The Road to Settlement: 5 Ways You Can Screw Up Your ILR Application

Apr 14, 2023

In this article, we'll go over the five most common mistakes that UK immigrants make when applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain and give you tips on how to avoid them.

If you've been living in the UK for a while and plan to stay permanently, obtaining Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is a major milestone. It allows you to live and work in the UK without the need for a visa and removes any restrictions on your activities. Imagine a life where you can quit your job the next day and not worry about finding another company to sponsor you, apply for benefits (such as Universal Credit), rent a flat without an immigration check and so on. In summary, you can finally become a free elf (shout out to Harry Potter fans).

However, the ILR application process can be complex and daunting, with many common mistakes that can lead to rejection. Before we continue, you must know that there are two main routes to settlement: a 5-year route (with a fast track of 3 years for certain visas) and a 10-year route. Both routes have very different criteria to meet, but for now, we will cover the five most common reasons people mess up their ILR applications in both routes:

Exceeding travel day limit:

One of the main requirements for ILR is that you must have spent a certain amount of time in the UK. The 10-year route has a fixed limit for the entire duration of residence, and it's essential to keep track of your travel dates to avoid exceeding these limits. 5 five-year route has day limits in any 12-month timeframe instead (read below). Many people underestimate their travel day counts, especially when holidays are spread out over long periods. Exceeding your day limit may result in restarting your year count. To avoid this mistake, keep a record of all your travel dates and ensure that you're meeting the required time frames for each route.

Travelling over 180 days in one trip:

Another common mistake is spending more than half a year in one go outside of the UK. This can cause problems because The Home Office will define you as a visitor rather than a resident, and you need to prove residency to qualify for ILR. Please keep in mind that the 10-year route and the 5-year route have different day limits. If you're planning to travel for an extended period, make sure you break up your trip into shorter segments to avoid exceeding the 180-day limit.

Overstaying illegally in the UK:

Overstay means when someone remains in the UK after their visa expiry date; it is a serious offence and can have severe consequences for your ILR application. If you've overstayed your visa, your application may be rejected, and you may be banned from re-entering the UK for a certain period. It's essential to be aware of your visa expiration date and apply for extensions or renewals before the expiry date to avoid overstaying.

It is also important to note that there are two sets of overstay rules, with 24 November 2016 as the division. We'll cover this in more detail and with easier explanations soon!

Providing false or missing travel records:

No matter how confident you are in challenging the rules, you must provide accurate and complete travel records, including dates, destinations, and the purpose of your trip. This is because not only the Home Office holds the details of your entry history, but they can also determine the genuineness of your residence from your travel records. Failure to provide this information accurately can cause the Home Office to investigate your application, which may result in application refusal or worse. Make sure to keep all your travel records and documents in order and provide all the required information to avoid this mistake.

Failing to meet the residency requirements:

Some visa categories may require you to meet specific settlement requirements to be eligible for ILR. This is quite common for visas with ILR rights, such as Innovator visa or Global Talent visas. These visas require you to fulfil specific criteria, such as creating a certain amount of jobs or having a certain amount of funding or endorsements. Failing to meet these requirements on top of fulfilling the required time may result in your application being refused.


Applying for ILR can be a complex and daunting process, but by understanding the requirements and avoiding these common mistakes, you can increase your chances of success. To refresh your mind, here are the tips:

  • Keep track of your travel dates and day count

  • Ensure your travel records are accurate and honest

  • Keep your holiday within 180 days

  • Meet the residency requirements

  • Apply for visa renewal or extension before your visa expires.

By doing so, you'll be one step closer to living in the UK without restrictions!