IPPR - Revealed: the devastating impact of 10-year process endured by thousands on course to settle in UK

From: Think Tanks
Published: Thu Mar 02 2023

  • More than half of people surveyed struggle with affording bills and food, report finds

  • Two-thirds report stress and anxiety while waiting for Home Office decision on applications which must be repeated every 30 months

  • A third feel completely insecure in the UK despite most having already lived in the UK for more than a decade

The full cost in financial hardship, mental stress and insecurity borne by thousands on the official 10-year route' to settling permanently in the UK is revealed in a report today by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Praxis and Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU).

An estimated 170,000 people are waiting to complete the lengthy process, introduced in 2012 for some migrants and their families seeking the green light to remain in the UK indefinitely. The 10-year route' is aimed at those who have strong ties to the UK - such as being the parent of a British child - but don't meet the strict financial and other requirements associated with faster settlement routes.

Those on this pathway - including many single parents - must complete a challenging repeat application process every 30 months for a decade, with fees for adults exceeding 12,800 per person over the 10 years involved.

A survey of 314 people who are on, or have recently completed, the 10-year route to settlement found:

  • The majority (80 per cent) say their wellbeing or mental health has been negatively impacted by the 10-year route

  • Over half struggle to meet the costs of utility bills (62 per cent), food (57 per cent) and housing costs (43 per cent)

  • Almost half (41 per cent) are forced to borrow from friends or family to pay for the costs of their application, while three-quarters would not be able to apply for permanent residency even after they have fulfilled all the criteria, because they simply cannot afford the fee

  • With people having to renew their visas every 2.5 years and then wait an average of 10 months for their applications to be processed, two-thirds (65 per cent) of survey respondents reported that waiting for the Home Office's decision made them feel stress and anxiety

The high frequency of renewals generates uncertainty about the future and general feelings of insecurity. A third of survey respondents (32 per cent) say they feel completely insecure in the UK because of their immigration status, despite most having already lived in the UK for more than a decade.

Many people on the 10-year route are in work, with the most common occupations among those in the survey being care workers, cleaners and nursing assistants. But the uncertainty created by repeated short extensions to their leave to remain, coupled with months-long gaps without necessary paperwork due to processing delays, makes paid work precarious.

This can limit access to secure, well-paid jobs and makes workers more vulnerable to exploitation. Almost a third (28 per cent) of those surveyed said the 10-year route has made it harder for them to keep their job and 7 per cent said they had been forced by someone else to do work they didn't want to do.

While those in work pay their taxes, people who have applied are subject to a default status of no recourse to public funds', meaning they cannot access benefits or social housing if they need them.

A further concern for people on this route is that the requirement to reapply every 2.5 years creates a risk that people become undocumented. A third of respondents said that they had experienced a gap in their pathway to resettlement, pushing them out of status and restarting the clock' for securing settlement. The most common reasons given were that people had made a mistake in their application or they had not been able to afford the fees.

An additional survey carried out by YouGov on behalf of IPPR, Praxis and GMIAU, reveals:

  • 81 per cent think applications should be processed within two months, compared with 7 per cent who opt for a longer time period

  • 45 per cent of the public believe the costs of renewing visas on the 10-year route are too high, compared to 12 per cent who think it is too low and 28 per cent who think it is about right

  • 48 per cent think people who have applied should have access to welfare benefits, compared to 33 per cent who disagree

People with first-hand experience of being on the 10-year route identify the high repeat application fees and the need to reapply every 30 months - together with the Home Office delays when applying - as the most painful aspects of it. Consequently, the report recommends that the government:

  • Cap family and private life routes to settlement at five years maximum, to ensure that people can feel a sense of security and belonging to the UK more quickly

  • Increase the grant of leave from 30 months to 60 months (five years), to reduce administrative costs and reduce anxiety related to renewals

  • Reduce the price of application fees on the 10-year route to administrative costs, currently 335 for each two-and-a-half-year extension

  • Conduct an independent review of the 10-year route, to shed light on the impact of the policy and make reforms

Lucy Mort, senior research fellow at IPPR, said:

The length and cost of the 10-year route, the need for repeated applications and the default no recourse to public funds condition all add up to make it unfairly challenging for many individuals and families. This is no way to treat people who have made, and will continue to make, their lives in the UK, who describe this as a devastating and punishing process.

