Indefinite Leave to Remain for IMGs

8 Minutes

Most international medical graduates moving to the UK to work for the NHS do so under the Health and Care Visa (previously known as the Tier 2 Visa). The Health and Care Visa allows IMGs to work and live in the UK for up to five years while also allowing them to bring dependants.

During this time, many IMGs settle down in the UK. They might decide that they like life here and want to stay on a more permanent basis. While there is always the option of applying for another Visa, there is another (arguably more desirable) option – indefinite leave to remain.

Indefinite leave to remain allows IMGs to settle in the UK more permanently; it grants additional benefits and means there’s no need for immigration fees or control. So, if you want to stay in the UK as an IMG, this is the route you will likely want to take.

The Benefits of Indefinite Leave to Remain

Indefinite leave to remain allows a lot more freedom than the Health and Care Visa. For starters, it grants you permanent residence in the UK. There’s no need for any more immigration applications or fees. Plus, you have access to free healthcare and public funds. For example, if you need income support, you can apply for Universal Credit. Under indefinite leave to remain, you are also free to start your own business in the UK.

After being on indefinite leave to remain for one year, it also provides a route to British citizenship, which is the goal of many IMGs wanting to reside permanently in the United Kingdom.

Indefinite Leave to Remain: Eligibility and Cost

Indefinite leave to remain costs £2,885 per person.

In terms of eligibility, you will need to prove the following:

  • Have lived and worked in the UK for five years
  • Passed the Life in the UK test
  • Not spent more than 450 days out of the UK since moving
  • A record of absences
  • Have a job that meets the salary requirements

As an IMG doctor, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain after spending five years working for the NHS, usually under the Health and Care Visa (previously named Tier 2 Visa).

Please note that for IMGs living in the UK on a Temporary Work Visa (Tier 5 Visa), their years on the MTI scheme do not count towards indefinite leave to remain.

Applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain

Applying for indefinite leave to remain is relatively simple – you can do so online in an online form. You will fill out the form and upload the necessary documents before being invited to an appointment at UKVCAS to provide your biometric information.

It can take up to six months to receive confirmation of a decision. However, you can pay for a priority service to speed things up. The Priority Service means getting a decision within five days, while the Super Priority Service means receiving confirmation within two days.

The Life in the UK Test

One of the tests you need to pass to qualify for indefinite leave to remain is the Life in the UK test. You can book the test three days in advance, where you will fill out a form asking for your email address, credit or debit card, ID, and biometric residence permit. You must be between 18 to 65 to take this test – anyone who falls out of this category won’t need to take it.

The Life in the UK Test costs £50 in total. To pass the first time, there is an official handbook to study from. During the test, you get 45 minutes to answer 24 questions, all of which revolve around life in the UK. Here are some example questions so you can familiarise yourself with the structure:

Q: Which Flower is Associated with England?

A: Shamrock B: Daffodil C: Thistle D: Rose

Q: Which is a Famous Classical Music Event in the UK?

A: T in the Park B: The Proms C: Glastonbury Festival D: Creamfields

Q: When is St David’s Day?

A: 30th November B: 17th March C: 23rd April D: 1st March

Indefinite Leave to Remain vs British Citizenship

While indefinite leave to remain provides much more freedom than a Visa, it still has some barriers. For example, if you leave the UK for two years, you will no longer have it. Plus, you cannot vote in the UK elections.

On the other hand, having full British citizenship means you are a citizen for life, and you can reside permanently in Britain no matter how many times you exit or how long. Basically, you are under no restrictions. You can also vote and apply for a full British passport.

Generally, IMG doctors who use indefinite leave to remain eventually choose to apply for British citizenship.

Applying for British Citizenship

If you want to reside permanently in the UK, it makes sense to eventually apply for British citizenship, which you can do after being on indefinite leave to remain for one year. Here is everything else you’ll need to prove to apply for British citizenship:

  • Passed the Life in the UK Test
  • Knowledge of the English Language
  • Over five years in the UK
  • Not Broken UK Immigration rules
  • Prove Good Character

Keep in mind that you must have lived and worked in the UK for five years at least by the time the Home Office receives your application, otherwise, it will get rejected.

Applying for British citizenship can be done online on the government website. It can take up to six months to hear a response. Once it is confirmed, you become a full British citizen with no barriers to living or working in the UK. This lasts for a lifetime.

In Summary

After five years under the Health and Care (previously Tier 2) Visa, you are able to apply for indefinite leave to remain. After another year of that, you can apply for full British citizenship. Many IMG doctors find this route worthwhile, as it means more freedom and no immigration fees. So, if you want to reside permanently in the UK in your NHS role, this is definitely a route to consider.

The road to British citizenship might seem like a long one but it starts with simple steps like registering with the GMC and finding your first job in the NHS – that’s what we’re here to help with so get in touch to learn more.