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Indefinite Leave to Remain vs British Citizenship

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The legal labyrinth of immigration can often bewilder those navigating it. Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and British Citizenship are two prominent statuses that permit foreign nationals to reside, work, and access social services in the UK. While they may seem synonymous, each comes with its unique benefits and limitations. This article aims to unravel the subtle differences between these two statuses, allowing you to make informed decisions.

Understanding the Basics

What is ILR?

Indefinite Leave to Remain serves as a form of permanent residence or settlement for foreign nationals who have been living in the UK for a qualifying period—typically between 2 to 5 years, depending on the type of visa. ILR grants individuals the liberty to live, work, and study in the UK free of immigration control.

What is British Citizenship?

British Citizenship, often considered the next step after ILR, provides more comprehensive rights. Most foreign nationals can apply for British Citizenship and consequently, a British passport, 12 months after obtaining ILR. It represents a deeper integration into British society, beyond mere residence.

Residency Requirements and Constraints

Indefinite Leave to Remain

With ILR, your right to stay in the UK isn’t truly ‘indefinite’ if you spend substantial time outside the country. You can lose your ILR status if you reside outside the UK for more than 24 consecutive months. However, you might apply for a Returning Resident Visa (RRV), subject to proving strong ties to the UK.

British Citizenship

One of the paramount advantages of British Citizenship is that it isn’t subject to residency constraints. This provides an enhanced sense of security for individuals who may need to live abroad for extended periods, such as caregiving for a family member.

Political Participation: Right to Vote

Indefinite Leave to Remain

If civic engagement is a significant aspect of your life, ILR may disappoint you. Those holding ILR are not entitled to vote in UK national or local elections.

British Citizenship

Conversely, British Citizenship allows you to fully participate in the democratic process. British, Irish, and eligible Commonwealth citizens not only have the right to vote but can also stand for public office.

Passport Privileges

Indefinite Leave to Remain

ILR doesn’t grant the right to a British passport, which remains one of the world’s most powerful travel documents. According to the Guide Passport Ranking Model in 2023, the British passport ranks third globally, offering visa-free access to 189 countries.

British Citizenship

The right to a British passport is one of the most enticing benefits of acquiring British Citizenship. Moreover, dual citizenship is permissible, enabling you to hold a British passport alongside another nationality, provided the laws of the other country permit it.

Benefits for Offspring

Indefinite Leave to Remain

ILR status alone does not allow you to secure British citizenship for your children.

British Citizenship

As a British citizen, you can apply for British citizenship for your children below the age of 18, irrespective of their place of birth. The Home Office stipulates that children born in the UK after 1st July 2006 automatically acquire British citizenship if one parent was a British citizen at the time and can pass on their nationality. Even children born outside the UK can obtain citizenship through descent, up to one generation.


While both Indefinite Leave to Remain and British Citizenship provide substantial rights and opportunities, the latter offers unequivocal benefits including political participation, dual nationality, and easier global travel. Understand your needs, weigh your options, and take the most suitable course of action towards your life in the UK.

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