Check if you can get a permanent right to live in the UK if you have a family visa

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

You can usually apply to live in the UK permanently if you’ve lived in the UK for a certain length of time on either:

  • a partner visa

  • a visa as the parent of a child living in the UK

If you get the right to live in the UK permanently this is called ‘indefinite leave’.

If your child has a child visa, you can apply for them to get indefinite leave at the same time as you apply for yourself - it doesn’t matter how long they’ve been in the UK.

It will cost over £1,500 for each person to get indefinite leave.

You should apply before your visa ends.

If your visa ends before you apply

This is called ‘overstaying’ - you’ll lose your right to work in the UK. If your visa has already ended, check what you can do if you’ve overstayed.

To work out if you can get indefinite leave, you’ll need to:

  • show you still have a relationship with your family member

  • check how long you must have lived in the UK

  • check if you need to take an English language and ‘Life in the UK’ test

  • check the rules about your income and savings

  • check the rules about where you live

Show you still have a relationship with your family member

If you’ve got a partner visa, you’ll need to show you’re still living with your partner in the UK.

If your partner has died, you can apply for indefinite leave - it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the UK.

If your relationship with your partner has ended, check how you can stay in the UK without your partner.

If you’ve got a visa as the parent of a child living in the UK, you’ll need to show:

  • your child is still in the UK

  • you’re still responsible for your child or you have access rights and you’re visiting them regularly

If the child’s other parent is now your partner, you must apply for a partner visa instead of indefinite leave. Check if you can get a partner visa.

If you move from a parent visa to a partner visa

If you’re on the 5-year route to get indefinite leave, the 5 years starts again when you move to a partner visa.

If you’re on the 10-year route, you can add together time you spent on both types of visa.

Check how long you must have lived in the UK

You can usually get indefinite leave if you’ve been in the UK on a partner or parent visa for 5 years in a row. This is called the ‘5-year route’.

If you got your visa based on exceptional circumstances or private and family life, you can only get indefinite leave after you’ve been in the UK for 10 years in a row. This is called the ‘10-year route’. If you’re not sure, check the letter you got from the Home Office when you got the visa - it will say if you’re on the 10-year route.

If you came to the UK on a 6-month visa as a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner, this time doesn’t count towards the 5 or 10-year routes.

It's worth applying for indefinite leave about a month before you reach 5 or 10 years. Don't wait until your visa is just about to expire.

If you’ve spent time outside the UK

You can get indefinite leave if you haven’t spent more than 180 days outside the UK in any 12-month period.

If you spent longer outside the UK, you can still get indefinite leave if both of the following apply:

  • you’re on the 5-year route

  • there were good reasons why you spent so long outside the UK - for example if you needed to go for work, study or training

If you’ve spent more than half your time on the visa outside the UK, you can’t usually get indefinite leave.

If you’re not sure if you can apply for indefinite leave, get help from a specialist adviser.

If you’ve moved between visas

If you’re on the 5-year route, the 5 years start again when you first move to a partner visa or a parent visa.

If you’re on the 10-year route, you can add together any time you’ve spent on a partner, parent or child visa.

In some cases you can also add time you spent on another type of visa that lets you get indefinite leave - for example a skilled worker visa or a UK ancestry visa. You can only do this if you came to the UK legally. You need to wait until you've been on the 10-year route for at least a year before you apply for indefinite leave.

If you haven’t been in the UK long enough to get indefinite leave

You’ll need to extend your visa until you’ve been in the UK long enough to apply for indefinite leave. Check if you can apply to extend your visa before it ends.

Check the rules about your income and savings

If you’re on the 10-year route, there are no rules about your income and savings.

If you’re on the 5-year route, you must show you have a certain amount of income or savings. This is called the ‘financial requirement’.

The rules about the financial requirement depend on which type of visa you have. If you have a visa as the parent of a child in the UK, you need to meet the ‘adequate maintenance’ test.

If you have a partner visa, you usually have to meet the ‘full financial requirement’. If your partner gets certain disability benefits, you have to meet the adequate maintenance test instead. The disability benefits are:

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

  • Attendance Allowance

  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

  • Carer's Allowance

  • Severe Disablement Allowance

  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit

  • Armed Forces Independence Payment or Guaranteed Income Payment under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme

  • Constant Attendance Allowance, Mobility Supplement or War Disablement Pension under the War Pensions Scheme

  • Police Injury Pension

If you need to meet the full financial requirement

You have to show you have a certain amount of income each year. If you live with a partner, you can add their income to yours.

If you’re applying for yourself and no children, you meet the financial requirements if the total is at least £18,600 each year before tax.

If you’re applying for children as well, you can sponsor them if the total is at least £18,600 plus:

  • £3,800 for the first child

  • £2,400 for the second child and for each child after that

Your income doesn’t include benefits, but it does include:

  • earnings from employment or self-employment in the UK 

  • a pension

  • maternity, paternity, adoption or sick pay

  • other income - for example from rent or shares

You can top up your income with any savings you and your partner have over £16,000 - you must have had them for at least 6 months.

Example

Olu is applying for indefinite leave for her and her child. The financial requirement for her and her child is £22,400.

Olu earns £18,000 per year - her income is below the financial requirement.

Olu has £24,000 in savings, which she’s had for the last 6 months.

£24,000 minus £16,000 is £8,000.

£18,000 plus £8,000 is £26,000.

£26,000 is more than £22,400, so Olu meets the financial requirement.

If you need to meet the adequate maintenance test

You only need to show you’ll have enough income each week to look after yourself and any children.

To check if you can pass the adequate maintenance test, you need to first work out how much income the government says you need each week. You then need to check if you have enough income.