The need for repeated applications also makes this an onerous policy for the Home Office to implement - when their resources could be better spent elsewhere.

It's clear that this policy needs review and reform, not only to improve the lives of people on course to settle, but to reduce the workload of the Home Office. Our polling shows the British public supports this view, with most backing a more compassionate and pragmatic alternative that supports people to settle and contribute to their communities and the economy.

Josephine Whitaker-Yilmaz, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Praxis, said:

At Praxis, we see every day the effects of the 10-year route to settlement amongst the people we work with. This research brings into sharp relief what we've known for years: that the combination of long routes to settlement, high visa fees and no access to the welfare safety net leaves many people in desperately precarious situations. Individuals and families are left struggling to make ends meet, and dealing with crippling stress and anxiety. They also face a high risk of becoming undocumented.

Shorter, faster and more affordable routes to settlement are urgently needed so that people who have been a part of our communities for years already can get on with their lives and participate fully in both society and the economy.

Rivka Shaw, policy officer at Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, said:

We stand alongside people with lived experience of the 10-year route in calling for this government to conduct an urgent, independent review. Far too many people embedded in our communities are forced into debt and insecurity through this punishing, exploitative policy, despite their best efforts to be resilient, work hard and provide for their families and children.

There is nothing inevitable about the 10-year route: it is a political choice that can and must be changed. A shorter more affordable route to settlement is the only sensible, common-sense policy to make sure people who have built their lives in the UK can fully settle, contribute and flourish.

Case studies are available for interview

Lucy Mort, Rivka Shaw & Josephine Whitaker-Yilmaz, the report's authors, are available for interview


  1. The paper, A punishing process': Experiences of people on the 10-year route to settlement, by Lucy Mort, Josephine Whitaker-Yilmaz, Marley Morris and Amanda Shah, will be published at 00:01 on Thursday 2nd March 2023.

  1. Advance copies of the report are available under embargo on request.

  1. The 10-year route is a pathway to permanent settlement that requires an applicant to accrue 10 years of continuous residence before they are eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain. The route usually applies when a person is recognised as having human rights-based grounds to settle in the UK because of their strong ties to the country (such as those who have children or spouses who are British, or when someone has already lived in the UK for a substantial period of time). It was established under the coalition government in 2012, and requires applicants to reapply to the Home Office every 30 months, with total fees for adults amounting to 12,836.

  1. People are placed on the 10-year route who do not meet the more stringent economic, language or other relevant requirements of those placed on a five-year pathway.

  1. 314 people who were on, or had been on, the 10-year route were surveyed online. People were recruited among partners' networks. Respondents were offered a gift voucher as a token of thanks for their contribution. Respondents identified as coming from 45 different nationalities or world regions, with the three largest groups being Nigerian, Ghanian and Jamaican. Around two-thirds of respondents were women. The vast majority (93 per cent) had children aged under 18 in their care. 60 per cent of respondents have already lived in the UK for more than a decade.

  1. In addition, four women agreed to discuss their experiences in more depth. Telephone interviews were conducted with peer researchers assisted by IPPR staff. Peer researchers were hosted on a short research placement at IPPR and brought with them lived experience of the 10-year route to settlement.

  1. YouGov surveyed 1,846 UK adults between September 22-23, 2022. The survey was carried out online.

  1. Praxis is a human rights organisation that has been supporting people who have been marginalised by their immigration status since 1983. It provides immigration advice and welfare support, help build solidarity and community, and campaign for change, so that everyone can live with dignity and respect, no matter where they come from.

  1. Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU) was set up in 1989 as a community response to racist immigration laws affecting people in our communities. It provides immigration legal advice and representation as well as support services to people affected by immigration control across the North West. www.gmiau.org

  1. IPPR is the UK's pre-eminent progressive think tank. With more than 40 staff in offices in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, IPPR is Britain's only national think tank with a truly national presence. www.ippr.org

Company: Think Tanks

Visit website »