Leave Outside the Rules (LOTR) Explained

leave outside the rules


Leave outside the rules (LOTR) refers to the limited circumstances in which permission to enter or stay in the UK may be granted to someone otherwise than in accordance with the UK’s Immigration Rules.

In this guide, we explain the eligibility and process requirements when applying for LOTR.


What is leave outside the rules?

Leave outside the rules, commonly described by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) as LOTR, refers to where an applicant is unable to meet the normal requirements under the UK’s Immigration Rules, but there are exceptional grounds that still warrant a grant of leave.

UKVI is the department of the Home Office responsible for the issuance of visas to enter or stay in the UK, where UKVI caseworkers can occasionally exercise a residual discretion outside of the rules to grant entry clearance or a period of leave, even though the applicant would not ordinarily qualify. LOTR is therefore the term used to cover all types of permission granted otherwise than in accordance with the normal rules and requirements, including decisions in relation to entry clearance, leave to remain and indefinite leave to remain applications on a number of different, but extremely limited, discretionary grounds.


What does LOTR allow?

When it comes LOTR meaning, in the sense of what leave outside the rules will allow, this will depend on the nature and extent of the permission granted at UKVI’s discretion.

In broad terms, LOTR will enable the successful applicant to enter or stay in the UK, despite not meeting the requirements of the relevant route, although there may be conditions attached to their grant of leave. In some cases, the person will be prohibited from undertaking employment or study, or from claiming public funds, while in the UK.

In most cases, leave outside the rules will also only be granted for a limited period of time, rarely no more than 30 months, to reflect the often transient nature of the exceptional circumstances involved or to provide UKVI with the opportunity to review the situation in due course. In theory, UKVI caseworkers have the power to grant LOTR beyond a period of 30 months, but only where there is compelling evidence justifying a longer period.


When does LOTR apply?

Leave outside the rules can be granted in a number of different contexts, depending on the circumstances surrounding the application, including:

  • for family and private life reasons
  • discretionary leave for medical or modern slavery matters
  • on other compelling compassionate grounds.


For family and private life reasons

In any application involving family or private life matters, such as where a foreign national is looking to join a close family member in the UK, the UKVI caseworker will first check to see if the requirements under the Immigration Rules have been met including, for example, the relationship, financial and English language requirements. In those cases where the requirements under the normal rules cannot be met, the caseworker will be required to consider if there are exceptional circumstances that might render refusal of the application a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), where ECHR Article 8 refers to the right to respect for both private and family life.

In cases involving family life, the revised version of the family visa rules, as set out under Appendix FM, now include a complete framework of any Article 8 decision-making, bringing previous LOTR concessions well within the rules. For example, if the financial requirement for a family visa is not met from the specified sources in the context of an application for limited leave to remain as a partner, if a refusal could result in unjustifiably harsh consequences for either the applicant, their partner or a relevant child, the UKVI caseworker can consider whether such financial requirement is met through other sources.

Other codified exceptions to certain eligibility requirements for leave to remain under Appendix FM include where there would be insurmountable obstacles to family life with a partner outside the UK or where the applicant has a British child, or a child who has lived in the UK for 7 years, and it would be unreasonable for that child to leave the UK.

Equally, in respect of any application where a person is seeking leave to remain on the basis that they have developed a private life in the UK, Appendix FM provides that even if the applicant does not meet the relevant rules, the UKVI caseworker must still be satisfied that refusal of permission to stay would not breach ECHR Article 8 on the basis of private life.


Discretionary leave for medical or modern slavery matters

The grant of discretionary leave can apply in the context of both asylum and non-asylum cases, but only where a person is applying from within the UK, rather than abroad, and will not be granted where an individual qualifies for asylum or humanitarian protection, or family or private life reasons. As it is only intended to cover exceptional and compassionate circumstances, it will also be used sparingly by UKVI caseworkers, applying predominantly to cases involving medical reasons or modern slavery, including human trafficking.

An LOTR case based on medical grounds will typically invoke Article 3 considerations, where Article 3 refers to the prohibition against inhuman or degrading treatment. For example, if an applicant is suffering from a serious medical condition where requiring them to leave the UK would breach their human rights, leave outside the rules may be granted.

However, there is an especially high threshold for medical cases under Article 3. There would need to be a real risk of the applicant being being exposed to a serious, rapid and irreversible decline in their health resulting in either intense suffering or a significant reduction in life expectancy due to the absence of appropriate medical treatment or lack of access to such treatment in the country of return. As such, the applicant would need to provide evidence that there are substantial grounds for believing that they would be exposed to a real risk of being subject to inhuman treatment contrary to Article 3. This means that only in very exceptional cases, where the humanitarian grounds against removal from the UK are particularly compelling, will an Article 3 medical claim succeed.

