Indefinite Leave to Remain, the term ‘Settlement’ and 2 confusing meanings of it.

There are 2 meanings of a term ‘Settlement’ when it comes to the UK visas. This is why it can be confusing to understand the Immigration Rules.

Meaning #1: Permanent Residency in the UK, known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). The Rules, the visa officers and therefore immigration lawyers often say “Apply for Settlement “ or “Apply to settle in the UK”, you can see here on UKVI website:

Even ILR application forms have names like SET(M) or SET(O).

Meaning #2: when spouses, partners and fiancées are applying from outside the UK, such applications are also called ‘Settlement’. It does not mean these are applications for Permanent Residency but means that the applicant (a foreign partner) is planning to come to the UK with the view of settling here, ie ‘for settlement’.  There is no such term when switching from a Spouse/Partner visa inside the UK, for example, from a Tier 4 to a Spouse visa. Yes, this 2nd meaning of a ‘Settlement’ term is used for applications outside the UK.

If you had to apply for a Spouse/Partner visa from abroad, you had to complete an online visa application form on visa4uk website:

You may remember having to choose option “Settlement” on the online system even though it was your very first visa - to enter the UK.

Here confusion is made worse when couples look for a lawyer in the country of application – and finding one who is only familiar with the applications from outside the UK (ie with only the latter type of a ‘Settlement’ application). In addition, such lawyers won’t be regulated by the OISC, a UK regulator. A particular individual may happen to be accredited by the OISC from the previous work in the UK or being a ‘branch’ of a British company, but their activity outside the UK won’t be regulated. This is because the OISC regulates only the UK-based businesses providing immigration advice, so a lawyer based in, say, the Philippines, won’t be regulated. Or rather will probably be regulated under the local rules, to advise on the Filipino law in our example, ie on the visas to live in the Philippines, which is completely the opposite to the purpose of getting a visa to live in the UK.

It’s worth remembering that the Rules are exactly the same for all non-EU nationals who are spouses/partners of British citizens (except some have to do a Tuberculosis Test). So, all the Rules are coming from the UK government and they are all the same whether your partner is from the USA or the Philippines, from Australia or Russia or Nigeria.

In fact, the applicants (or legal representatives) are now asked to forward the supporting documents to the UKVI facility in Sheffield, England.    That’s for what they call ‘Settlement” applications, in this example referring to Meaning #2.

We at 1st 4Immigration advise on such applications regardless of where the applicant is based. As the Rules are the same, we prepare the application, check all the documents and generally, guide throughout the process. In most cases, we forward the documents to Sheffield and liaise with the UKVI from then onwards.

Visit our website page on Spouse/Partner visa: entry (for settlement), switching from another category, extension and permanent residency (settlement ILR)

Indefinite Leave page:

For individual advice or to make an application please contact us: or visit: We respond emails on the same working day and have almost 100% success rate!

1st 4Immigration Ltd, authorised by the OISC, ref 200800152. We operate at the highest Level 3 of expertise. Office address: 68 King William Street, City of London, London, EC4M 7DZ.

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