British Citizenship vs. Indefinite Leave to Remain | 2024 Legal Advice

british citizenship vs ilr


In the area of UK immigration law, understanding the pathways to residency and British citizenship is crucial. In this post, we delve into the intricacies of Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and Naturalisation as a British Citizen. These two statuses, while offering similar benefits like residence rights and access to public funds, have distinct features and requirements that are essential for applicants to understand.


Understanding Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)

ILR grants individuals the right to reside in the UK indefinitely, free from immigration time restrictions. This status can be acquired through various routes, usually after 3 to 5 years, depending on the specific pathway. It’s also referred to as ‘settled status‘ or ‘Indefinite Leave to Enter’ when granted to individuals moving to the UK permanently from abroad.


Eligibility Criteria for ILR

To be eligible for ILR, applicants must :
  • Complete a residency period of 3 to 5 years in the UK.
  • Pass the Life in the UK test.
  • Meet an English language requirement, usually at B1, B2, C1, or C2 level, or hold a degree taught or researched in English.


The Path to British Citizenship

British Citizenship, or Naturalisation, signifies full legal recognition as a UK national. It offers the ultimate right of abode in the country, allowing individuals to live, work, and travel with greater freedom.

Eligibility for British Citizenship

Applicants can apply for British citizenship 12 months after obtaining ILR, with exceptions for those married to British citizens.

Key requirements include:
  • Being over 18 and of sound mind.
  • Having lived in the UK for a minimum of 5 years (3 years if married to a British citizen).
  • Not having breached UK immigration laws during the qualifying period.
  • Passing the Life in the UK test and meeting English language requirements.


ILR and British Citizenship Comparison 

Feature ILR British Citizenship
Residence Rights Permanent, with time restrictions Permanent, without time restrictions
Absences Loss of status after 2 years abroad No effect on citizenship status
Voting Rights Limited, depending on origin Full voting rights in all elections
Passport Not applicable Entitled to a British passport
Dual Citizenship Eligibility Not applicable Possible, depending on other country

Application Process for ILR

The process for obtaining ILR involves:

  1. Completing the required period of residence in the UK.
  2. Gathering necessary documentation, including proof of residency and language proficiency.
  3. Submitting an application to the UK Home Office, typically involving a fee and the Life in the UK test.


Application Process for British Citizenship

To apply for British Citizenship, an applicant must:

  1. Hold ILR status for at least 12 months (immediately for those married to British citizens).
  2. Ensure compliance with residency and absence requirements.
  3. Complete the application form, submit the required documents, and pay the fee of £1,500 (as of 2024).

Dual Citizenship and ILR

While ILR does not directly relate to dual citizenship, naturalising as a British Citizen allows for this possibility, subject to the laws of the other country of nationality.

Travel Rights and Limitations

British citizens can travel indefinitely without affecting their status. In contrast, ILR holders may lose their status if they spend more than 2 years consecutively outside the UK.


Impact on Family Members

  • British Citizenship: Children born to a British citizen automatically acquire citizenship, regardless of birthplace.
  • ILR: Children of ILR holders can naturalise as British citizens before turning 18.


Financial Considerations and Fees

Understanding the financial aspects is a key part of the journey towards Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or British Citizenship. The application for British Citizenship comes with a fee of £1,500 as of 2024, while the cost for ILR varies based on the specific immigration route. These fees are exclusive of additional expenses such as legal services, document translations, and required tests. Applicants must plan for these financial obligations, bearing in mind that fees are subject to change and should be verified through official channels.


Long-Term Implications

Choosing between ILR and British Citizenship has significant long-term implications. British Citizenship offers unrestricted travel and automatic citizenship for children born to citizens, along with full civic rights including voting. In contrast, ILR status requires maintaining a continuous presence in the UK to avoid lapsing and provides limited voting rights. This decision impacts not just the applicant but also their family, influencing their rights, travel freedom, and integration into the UK’s social and political fabric.



Understanding the differences between ILR and British Citizenship is crucial for making decisions in UK immigration matters. Each path offers unique benefits and requirements, If You’re in Need of Immigration Advice, ore Legal Services, Don’t Hesitate to Reach Out to our Immigration Experts at Primus Solicitors.

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