Work out how much income you need each week

To work out how much income the government says you need each week, add together:

  • £77 if you’re single or £121.05 if you live with a partner

  • £70.80 for each child aged under 18 who lives with you - even if they’re not part of the application

  • your housing costs - these are your rent or mortgage payments plus your council tax

When you’re working out your housing costs, don’t include any part of the costs that are covered by Council Tax Reduction, Housing Benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit.

Example

Miguel has a partner visa. He is applying for indefinite leave for him and his child. His partner gets PIP.

The total weekly income Miguel needs to get indefinite leave for himself and his child is £121.05 plus £70.80 plus his housing costs.

Miguel’s rent is entirely covered by the housing element of Universal Credit. This means his only housing cost is council tax.

Miguel’s council tax is £30 each week. He gets Council Tax Reduction of £10 each week. £30 minus £10 is £20. This means he needs £20 income for council tax each week.

The total income Miguel needs each week is £121.05 plus £70.80 plus £20. This is £211.85.

Check if you have enough income

Work out how much income you get each week after tax. If you live with a partner, you can add their income to yours.

You can include earnings, pensions and income from things like rent or shares.

If you and your partner have any savings, you can add them to your income - you must have had the savings for at least 6 months. Divide the amount of your savings by 52 - this is how much you can add to your weekly income.

If your total income is high enough, you meet the adequate maintenance test.

Example

Miguel has a partner visa. He is applying for indefinite leave for him and his child. His partner gets PIP. The total income he needs each week is £211.85.

Miguel and his partner’s weekly earnings after tax are £180.

Miguel and his partner have £2,600 in savings, which they’ve had for the last 6 months. £2,600 divided by 52 is £50. This is added to their income.

£180 plus £50 is £230. Miguel’s total weekly income is £230. This is more than the government says he needs, so Miguel can get indefinite leave for himself and his child.

If your total income isn’t high enough

When you work out your total income, you might be able to include other benefits your partner gets - for example some parts of Universal Credit. It depends on your circumstances.

If you need help working out if you meet the adequate maintenance test, talk to an adviser.

Check the rules about where you live

If you’re on the 10-year route, there are no rules about where you live.

If you’re on the 5-year route, you’ll have to show that where you live is safe, suitable and large enough for you and the people you live with. You don’t need to own your own home but you do need somewhere you can stay long term. For example you might have a tenancy agreement or a room of your own in your parents’ house.

If you live in council housing or your landlord is a housing association, you can check how many people are allowed to live in your home. This is called the ‘permitted number of persons’ (PNP). The PNP is usually on your tenancy agreement, or you can ask your landlord. Children under 1 year old aren’t included in the total, and children between 1 and 10 years old count as half a person.

If you’re not a council or housing association tenant, check your local council’s guidance about overcrowding. You can find your local council on GOV.UK.

Check if you need to take an English language test

You usually need to take an English language test before you can apply for indefinite leave. You don’t need to take a test if one of the following applies:

If you have a physical or mental condition that stops you passing the test, you might not have to do it. You'll need to ask your doctor to confirm your condition:

  • is unlikely to change

  • makes it impossible for you to learn enough English - for example, a learning disability or brain injury that stops you learning the language 

You can get a form for your doctor to fill in on GOV.UK.

Taking an English language test

If you need to pass a test, it must be at least level ‘B1’ on the ‘Common European Framework of Reference for Languages’ (CEFR) scale. This tests if you can speak in English and understand spoken English - it doesn’t test reading or writing in English.

You must use an approved test provider.

If you passed a test when you first applied for your visa or you extended it, check what level it was. If it was at level ‘A1’ or ‘A2’, you’ll still need to take a test at level B1. If you passed a test at level B1, you don’t need to take another one.

You can find an approved English language test provider on GOV.UK.

Check if you need to take a ‘Life in the UK’ test

You usually need to take a ‘Life in the UK’ test before you apply for indefinite leave. The test asks questions about UK laws and the legal system, working and other details of life in the UK. 

You can do the test any time before you apply.

You only need to take a test if you’re at least 18 years old and you’re under 65 years old.

If you’re aged 60 to 64 and can show you’re unlikely to pass the test before you turn 65, the Home Office might agree you don’t have to do the test. For example, if you're receiving medical treatment for a serious illness.

If you have a physical or mental condition that stops you passing the test, you might not have to do it. You'll need to ask your doctor to confirm your condition:

  • is unlikely to change

  • makes it impossible for you to pass the test - for example, a learning disability or brain injury that stops you remembering facts

You can get a form for your doctor to fill in on GOV.UK.

Doing the test

You can do the test as many times as you need to - but you have to pay a fee each time. 

You need to study the official handbook to pass the test. You can also buy an app to practise - search for the official Life in the UK Test app by TSO (The Stationery Office). 

Some colleges offer short courses to help prepare for the test. You'll have to pay a fee to attend.

You can book the Life in the UK Test and buy the official handbook on GOV.UK.

If you don’t meet the rules to get indefinite leave

You might be able to apply to extend your visa instead - for example if you haven’t passed the English language and Life in the UK tests. Check if you can extend your visa.

Check your rights if you get indefinite leave

If you get indefinite leave, this gives you almost all the same rights as a British citizen, including the rights to:

  • work or study

  • rent or buy somewhere to live - including applying for council housing

  • claim benefits

  • use the NHS

  • go to school

  • leave the UK and return as many times as you want

You’ll usually only lose your indefinite leave if you’re outside the common travel area for more than 2 years in a row. The common travel area is the UK, Ireland, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.

Apply for indefinite leave

Check how you can apply for indefinite leave.

Page last reviewed on 11 July 2022