Difference Between ILR and British Citizenship

Both the indefinite leave to remain (ILR) to remain and British citizenship by naturalization allow a foreign national to stay in the UK permanently. Despite this and many other similarities, ILR and citizenship are not the same. In fact, to fully leverage all the benefits of living in the British society, you might need to obtain its citizenship through naturalization. Failure to apply for British citizenship will undoubtedly deprive you of many of the advantages that stem from that status, so you would not want to miss out on these perks.

Indefinite Leave to Remain vs. British Citizenship

Indefinite Leave to Remain is the first steppingstone towards becoming a British citizen. In order to apply for British citizenship (provided that you’re not entitled to it by birthright) you would have to first obtain ILR status and, in most cases, live in the UK for at least 12 more months afterwards (unless you were under a Spouse Visa or were a spouse of a British citizen for the three years prior to your application).

Many of the benefits you get with Indefinite Leave to Remain will carry over to your prospective citizen status, such as the right to freely live, enter, and exit the UK whenever you want, or the rights to free NHS healthcare (that is, without having to pay any health surcharges) and welfare payments.

Nevertheless, British citizenship also grants various other rights and benefits that you won’t be able to enjoy under ILR. Keep reading to find out some of the most relevant of these.

Benefits of Becoming a British Citizen

Becoming a British citizen grants benefits beyond what you could obtain with Indefinite Leave to Remain. Essentially, you will have the same rights as any other UK national, such as the right to vote in any election or run for any office insofar as you meet all the other legal requirements.

In addition, once you acquire British citizenship, you will be able to apply for a British passport, which is not possible with ILR. A British passport enables you to travel in and out of the country with ease and without any strenuous immigration checks. The British passport is one of the most powerful passports in the world and gives you visa-free access to more than 180 countries, some of which will only require that you apply for your visa upon arrival or fill out a quick online form.

What’s more, you’ll be capable of applying for your children begotten abroad, and the children you beget inside the UK will automatically attain British citizenship.

Having British citizenship doesn’t bar you from retaining your original nationality. Hence, you can hold dual citizenship but only provided that your country of origin also allows you to hold another nationality.

British citizenship cannot be revoked save for extreme reasons that could call for a “deprivation of citizenship”, such as having obtained your status via fraudulent means or severe national security concerns (acts of terrorism, espionage, etc.)

Conversely, Indefinite Leave to Remain can be revoked on more ample grounds, such as deportation, loss of refugee status, or prolonged absence from the UK (more than two years).

What is The Fastest Way to Obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain Status?

There is no silver bullet or a failsafe way that allows you to receive Indefinite Leave to Remain faster, as it depends on every individual’s particular situation.

With that said, normally you can obtain ILR quicker if you enter and live in the UK under an Innovator or Global Talent Visa, though the process for obtaining those visas has varying degrees of difficulty. You may want to have your case assessed by a qualified immigration specialist that can suggest to you the best way to move forward.

How to Apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain

To apply for ILR you ought to be under an eligible visa, such as:

  • Family, Spouse, and Unmarried Partner visas.
  • Work visas such as Global Talent, Skilled Worker, Senior or Specialist Worker, or Sportsperson visas.
  • Innovator, Investor, or Start-Up visas.
  • Others such as UK Ancestry, Retired Person, or Returning Resident visas.

By way of exception, you can acquire Indefinite Leave to Remain if, despite having been in the UK under different non-eligible visas, you legally and continuously remained in the UK for a period of 10 years, as in, without any gaps.

Once it’s determined that you fulfilled the visa and residency requirements, you can fill out your ILR application, which you must accompany with various other documents, such as passports (including expired passports that were valid during your residency), travel documents (or similar) used when travelling abroad, certificates showing that you passed the English language test and the “Life in the UK” test (both if applicable), financial documentation (such as bank statements), birth or adoption certificate, and passport photos.

How Do I Apply for British Citizenship After Obtaining ILR?

Alongside your British citizenship application, you’d have to also provide similar documents to those submitted when applying for ILR, as well as those confirming that you lived lawfully in the UK for the duration of the qualifying period, that you are not PSIC (Person Subject to Immigration Control), and that you don’t have any time restrictions on your leave to remain.

As stated earlier, you can apply for British citizenship after achieving ILR status, but you may have to wait 12 months before filing your petition unless you were on a UK Spouse Visa or have lived with a British spouse for the past three years.

After you apply for British citizenship, you’d typically get a response within 6 months. If your application is approved, you’d have to attend a citizenship ceremony whereby you’ll swear an oath of allegiance and make a pledge. The ceremony must be scheduled within the next three months of receiving the approval letter and the invitation.

After the ceremony is over, you’ll be officially deemed a British citizen in good standing, which means that you’re automatically entitled to all the political and civil rights as any other UK national, even irrespective of holding a valid ID or travel document.

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