Regularise: A Safer Path to Settlement:

This report comes from StatusNow4All signatory organisation Regularise

24 May 2021: Regularise: A Safer Path to Settlement: Undocumented migrants and the 20 year rule on long residence

Excerpt from Regularise’s briefing:


The 20 year rule on long residence is an immigration directive which appears in the Immigration Rules, written by the Home Secretary and published by the Home Office under the power of section 3 of the Immigration Act 1971. It concerns the ability of undocumented migrants to regularise their status and subsequently—after a 10 year period of ‘continuous lawful residence’ in the UK—qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) via multiple applications for Limited Leave to Remain (LLR).

Introduced on 9th July 2012, the 20 year rule replaced the 14 year rule which formerly provided a shorter and more direct route to settlement. Prior to 2012, this route permitted undocumented migrants living in the UK to regularise their status by applying for ILR immediately following 14 years continuous residence. 

Under the 20 year rule, in order to reach the same point of qualification for an ILR application, a person is required to have continuously resided in the UK for at least 30 years which includes at least 20 years continuous and precarious residence before they are able to make four separate successful applications for 30 months of LLR at a time, totalling a further 120 months or 10 consecutive years (see Fig.1). For comparison, the EU Settlement Scheme required over a million EU migrants to prove they had five years’ continuous residence before being granted settled status. As of May 2020, more than 3.3 million EU Settlement Scheme applications had been concluded of which 57% were granted settled status and 41% pre-settled status.

How does the 20 year rule work?

When an undocumented person has lived in the UK for 20 years, they can apply for LLR, which lasts 2.5 years (30 months). In order to have the opportunity to apply for indefinite leave to remain, an individual must apply and be granted LLR a total of 4 times consecutively in order to accrue 10 years. In reality, the 14 year rule has effectively been replaced by a 30 year rule to gain eligibility for an indefinite leave to remain application.[…]

● Repeal parts of legislation that force undocumented migrants into greater precarity: the ‘right to work’ (Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, Immigration Act 2014 and Immigration Act 2016) and ‘right to rent’ (Immigration Act 2014 and Immigration Act 2016 ).
● Remove financial and legal obstacles to regularisation and settlement by:
○ implementing a regularisation scheme similar to the EU Settlement Scheme, with a simplified application process for undocumented migrants who have lived in the UK for at least 5 continuous years and which allows them to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (similar to ‘settled status’);
○ creating a new process similar to one for the EU Settlement Scheme’s pre-settled status for those who have lived in the UK for less than 5 years with a maximum of two applications in total before gaining indefinite leave to remain after living in the UK for a ‘continuous period’ of 5 years.
● Redirect enforcement spending towards the creation and resourcing of a new Migrant Regularisation Directorate with the specific purpose of helping migrants regularise and maintain their status.

Read the full report here: