Check if your child can get a permanent right to live in the UK

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

Bringing family members from Ukraine to the UK

There are special rules for family members who are Ukrainian nationals. Check the rules about bringing family members from Ukraine to the UK.

You might be able to apply for your child to live permanently in the UK - this is called ‘indefinite leave’. You can only apply if your child is aged under 18 - unless they’re already in the UK on a child visa.

If you apply for your child to get indefinite leave, you’re called their ‘sponsor’. It will cost over £1,500 to get indefinite leave for your child.

You’ll need to check:

  • if you can sponsor your child

  • if your child can apply for indefinite leave

  • the rules about your income and savings

  • the rules about where you live

Check if you can sponsor your child

You can sponsor your child to apply for indefinite leave if either:

  • you and your child’s other parent both have a permanent right to live in the UK - you must both be in the UK or moving to the UK with your child

  • you have sole responsibility for your child and you have a permanent right to live in the UK

You have sole responsibility if you’re the only person responsible for your child's upbringing and welfare. This usually means your child’s other parent isn’t involved in their life.

You have a permanent right to live in the UK if you have:

  • British citizenship

  • Irish citizenship - you must be living or have lived in the UK

  • indefinite leave or right of abode

  • settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme

If you’re applying for indefinite leave, you can apply for your child at the same time. The Home Office will make a decision about your application before they make a decision about your child’s application.

If you’re a refugee or you have humanitarian protection

Your child can apply to join you under the refugee ‘family reunion’ rules if they were conceived or adopted before you had to leave your country. It’s free and easier to apply, and you don’t need to have indefinite leave.

Check how your child can apply for family reunion on GOV.UK.

If you or the child’s other parent don’t have a permanent right to live in the UK

Your child can’t usually apply for indefinite leave.

If you or your partner have a partner visa, you might be able to apply for your child to get a child visa - it will last as long as the partner visa. Check if your child can get a child visa.

If you or your partner have another type of visa it might also let you sponsor your child to join you as a dependant. You’ll need to check the rules for your visa. For example:

If you’ve got another type of visa, you should be able to find the rules for your visa on GOV.UK.

If your child was born in the UK or one of their parents has British citizenship

Your child might have British citizenship automatically.

If your child isn’t already a British citizen, you might be able to apply for citizenship for them. It depends on where they were born and your immigration status. It costs less than applying for indefinite leave.

Check if your child has or can apply for British citizenship.

If you’re a citizen of the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein

Your child might be able to apply for pre-settled or settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme. It’s free and easier than applying for indefinite leave.

Your child can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if you were living in the UK by 31 December 2020.

If it’s your partner’s child, they can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if you were living in the UK by 31 December 2020 and one of the following applies:

  • you and their other parent got married or registered a civil partnership by 31 December 2020

  • you and their other parent were living together for 2 years by 31 December 2020

  • you’re a Swiss citizen and you and your partner are married - this will apply if you get married at any point until 31 December 2025

You can check if your child can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

You can check which countries are in the EU on GOV.UK.

If you arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020

If you applied and got pre-settled status as a family member, your child can’t apply for indefinite leave.

Your child can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if their other parent:

  • is a citizen of the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein

  • was living in the UK by 31 December 2020

If your child can’t apply, you’ll need to wait until you get settled status before your child can apply for indefinite leave. Check the rules about switching from pre-settled to settled status.

If you were born in Northern Ireland

Your child or your partner’s child might be able to apply for pre-settled or settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme. It's free and easier than applying for indefinite leave.

The child might be able to apply for pre-settled or settled status if you have British or Irish citizenship - or both. When you were born one of your parents must have had either:

  • British or Irish citizenship - or both 

  • an immigration status that let them live in the UK permanently - for example, indefinite leave

You must have been living in the UK by 31 December 2020.

If it’s your partner’s child, they can only apply if you and your partner either:

  • got married or registered a civil partnership by 31 December 2020

  • were living together for 2 years by 31 December 2020

If you were born in Northern Ireland, check how your partner should apply to the EU Settlement Scheme on GOV.UK.

Check if your child can apply for indefinite leave

If your child is outside the UK, they must be aged under 18 to apply for indefinite leave.

