A couple of months ago, Tola and I received our UK Indefinite Leave to Remain / Permanent Residency.

Technically, ours was a straightforward route. If you’ve been employed in the UK on an applicable work permit for 5 years, you’re very likely to have it approved at the end of the time period. Nonetheless, that 0.01% uncertainty and in our case 24 hour wait still made us feel a bit tensed.

A UK ILR means that we can live in the UK permanently. It also means no more visas to work or study, access to the National Health Service (NHS) without paying the NHS surcharge, as well as other applicable social benefits. Any child born while you have an ILR is also a British citizen by right.

Tola jokes that he’s upgraded my life, as I filed as his dependent. I countered that my employing law firm was going to sponsor my work visa anyway. In truth, filing as a dependent had its advantages.

But first, how and why did we end up in the UK? You can read on for the back story and the 8-year journey, or jump straight to the bottom for the ILR application tips and guidance.

How and why did we move to the UK

You may know we both went to school and university in Nigeria. I had never been to the UK and Tola had visited a couple of times. But he moved here first for his masters in January 2011. After convincing me to ditch my Harvard Law and US law school dreams in favour of a UK LLM degree, I moved to the UK on a Cambridge Commonwealth Scholarship in October 2012. This marked the end of across-the-ocean long distance relationship. As I settled and lived in Cambridge, Tola took up a job in academia in Coventry. The visa situation was relatively easy because the UK Post Study Work visa still existed at that time. This allowed graduate students a period of two years to remain in the UK. So his PSW visa sometime in began in August 2012 to end in August 2014. The PSW was later cancelled that year but has now been re-introduced.

Probably our first decent photo the week I moved for my Masters in 2012

Fun Fact

The PSW did not count towards the five-year period mentioned above. Although Tola could have switched to a qualifying Tier 2 visa because his employer was a recognised sponsor. At that time though, he claimed he wasn’t a 100% certain about remaining in the UK. So he was going to try it out for the two year period and possibly return home to Nigeria. I also think the process of switching from PSW to Tier 2 and the extra costs to be incurred was a deterrent.

On my part, at the end of my LLM, I had to return to Nigeria in 2013 on the terms of my scholarship. But I had also secured a top job at a UK law firm. Only glitch was that it was to start in 2015! The law firm was also a qualifying sponsor and would have sponsored my work visa / Tier 2 visa.

To cut this short, we had our civil ceremony in April 2014, and I filed as a dependent on Tola’s PSW visa to join him in the UK. We included the entire kitchen sink and more in that application especially as he had only two months left on that visa. From wedding photos, to email communication spanning six years, phone records, hand written letters and cards, his UK documents – all sorts! By our traditional and Church wedding in June and July 2014, I had received my visa and we were ready to give the UK a chance.

Milton Keynes, July 2014 and very shortly after we arrived the UK as married folks!

Giving the UK a chance

I started UK law school (the Legal Practice Course) in July 2014 after I arrived the country. With a dependent visa, I didn’t need a study visa. Tola’s PSW had two months left but he was going to remain with his employer and they had filed for his Tier 2 work permit.

In August 2014, after the PSW expired he switched to a Tier 2 visa, I again filed as his dependent. I resumed my new job in London in March 2015, and Tola still worked in Coventry. To make both locations work for us, we had decided to live in Milton Keynes. It was approximately a one hour commute east and west for both of us

The initial Tier 2 visa was for a period of 3 years which began in August 2014 and expired sometime in August 2017. It was then renewed for a further 3 period to expire in August 2020.

When we had our son in 2017, we applied for a dependent visa for him as well. Although he technically didn’t need this, a permit is required for overseas travel. And we planned to travel with him at five weeks so we went for it!

In August 2019, and after five years on the Tier 2 visa we became eligible and secured the ILR at some point later.

Switching Jobs on the Work Permit

I’d heard of someone who put in her resignation from her current employer / visa sponsor because she had secured a new job and they were going to file for her. Unfortunately, the filing was not successful. As she had already resigned, the current permit became inactive and she had to leave the UK. That’s the concern of many work permit holders and switching jobs.

Tola hadn’t really fancied changing jobs all these while which worked perfectly for us. And then in February 2019, he got headhunted for a role he was very keen to take up. Our ILR application was to be made in August. I was a bit anxious.

