send you details of the enrolment process when we receive your application. For more information, see the Biometric information page.
The How to apply for settlement section contains information about sending your application and which application form to use. You must be in the UK when you apply using one of these application forms.
Please do not send us your application more than 28 days before you become eligible to apply. If you do, we may refuse your application with no refund of the application fee (if a fee is charged for your application type). However, you must make your application before your current permission to stay in the UK expires.
If you are already in the UK but you have not been here long enough to apply for settlement, you can apply to extend your temporary permission to stay.
Applying for settlement in the working categories
On 13 December 2012 we updated the Immigration Rules to set out the absences that those who are working or who are in business here are allowed to be absent from the UK in the qualifying period for settlement. If you want to know what the requirements are in your category please see the settlement information pages under your category in the working in the UK section. These permitted absences are for work-related settlement only. If you are applying for British Citizenship there are different requirements and if you are absent from the UK during your settlement qualifying period your citizenship application may be effected. Please see the British Citizenship pages for more information.
Returning to the UK if you are settled but have been living abroad
If you were given permission to settle here but you then decided to live abroad for some time, you may be able to return to the UK as a settled person. The Returning residents page contains more information.