Skip to main content Skip to footer

Discretionary Leave & Private Life in the UK Visa

On 9 July 2012, the Home Office removed the 14 Year Long Residence Rule which allowed individuals without a visa a means to regularise their stay on the basis of the length of time they had spent in the UK. It was replaced by a new category based on a person’s right to a “private life” in the UK. Like its predecessor, this category potentially allows an individual with no lawful permission to apply to remain in the UK.

An applicant will need to satisfy not only a suitability test but will also need to meet a minimum residency requirement. The length of time a person will need to demonstrate they have been resident in the UK will depend on their age and circumstances. The three general criteria are:

- 20 years continuous residence;
- 7 years continuous residence if the applicant is under the age of 18; or
- has spent more than half their life in the UK if the applicant is aged between 18 and 25.

Successful applicants will be allowed to regularise their stay and will be placed on a path that will lead to indefinite leave to remain after 10 years further residency. Initial permission will be issued for 30 months and an applicant will expected to renew their permission every two and half years until they have reached 10 years.

Early ILR for children and young adults through the private life route
On 20 June 2022 the Home Office changed the immigration rules to enable children and young adults to apply for ILR early in the following two categories:

(i) those have spent a continuous period of 7 years in the UK as a child and

(ii) those who entered the UK as children and have spent at least half their lives in the UK up to the age of 25.

In both cases, the individual must have spent 5 years continuous residence in the UK.

The change in the immigration rules replaced a concession the Home Office had introduced for individuals in October 2021 who had come to the UK as children and spent at least 5 years of continuous residence in the UK.

Knowledge of Life in the UK

Individuals applying for ILR through the private life route will need to pass both, unless exempt - for example they are 18 or are from a specified majority English language speaking country:

  • a Life in the UK test and
  • English language test at level B1.

Please also note that it is now possible for individuals in the private life route to meet the English language requirement through obtaining a GCSE in English or English literature or NVQ level above level 4 or higher which they started in a school in the UK before the age of 18.

We strongly recommend that an individual wishing to apply to regularise their stay in the private life route takes legal advice before doing so.

RLegal will guide you through the complex evidential requirements and assist you from start to finish with your application. We have over 20 years experience of lodging successful applications through the private life and its predecessor categories. We will take the worry out of the process and give you peace of mind.

For more information, please contact us on +44 (0) 20 7038 3980 where you can talk to one of our team, email us at or complete our online enquiry form.

Alternatively click on the links below for frequently asked questions.

To qualify for permission to stay in the UK on a discretionary basis outside of the Immigration Rules the applicant will need to demonstrate that they:


- do not fall for refusal under the grounds of ‘suitability’;

- have lived in the UK for continuously for a period of 20 years; or

- is under the age of 18 and have lived for a continuous period of 7 years in the UK and it would not be reasonable to expect the applicant to leave the UK; or

- is over the age of 18 but under the age of 25 and has lived for half his life continuously in the UK; or

- is over the age of 18, has lived continuously in the UK for a period of 20 years and has no ties to a country of return or

- was born to a person who holds permission in the Private Life route or is applying through it.

An application must be made to the Home Office on the correct form, with supporting documents and the correct fee of £1048.

Applicants for a discretionary leave visa must pay an Immigration Health Surcharge of £1035 per year in advance for each whole or part year of the visa.

Please note the processing time is up to 12 months and there is no priority service available.

Applicants may want to consider applying for a fee waiver if they are struggling to pay the application fees.

The evidential requirements for this category are extremely complex.

Once an applicant completes 10 years stay in the UK under the Long Residence: Private Life category they will be entitled to apply for indefinite leave to remain but will need to meet a Knowledge of Life requirement.

Applicants granted discretionary leave before 9 July 2012 are able to extend their visa permission under the Rules in place at the time they were granted their initial discretionary visa.


Successful extension applications will be granted for 3 years and the individual will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain once they have completed 6 years with this status (3 plus 3 years).

- Comprehensive legal advice.

- Ensuring your application meets the legal requirements.

- Assistance with compiling the complex evidence required for this category.

- Completion and submission of all forms.

- Booking a biometric appointment.

- Ongoing liaison with the authorities where possible.


If you would like to discuss your application for Private Life in more detail, please contact us on +44 (0)20 7038 3980, email us at or use our online enquiry form.

Contact us

Interested in our services? Contact us and one of our solicitors will contact you

This website uses a number of essential cookies to operate. Please read our privacy policy for more information