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What is the difference between Indefinite Leave to Remain and British Citizenship?

  • September 20, 2019

What is Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)?

ILR allows you to live and work in the UK, no longer subject to UK immigration controls. This means you can enter and exit the country whenever you like. There is often confusion between the two and so, we list the differences of both and the advantages of having British citizenship.

Application Requirements:

  • You will need to live in the UK for five years before you can apply
  • Not spend more than 180 days outside the UK in any 12-month period in period in the last five years
  • Earn over £35,800 per annum at the time of your application
  • Evidenced your English language skills via an approved test
  • Pass the life in the UK test

British Citizenship

After you have gained ILR or “settled status”, you can then apply for British citizenship.

British citizenship or naturalisation gives you the right to a British passport and the full rights of a UK citizen. To apply, you will need to have held ILR for one year.

Application Requirements:

  • Spent more than 90 days outside the UK in any 12 months
  • Spent more than 450 days outside the UK during your five years of UK residency
  • Meet the “Good Character”
    • To become a British citizen, you will have to be of “Good Character”. During your time spent living in the UK, you will need to have followed the laws and respected its rights and freedoms. This means that you should have paid your income tax and national insurance etc. Various background checks will be performed and so, you must be on the right side of the law.

You should note that it can take up to six months to process a citizenship application and you are required to attend a citizenship ceremony within three months of your application being approved. It will then take about six weeks to be issued.

What is the difference between ILR and citizenship?

To apply for British citizenship, you must hold ILR. If you leave the UK for more than two years, your ILR will be lost and you will need to apply for a Tier 2 visa.

Once you hold British citizenship, it will be for life. With British citizenship you can freely enter, exit, live and work in the UK forever. It also gives you the right to vote while ILR does not allow you to vote in UK elections.

UK law allows you to hold dual citizenship, but it is important to check the relevant laws in your home country.

Relocation to the UK

If you are an international doctor and you need support with relocating to the UK, email your CV to [email protected] and we can support you in securing an NHS post and on your journey to the UK today.

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References (2019). British citizenship and indefinite leave to remain: Why you need to know the difference. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Sep. 2019].


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