In the context of modern slavery cases, only victims of slavery who have been conclusively recognised as such by the National Referral Mechanism may be eligible for discretionary leave, although an applicant will not normally qualify for LOTR solely because they have been identified as a victim of modern slavery or trafficking. They must also meet the requirements under Appendix: Temporary Permission to Stay for Victims of Human Trafficking or Slavery (VTS), such as where the grant of leave is necessary to assist the VTS in their recovery from any physical and/or psychological harm arising from the relevant exploitation or to enable them to seek compensation in respect of this. It could also be to enable the VTS to co-operate with a public authority, such as the police, in connection with an investigation or criminal proceedings regarding the relevant exploitation.


Compelling compassionate grounds

In cases where the normal rules are not met, and there are no exceptional circumstances that would justify a grant of leave under either Article 8, Article 3 medical or discretionary leave grounds, there may be other factors that when taken into account with the compelling compassionate grounds raised, would still warrant the grant of LOTR.

Leave outside the rules on compelling compassionate factors is essentially where a refusal of entry clearance or leave to remain in the UK would result in unjustifiably harsh consequences for the applicant or a family member, but on grounds that are not related to family and private life, medical, asylum or protection matters. These factors could include:

  • an emergency or unexpected event
  • a crisis, disaster or an accident that could not have been anticipated.

This is a miscellaneous category for applicants who cannot apply on any other basis outside the rules, and can relate to factors in both the UK and overseas. This could involve, for example, a person tragedy or other serious event which does not, of itself, render any refusal a breach of the ECHR. A common example might be where an applicant has suffered a bereavement and needs time to make funeral and other arrangements, although the guidance for UKVI caseworkers provides that LOTR will not be granted where it is still reasonable to expect the applicant to leave the UK despite the existence of such factors.


Who is eligible for LOTR?

It is always best to seek expert advice from an immigration specialist before applying for LOTR, or relying on the exercise of discretionary leave, in circumstances where the requirements under the rules cannot be met. The UK’s Immigration Rules have been written with clear objectives, where applications for leave outside the rules have high refusal rates. However, even though the discretion to grant LOTR will be used sparingly by UKVI, there are circumstances which may justify the grant of leave, where your legal adviser can help you to explore all available options and strengthen your case with the necessary evidence.

The importance of securing expert legal assistance from an immigration specialist in LOTR cases cannot be underestimated, where detailed representations, supported by relevant case law, can help an applicant to maximise their prospects of a successful outcome.


How to apply for LOTR

In some cases, human rights considerations and the exercise of discretionary leave outside the rules will be considered as part of a substantive application. For example, when applying for a family visa, where certain eligibility requirements cannot be met, the codified LOTR and Article 8 concessions will be taken into account, where applicable. Equally, if Article 3 medical issues are raised in the context of an outstanding asylum claim, this will be considered with that claim, where there is no need to make a separate application.

However, in some cases, the request for LOTR will form the basis of a standalone application, where this will require the right form and robust evidence in support. Applying for leave outside the rules can be complex and challenging, where applicants are strongly advised to seek advice from an immigration specialist to help prepare their application.


How much is LOTR?

The cost to apply for LOTR will depend on whether this forms part of another application or is a standalone claim or request, where there will be no additional cost if the UKVI caseworker goes on to consider their residual discretion to grant leave outside the rules in circumstances where an applicant fails to meet the normal requirements for their route.

When an application for LOTR is made independently, the cost will depend on the permission sought. For example, to apply for leave to remain in the UK, the current cost is £1,048, although the applicant may also be liable to pay an annual healthcare surcharge.

The cost to apply for indefinite leave to remain is currently £2,885.


Does LOTR lead to settlement in the UK?

As leave outside the rules is only granted in exceptional circumstances, it will be rare that those circumstances justify the grant of indefinite leave to remain, also known as settlement. However, it is possible for an applicant to secure settlement on an LOTR basis, provided the grounds are so exceptional that they warrant it, such as in the case of terminal illness. The official guidance given to UKVI caseworkers in this context emphasises that for applicants who wish to apply for settlement outside of the rules, they need to provide clear evidence as to why they should be given indefinite rather than limited leave to remain as this is normally only ever granted in the most exceptional cases.


Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris as leading UK immigration advisers. For specialist guidance and support with a Home Office application, contact us.


Leave outside the rules FAQs

What does leave to enter outside of the rules mean?

Leave to enter outside of the rules refers to where the Home Office can exercise a residual discretion outside the UK’s Immigration Rules to grant permission to enter the UK, even though the applicant does not qualify within the Rules.

What are compassionate grounds for leave to remain?

Even where the normal requirements for leave to remain in the UK cannot be met, there may be exceptional grounds that still warrant a grant of leave, including compelling compassionate grounds where a refusal would result in unjustifiably harsh consequences.

What is discretionary leave to remain immigration rules?

The discretionary leave to remain immigration rules refer to additional rules which apply when an overseas national fails to meet the normal requirements under the UK’s Immigration Rules, but there are exceptional grounds that still warrant a grant of leave.

What is leave to remain on human rights grounds?

Leave to remain on human rights grounds refers to permission granted outside the normal rules, for example, where there are exceptional circumstances that would render any refusal a breach of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life).

Last updated: 16 November 2023


Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

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Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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