Long Residence: 10 and 20-Year UK Visa Immigration Routes

The United Kingdom, with its rich history, diverse culture, and economic opportunities, has long been a destination for immigrants seeking a better future. For those who have made the UK their home, the 10 and 20-year long residence routes offer a potential path to indefinite leave to remain (ILR) and a stable future in this nation. In this extended exploration, we will delve deeper into the intricacies of these long residence routes, understand the eligibility requirements, and explore some additional rules that can affect individuals seeking to secure their status in the UK.

Understanding the 10-Year Long Residence Route

The 10-year long residence route, defined under Paragraph 276B of the immigration rules, offers individuals the opportunity to apply for indefinite leave to remain if they have completed ten continuous and lawful years of residence in the UK. However, this seemingly straightforward path comes with a set of complexities and qualifications.

Continuous Residence Clarified

The concept of “continuous residence” is pivotal to the 10-year rule. According to Paragraph 276A(a), continuous residence refers to residing in the UK without any substantial breaks. While temporary absences are allowed, there are strict guidelines to follow:

  • An individual must not remain outside the UK for more than six months at any one time.
  • The cumulative total of time spent outside the UK during the ten-year period should not exceed 18 months.
  • Crucially, individuals must have permission to be in the UK when they leave and when they return.

Exceptions to Permission Requirements

One notable exception to the requirement of having permission at the time of leaving and returning is applicable to those who departed the UK before 24 November 2016, but after their leave to remain had expired. These individuals can apply for fresh entry clearance within 28 days of their previous leave expiring and return to the UK within six months.

Permitted Absences and Discretion

While any absence of more than six months can disrupt “continuous residence,” there is room for discretion in certain circumstances. The Long Residence guidance acknowledges that compelling or compassionate situations may justify discretion when there are absences exceeding six months. Serious illness, travel or postal delays, or the inability to provide necessary documents are among the factors considered.

What Constitutes “Lawful” Residence

To meet the requirements of the 10-year long residence route, residence must not only be continuous but also lawful. Paragraph 276A(b) defines “lawful residence” as residence with leave to enter or remain. However, recent changes exclude leave as a visitor and immigration bail from counting toward the ten-year period.

Qualification with Gaps in Lawful Residence

Individuals may still qualify under the 10-year rule even if there are gaps in lawful residence. The Long Residence guidance and the Court of Appeal have established that short gaps in lawful residence can be accepted, provided certain criteria are met.

Additional Requirements

In addition to the ten years of continuous lawful residence, successful applicants must fulfil various other requirements. These include passing the Life in the UK test, demonstrating English language proficiency at level B1, and maintaining lawful residence in the UK at the time of application, except in cases of overstaying for 28 days or less before 24 November 2016.

Timing of Applications

The earliest an individual can have an application granted under the 10-year rule is 28 days before completing the ten-year qualifying period. While it is advisable to apply no earlier than 28 days, flexibility exists in cases where early submission is necessary.

The 14-Year Rule

A previous rule allowed individuals to qualify for ILR after 14 years of continuous residence, but it was abolished in 2012 and replaced with the 20-year rule.

The 20-Year Long Residence Route

The 20-year long residence route, detailed in Appendix Private Life of the immigration rules, allows individuals to qualify for ILR after living continuously in the UK for 20 years, irrespective of whether their residence was lawful.

Exceptions to the 20-Year Qualification

While time spent in prison does not break continuous residence, it is not counted toward the period of residence. Individuals are allowed up to 550 days in total outside the UK.

Preventing Qualification

Under the 20-year rule, the only requirements are making a valid application, not falling under suitability requirements, and having lived continuously in the UK for at least 20 years.

Resulting Status

Successful applicants under the 20-year rule are granted limited leave to remain for 30 months, often with a “no recourse to public funds” condition. Access to public funds is typically allowed in cases of destitution or when the welfare of a relevant child justifies lifting the conditions.


The 10 and 20-year long residence routes provide individuals with a path to securing their future in the United Kingdom. While these routes come with qualifications, exceptions, and additional requirements, they offer a tangible way for those who have built their lives in the UK to achieve indefinite leave to remain. Understanding the nuances of these rules is vital for a successful application. Furthermore, other long residence rules, such as the seven-year rule for children and families, registration as British for children with 10 years’ residence, the “half of life” rule for under 25s, and the “very significant obstacles to integration” rule, provide alternative pathways for individuals seeking to establish their status in the UK. Navigating these pathways may be complex, but for many, they are a crucial step toward a secure and stable future in the UK.

Why Instruct Our Specialist Immigration Solicitors?

At DJF Solicitors, our team of specialist immigration lawyers will always act in your best interest. We offer a client-tailored approach from the outset. From the very first meetings, we will be able to advise you in respect of your prospects of submitting a visa application before your application even reaches the Home Office UK Visa & Immigration department. We can assist you with the preparation and submission of a visa application and are able to advise you in respect of your prospects and to ensure that you meet all the requirements of the relevant rules.

Preparation is the key to successful immigration applications. Our UK immigration and visa solicitors are here to guide you through the complex immigration rules and requirements. If you wish to meet one of our lawyers, please call our Immigration Team so we can assess your case and arrange your legal consultation to discuss your visa application.

Contact Us

For professional guidance and assistance with your application, contact our immigration solicitors on 02030110276 or complete our contact form.

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