How to get a UK residence permit?

Gert Svaiko

Looking to move to the UK? You’ll need to make sure you have all of your paperwork in order, starting with applying for a visa.

But another of the most important documents you’ll need to know about is the UK residence permit. This is an official document allowing a foreign national to live in the country for a fixed or indefinite length of time.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the residence permit in the UK. This includes what it's called, who is eligible for it and how to apply for it. And of course, how much it costs in application fees.

We’ll also touch on a convenient and low-cost way to manage your money internationally with a financial services provider Wise. Open a Wise account online and you can send money between countries for low fees and mid-market exchange rates.

Learn more about the Wise account

Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

Types of residence permits in the UK

The UK immigration and visa system can be complicated, with lots of different routes you can follow depending on your circumstances.

It can be difficult to understand all the different document and visa types, as well as the fees and timescales. This is especially true now that the UK officially left the European Union, and its immigration system has changed.

The first thing to know is that the previous UK residence card, also known as the EEA biometric residence card (BRC), is no longer available to new applicants

Those who already have a BRC card can carry on using it until it expires. However, you can’t use it to prove your right to live or work in the UK

Leave to remain

The previous UK residence permit has been replaced by a document proving that you have ‘leave to remain’.

There is limited leave to remain, and indefinite leave to remain - which we’ll look at next.

Limited leave to remain is where you have permission to stay in the UK for a restricted period of time depending on which visa you have. The conditions and time period on your visa will determine how long you can stay, or when you need to apply for a visa extension.

You don’t need to apply separately for limited leave to remain, as the permission to stay in the UK is granted when you receive your visa.

Indefinite leave to remain

There’s also indefinite leave to remain, also known as settlement. This is the option you’ll choose if you want to move to the UK permanently, and want the right to live, work and study there for as long as you like. It’s also the first step to applying for British citizenship.

To be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain, you can use one of the following routes:²

  • If you’ve lived and worked in the UK for 5 years (2-3 years if you have a tier 1 visa, or 3 years for an Innovator or Global Talent visa).
  • If you have family already settled in the UK, either with indefinite leave to remain or as a British citizen.
  • If you’ve been living in the UK for 10 years or more
  • If you’re a Commonwealth citizen who has been living in the UK on a UK Ancestry visa.

You’ll need to have secured a visa first, and remained in the UK for long enough so that you qualify for one of the options above. Then, you can check out the different routes to apply for indefinite leave to remain here.

Biometric residence permit (BRP)³

There’s also such a thing as a biometric residence permit (BRP) in the UK. This isn’t to be confused with the EEA biometric residence card (BRC) we mentioned above, as this is no longer open to new applicants.

The biometric residence permit (BRP) is issued to you when you successfully apply for or extend a visa, or apply to settle in the UK. You don’t need to apply separately for it.

It can be used to confirm your identity, right to study and right to access any benefits or other public services you’re entitled to. However, it can’t be used to prove your right to work or rent in the UK.

The BRP will include your personal details, along with your biometric information. This usually means that it’ll feature a photo of your face and a copy of your fingerprints. It’ll also have details of your immigration status and whether or not you can access public services like health or benefits. Some BRPs have the holder’s National Insurance (NI) number printed on the back.

What is the difference between a visa and a residence permit in the UK?

A visa gives you permission to enter the UK for a certain period of time, and under certain conditions.

In comparison, a residence permit such as indefinite leave to remain allows you to stay in the country for an extended period of time.

How much does it cost to get a UK residence permit?

There is an application fee to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK. You’ll need to pay this on top of any visa fees you may have already paid when you first entered the UK.

To apply for indefinite leave to remain if you have family in the UK, the fee is £2,404 per person.⁴

If you’re applying from inside the UK, you may be able to pay extra to get a faster decision (it can take up to 6 months through the standard route). Pay an additional £500 and you could potentially get a decision on your application within 5 working days.⁵

There’s also the ‘super priority service’. This is where you’ll get a decision by the end of the next working day if you pay £800 on top of the standard application fee.⁵ So, it’s quick, but it makes an already expensive application fee even more costly.

If you’re applying for any visas or residence permits from overseas, you’ll need a way to send money to the UK.

Wise offers a secure and low-cost way for transferring funds, letting you pay visa and permit fees in GBP for low fees. You can even use it for covering your moving costs, such as buying a house or renting a flat. Best of all, you’ll get a fair mid-market exchange rate for the conversion of the currency.

You can continue using Wise once you’ve arrived in the UK too. With a Wise account, you can manage your money in multiple currencies, including GBP.


Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

How can I apply for a UK residence permit?

The way to apply for a UK residence permit all depends on your particular circumstances, and what visa you have.

You’ll usually need to apply for indefinite leave to remain online. You’ll need to upload your supporting documents and pay your application fee. Then you’ll need to wait for a decision. Or as we’ve outlined above, you can potentially pay extra to speed things up.

To give you an idea of the process, here’s what it looks like for people with a Skilled Worker visa who has lived and worked in the UK for 5 years:

  1. Check your eligibility and get your supporting documents together
  2. Start your online application at the UK Government’s Visa and Immigration website. You can save your application form and come back to it later if needed.
  3. Complete the form and pay the application fee online.
  4. After your application is submitted, you’ll need to make an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) centre to submit your biometric information.
  5. You should get a decision within 6 months, unless you’ve paid extra for a faster decision.

You can find out more about the different routes to apply on the UK Government website.

What’s the settled status in the UK?

If you’re an EU citizen, you and your family may be able to apply for something called ‘settled status’. Available through the EU Settlement Scheme, this gives you leave to continue living in the UK.⁶

The deadline to apply for settled status was 30th June 2021. However, there are some exceptions to this, allowing people in certain circumstances to still be able to apply.⁶

For example, if you are from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, and were living in the UK by 31st December 2020. You must also have reasonable grounds for not applying by the original deadline.

You may also be able to apply post-deadline if you have pre-settled status.

How long does it take to get a residence permit in the UK?

It can potentially take up to 6 months⁴ to get a decision on your indefinite leave to remain application. However, if you can afford to pay the additional fee (see above), you could use the super priority service and get a decision by the next working day

How long does a UK residence permit last?

If you successfully apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK, you can stay permanently.

Otherwise, you’ll only have limited leave to remain and can only stay as long as your visa permits (unless you’re able to extend it).

How to get UK residence permits for your spouse, children, and family?

If you want to settle in the UK with your family, you can apply for indefinite leave together. Adults will likely need to apply separately, but you can include children on your application. However, you’ll still need to pay the full fee for each applicant.⁴

After reading this guide, you should have a better idea of the process of applying for a residence permit in the UK.

We’ve looked at indefinite leave to remain, including the fees and eligibility criteria - and where to find more information. This should give you a good starting point when it comes to finding the right route for you and putting in your application.

Sources used:

  1. - UK residence cards
  2. - Indefinite leave to remain
  3. - Biometric residence permits
  4. - Indefinite leave to remain if you have family in the UK
  5. - Get a faster decision on your visa or settlement application
  6. - Apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (settled and pre-settled status)

Sources last checked on date: 04-May-2023

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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