If your child is already in the UK, they can only apply for indefinite leave if they have a child visa. They can still apply if they’re over 18 years old. They might have got a child visa if their parent had either:

  • a partner visa

  • a visa as the parent of a child in the UK - this will be a different child

Example

Toshiya is a Japanese citizen who lived in Japan. Toshiya has sole responsibility for his daughter, Hana. Hana is also a Japanese citizen.

When Hana was 14, Toshiya married a British citizen, Anita. Anita moved back to the UK and Toshiya got a partner visa to move with her. Hana stayed in Japan to continue her education.

When Hana finished her education at 16, she got a child visa to come to the UK. She could do this because Toshiya had a partner visa.

Toshiya has now got indefinite leave. Hana is 19.

Hana can apply for indefinite leave because Toshiya has sole responsibility for her and he has an immigration status that lets him be a sponsor. She can apply even though she is in the UK and aged over 18 because she has a child visa.

If your child is in the UK and aged over 18, they will usually need to pass both a ‘Life in the UK’ test and an English language test before they apply. You can:

If your child hasn’t passed the tests, they can still apply for extra time to live in the UK - this is called ‘limited leave’. They should make it clear they’re applying for limited leave - the application will cost less. Once your child has passed the tests, they can immediately apply for indefinite leave.

If your child is independent

You can’t sponsor your child if they’re independent, for example if they:

  • are living with a partner

  • have left home - unless they left home to study

If they aren’t your biological or adopted child

You can sponsor the child if their parent has died and you were their parent’s husband, wife or civil partner.

You might also be able to sponsor the child if both of the following apply:

  • you’re related to them

  • there are serious reasons why they should be allowed to come to the UK - for example because there’s no-one else who could look after them anywhere else

Get help from a specialist adviser if you want to sponsor a child when you’re not their parent or step-parent.

If you want to adopt a child from overseas, there are different rules - get help from a specialist adviser.

Check the rules about your income and savings

If you or your partner are applying for indefinite leave at the same time

You’ll need to pass a different test called the ‘financial requirement’. Check the rules about applying for indefinite leave for adults.

You must show you’ll have enough income each week to look after your child. This is called the ‘adequate maintenance’ test.

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 will live with you - this includes the child applying for indefinite leave and any other child who will live with you

  • 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 will be covered by Council Tax Reduction, Housing Benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit.

Example

Alisha’s child is applying for indefinite leave from outside the UK. Alisha has sole responsibility for her child and doesn’t have a partner.

The total weekly income Alisha needs to sponsor her child is £77 plus £70.80 plus her housing costs.

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

Alisha’s council tax is £30 each week. She gets Council Tax Reduction of £10 each week. £30 minus £10 is £20. This means she needs £20 income for council tax each week.

The total income Alisha needs each week is £77 plus £70.80 plus £20. This is £167.80.

Check if you have enough income

Work out how much income you’ll 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 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

Alisha’s child is applying for indefinite leave from outside the UK. Alisha has sole responsibility for her child and doesn’t have a partner. The total weekly income she needs to sponsor her child is £167.80.

Alisha’s weekly earnings after tax are £140 - she has no other income.

Alisha has £2,600 in savings, which she’s had for the last 6 months. £2,600 divided by 52 is £50. This is added to her income.

£140 plus £50 is £190. Alisha’s total weekly income is £190. This is more than the government says she needs, so Alisha can sponsor her child.

If your total income isn’t high enough

When you work out your total income, you might be able to include other benefits you get - 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

You’ll have to show that where you live is safe, suitable and large enough for the number of people you want to live there with you. 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.

If your child doesn’t meet the rules to apply for indefinite leave

Your child might still be able to get indefinite leave. The rules depend on whether they’re living inside or outside the UK when they apply.

If your child is outside the UK

Your child might be able to get a visa if refusing the visa would lead to ‘harsh and unreasonable consequences’. This might be the case if you would have difficulty living with your child anywhere else in the world - for example if you have other children who can’t go with you.

Get help from a specialist adviser if you want to apply based on harsh and unreasonable consequences.

If your child is in the UK

The rules are complicated. Get help from a specialist adviser.

Check your child’s rights if they get indefinite leave

If your child gets indefinite leave, this gives them 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 they want

They’ll usually only lose their indefinite leave if they’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 your child can apply for indefinite leave.

Page last reviewed on 11 July 2022