“Can’t they wait till August?” I asked. They couldn’t, and wanted an immediate response and start.

“Maybe you don’t have to take up the job? I’m sure something better will come up after August. Why take chances?”

“It’s a great one Kachi,” he countered. “Don’t worry about it”.

Bottom line and a handy tip

He applied to switch visas first and had secured the new work visa before uttering a word about resigning.

The only downside was that we had to make full payments for a new application which was going to be valid for just under 5 months. Worse when you think that we still had a valid from from the first employer.

What were the advantages of being on a dependent visa rather than separately sponsored by my law firm?

The dependent can switch jobs easily! What most people on a Tier 2 visa will tell you is that because your permit is tied to your employer it is such a pain to switch jobs because you have to find a qualifying employer and secure another work permit. As a dependent with a valid visa, you’re not the main applicant and this doesn’t apply. So I switched jobs easily, while Tola didn’t actively consider for the most part.

We only had to submit one application all the time – dependent is really just an appendage (although one that pays full cost). But from a logistics perspective, there was one main applicant and it was an easier process.

June 2019!

The ILR Application Tips

The process itself is rather straightforward but there are a few tips that could help for a smoother process.

Take the Life in the UK Test Early:


Before you’re granted ILR, the UK government needs to be sure that you can live and integrate in the UK. I had thought this test needed to be taken after the application, but the pass result must be submitted with the application. So book and take your test ahead of time. It seems like an easy test but it could be tricky and people fail it.

Most people use the Life in the UK test book and online data bank of questions to study for it. I chose that route while Tola listened to podcasts during his daily drive. I was a bit nervous because I didn’t feel prepared enough and was writing a test with him. What if he passed and I failed? Thankfully we both passed! More details on the test here.

Test of English Language


You’ll need to have proof of this. If you have a UK higher degree that would be fine. For us both, our masters degree sufficed. If not you may need to take the IELTS or other similar exam. More details here.


Document your absences


You are eligible for the ILR provided you haven’t spent a certain amount of time outside the UK within the five year period. You’ll need to provide evidence of this by showing your date of absences and any travel outside the UK. If you travel extensively, this could be a bit of a pain locating the dates of travel. It’s advisable to create an excel sheet, gather and input the information ahead of time.


Collate other documents

A number of documents are required for the ILR application process. While these do not seem onerous in themselves, it is helpful to review the list ahead of time and ensure they are easily available. These include previous communication from the Home Office, letters from current employers, payslips and documents showing continuous residence such utility bills and council tax statements.  In our case the documents showing continuous residence needed to have both our names on them – so we had to search for documents that fit the bill.

Get the money ready!

Rumour has it that the UK government makes more money from visa and settlement applications than from taxes! The visa applications and ILR are not cheap. For 2019/2020, the ILR costs were £2,389 per person. And yes, dependents pay the full cost. This is the standard fee for the regular turnaround time. But it’s worth investing in the priority service to get a decision within 24 hours. That’s an extra cost per person of £800. So approx £3,200 per person.

With all of this, you should be fine!

Are you in the UK ILR process or PR journey in another country? How has the journey been? Have you emigrated previously? What country, if any would you consider emigrating to?

PS: Today marks exactly 12 years since we met! Read our “how we met” story.


29 COMMENTS

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29 Comments

  1. Aderinsola Agunloye

    November 20, 2019 at 12:38

    Such a fun and educative read….Thank you for always sharing your journey and useful life hacks…It truly really helps.
    My choice country is the U.K, especially with the re-introduction of the 2 years PSW…Its an encouraging time frame as opposed to the 1 year OPT in the U.S.
    I hope to one day soonest be a part of the Kacheetee Circle U.K events…
    And a big congratulations on the ILR status…Its such great news.
    Lots of love.

    Reply
    • Kachi Tila-Adesina

      November 20, 2019 at 15:05

      You’re very welcome. Thank you for reading and for the kind wishes! The re-introduction of the PSW is honestly very welcome. It’s helped so many people in the past. I guess the UK might have been losing graduates students to more receptive countries, so they had to re-consider. Hope you make it here, and it would be lovely to have you at the Circle!

