Who needs to take the test - Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)

Applying for settlement or Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)? Check here and find out if you need to take the Life in the UK test.

The Life in the UK Test is a compulsory requirement for most people wanting to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen or permanent residence - also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or settlement.

In order to meet the ‘Knowledge of language and life in the UK’ requirement for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)/settlement you must:

  • pass the Life in the UK test, unless exempt (see below)
  • from 28 October 2013 have a speaking and listening qualification in English at B1 CEFR or higher, or its equivalent

This article covers who needs to take the Life in the UK Test when applying for settlement. If you are applying for naturalisation as a British citizen then please see Who needs to take the test - Citizenship.

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)

If you have lived in the United Kingdom legally for a certain length of time - usually five years, depending on your visa/immigration category - categories that allow an application for permanent residency in the UK include:

  • Legal residence - after five years (for example, spent on a Tier 2 visa)
  • Marriage or partner of a British citizen, or a person settled in the UK - five years, all of which must be spent on the spouse/partner visa. For more information see Spouses and partners.
  • Long residency - after ten years legal residency, or 14 years as a combination of illegal and legal residency

If your application for ILR is successful then you will be allowed to live and work in the country lawfully with no time limits or conditions on your stay. That said, permanent residents are advised not to spend periods of more than two years outside of the UK. Long-term residents should consider the UK their home and spending small periods of time here my lead to ILR being revoked.

Once your application for ILR has been approved you are able to apply for public benefits, subject to eligibility.

For applicants seeking to remain as the spouse or partner of a British citizen, or someone settled in the UK, you must be able to show that you were given permission to enter/remain in the country on a marriage/partner visa and that you have completed the residency requirement. You will also need to be able to provide evidence of your cohabitation and you must intend to continue the marriage.


There are some people do not need to take the test. The UKBA provide detailed guidance on their website as to these exceptions. To summarise the core exceptions, you don’t need to take the test if you are in any of the following circumstances:

  • You are under 18 years of age
  • You are over 65 years of age

There are also special exemptions for people who are only applying for permanent residence, as opposed to full UK citizenship. These exemptions apply to:

  • Foreign and Commonwealth citizens on discharge from HM Forces (including Ghurkhas where the qualifying period has been met)
  • Spouses of foreign and Commonwealth citizens on discharge from HM Forces (including Ghurkhas)
  • Bereaved spouses, bereaved unmarried partners and bereaved civil partners
  • Victims of domestic violence, who have leave to remain as a spouse or partner of a person settled or naturalised in the UK
  • Parents, grandparents and other dependent relatives of someone already present and settled in the UK
  • Retired persons of independent means
  • EEA/EU nationals (see below)
  • Turkish business people
  • refugees who have spent five years in the UK with permission
  • people who have spent six years in the UK under discretionary leave
  • people who have spent four years in the UK with exceptional leave to remain
  • people who have spent five years in the UK under humanitarian protection.
  • a dependent child of someone in an employment category that preceding the points-based system (listed in paragraphs 128-193 of the Immigration Rules, excluding paragraphs 135I-135K) or of someone who is here as a businessman, self-employed person, investor, writer, composer or artist (paragraphs 200-239 of the Immigration Rules). This includes children who are 18 or over when they apply

Note that these exemptions only apply to people seeking settlement. If you wish to subsequently apply for British citizenship then you may need to take the Life in the UK test.

Health and disabilities

If you have a ‘long-standing, permanent’ physical or mental health condition you may be exempt. This condition must prevent you from permanently studying for or taking the test, or from studying for an ESOL qualification. To be exempt you must:

  • be suffering from a long-term illness or disability that severely restricts your mobility and ability to attend language classes; or
  • have a mental impairment which means that you are unable to learn another language.

You will have to provide evidence from a medical practitioner to confirm this disability.

You will not be exempted on the grounds of illiteracy.

If you have a visual or hearing impairment then this will not exempt you from the test. Most test centres are well equipped to assist people with such disabilities. Check with your local test centre to see if they can accommodate you. If they can not, then contact the Home Office for guidance on completing your application for settlement or citizenship.

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