      Reply
  2. Omotolu

    November 20, 2019 at 13:21

    I am starting my journey to become a Solicitor in the UK next year January and this is quite helpful.. I hope after my studies, I’ll be blessed with an opportunity to settle down in the UK like you and Tola. Thanks for sharing your experience. It is quite helpful.. I hope to share my own experience soon

    Reply
    • Kachi Tila-Adesina

      November 20, 2019 at 15:02

      Yay! I hope so too for you. I’ve been meaning to do a post on the re-qualifying as a UK solicitor journey. The regulatory framework is changing a lot in 2020 and there’s a bit of uncertainty. But fingers crossed for you and I wish you ALL the best!

      Reply
      • Aderinsola Agunloye

        November 22, 2019 at 06:18

        A post on re-qualifying at your convenience would be highly appreciated, to give more insight💃💃💃….
        Also, I did read of the SRA’s new regulation to alternate the GDL, LPC, Training Contract route, for the Solicitor’s Qualifying Examination and then Qualifying work experience….
        Although I think if I understand correctly, it wont start till September 2021, and those who have already started their GDL or Law degree process before Sept 2021 can remain on the current route, i.e GDL/LPC route to qualify….
        I however really pray that the SQE route wont be an almost impossible route for Foreign lawyers wishing to re-qualify, and I want to hope that it would still be possible to requalify as U.K Solicitor regardless of the new regulatory framework….
        At least, that’s my prayer, as I am not a 100% sure I will be able to start my GDL process before September 2021….
        Like you said, we can only hope for the very best.

        Reply
      • Omotolu

        November 22, 2019 at 10:25

        Hi Kachi, if it’s not too much trouble I would really love it if we could meet in the UK once I get settled as i would love an opportunity to have a one-on-one discussion with you at a convenient time and place of your choice.. And I would also love it if you could be a mentor to me as I am pretty new to studying in the UK and having someone to guide me would be a big blessing and help to me. I know this may sound weird but i really do look up to you and your story has really opened my eyes to seeing how my decision to be a UK practicing solicitor was not a mistake cos I had my doubts before taking the bold step to embark on this journey.
        Also I am aware of the change in the New regulation with regards to foreign lawyers who want to practice as solicitors in the UK but a write up about it on Your blog would also be helpful to some of my friends who have the intention to also practice as solicitors in the UK.
        Thank you for your time. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

        Reply
        • Kachi Tila-Adesina

          November 24, 2019 at 20:51

          Sure, send me an email when you’re settled and let’s speak offline!

          Reply
          • Omotolu

            January 30, 2020 at 12:27

            Hi Kachi, Omotolu here.. i am in the Uk (London to be precise) for my studies as i said earlier in the comment section and i was wondering if i could get an email where we could chat offline and possible meet up for a one-on-one conversation ( i know you are super busy and i would work with around your schedule)

  3. Bugo

    November 20, 2019 at 13:35

    Congratulations!

    We were due to apply for ours in August but had to postpone until October due to bereavement and having to travel. The downside is that the super priority application was no longer available when we applied so we are in our wait period which I find so annoying but I’m trying not to beat myself up about it. I heard it could be up to 6 months to get a response lol. Oh well!!

    Happy 12 years 🙂

    Reply
    • Amina

      November 20, 2019 at 14:10

      Could be up to 6 months but typically people hear back within 3 months. Fingers and toes crossed for you!

      Reply
      • Bugo

        November 20, 2019 at 14:26

        Hi Amina
        Thank you for the reassurance. I need all the positive vibes.
        x

        Reply
    • Kachi Tila-Adesina

      November 24, 2019 at 20:53

      Thank you Bugo. It’s sad to hear the priority applications got withdrawn, but I’m hopeful you’ll get a response much earlier!

      Reply
  4. Wonuola

    November 20, 2019 at 16:14

    Congrats on 12yrs !
    Loved reading this, took notes for when i will have to apply. Totally agree with the downsides of the sponsored visa, that’s my current situation.
    Switching employers was def a brave move by Tola, I haven’t even bothered with looking for other opportunities even though I know my Skills are very much sort after here because of the fear of switching process going wrong lol.

    Reply
    • Kachi Tila-Adesina

      November 24, 2019 at 20:50

      Thank you Wonu! Honestly it’s a struggle. I guess if the new visa didn’t go through he wouldn’t have mentioned a word. If you’re close to the finish line, it’s prob just best to wait!

      Reply
  5. Vanessa

    November 21, 2019 at 15:51

    Congratulations to you and Tola on getting your ILR. This process is not that different from the Canadian PR process. I’m so glad that part of my life is behind me.
    My process wasn’t hectic at all it was pretty straightforward. I graduated from university, applied for the Work permit, worked for a year and then applied for PR and three years later I was eligible to apply for citizenship.

    Reply
    • Kachi Tila-Adesina

      November 24, 2019 at 20:49

      Oh so in Canada you get the PR then wait three years for citizenship. Here. you do the longer time period first, then wait one year to be eligible. So glad those days are over for you indeed!

      Reply
  6. Ofure

    November 21, 2019 at 16:27

    Always giving us insightful life hack. Congratulations on everything sweetheart 🥰

    Reply
    • Kachi Tila-Adesina

      November 24, 2019 at 20:47

      Thank you love!

      Reply
  7. Tayo

    November 21, 2019 at 17:47

    I’m grateful for women like you who share their journey. How long after ILR are you eligible for citizenship? And do you mean that your process could have been shorter if Tola switched to the tier 2 visa earlier? Also it’s interesting that you actually wanted to study in the US. I’m currently studying for my masters in the US and I’m trying to weigh my immigration options cos Le boo is in the UK. This gave me good info on the process. Looking back do you still think you’d have preferred to go to the US instead. Also your job search seemed super easy lol I’m tensioned. Thanks a lot for this post ❤️

    Reply
    • Kachi Tila-Adesina

      November 24, 2019 at 20:47

      You’re welcome Tayo! All things being equal, you’re eligible for the passport after a year of continuous residence in the UK. Actually re Tola switching earlier, that’s a good question. If he had switched earlier, he would have got his ILR two year early so in 2017 or so. But then I only joined him as a dependent in 2014, so I would have had to wait 5 years still. The only benefit would have been that maybe when our son was born, and if Tola had the ILR, then J would have been eligible for a citizenship immediately, and Tola may have been able to switch jobs since 2017 if he chose. Now that I think about it, i guess it worked out fine because we could do everything together.

      I honestly didn’t do any serious research into the US, and I was just enamoured by Harvard Law and portrayal of American Law on TV. In retrospect the UK probably worked better for me. My job search was intense though! Definitely not a walk in the park. Hopefully I speak/write about it soon. All the best with your journey and decisions! x

      Reply
  8. Ololade

    November 21, 2019 at 18:21

    Congratulations!! I found this so useful. I’ve always loved how well you explain things and I love your blog.

    Reply
    • Kachi Tila-Adesina

      November 24, 2019 at 20:40

      I’m so glad you do. Thank you so much!

      Reply
  9. Aisha

    November 22, 2019 at 15:49

    I was really enjoying this then I got to the fee of 2k plus and it left a sour taste in my mouth. Lool 😭😭😭😭 but really. Why is it so expensive??? Do you also pay to get a Passport when it’s time? Wow. Nice read though, so many people will find this useful. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Kachi Tila-Adesina

      November 24, 2019 at 20:40

      Girl, trust me those fees are crazy – per person! It’s a huge bill especially for large families. No idea what it’s that expensive. You also pay to get the passport. That’s currently about £1,000 with no priority fees. You’re welcome love.

      Reply
      • Aisha

        November 26, 2019 at 00:37

        Wow!! Now I see why NHS is free in your country 😂😂😂😂. There’s a steady revenue gotten from these applications. Haha and congratulations to you and yours! ❤️❤️

        Reply
  10. Eniola

    November 22, 2019 at 22:29

    Hi Kachi. Thanks. Nice read. Did you have to consider fitting into the minimum salary for applying for ILR or that wasn’t necessary?
    Thanks

    Reply
  11. Omar

    November 27, 2019 at 18:13

    Awesome read. Thanks for sharing your story. I am not trying to move to the U.K. permanently, but I am trying to get a Tier 2 visa for work over there. I am from Jamaica and currently in the US in student status. Do you have any advice for a transition. I have been applying without any avail and I feel as though it’s because I am going about it the wrong way.

    Reply
  12. Tee

    December 5, 2019 at 12:26

    Thanks Kachi. Your blog posts are always insightful and interesting!

    Big congrats on your ILR and 12 years!

    Reply
  13. The DotCommer

    May 16, 2020 at 15:26

    This was a nice read. UK used to be gold to Nigerians but I guess Canada has taken over. Congrats to you and your family once again.

    Reply

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