If you remain in the UK after your visa or Home Office permission has expired, you may be considered an overstayer. Overstaying can create many issues, including negatively affecting your immigration record and impacting any future UK applications. You could also be detained and deported.
The Home Office does not remind individuals of their visa expiry date. If you are unsure if you have overstayed, you should check your biometric residence permit or look for a stamp or sticker in your passport.
The rules on overstaying were revised in 2023 to give more powers to authorities to take action against overstayers. make it easier for the authorities to identify and remove those who are in breach of their visa. The changes include the introduction of more tech-savvy tracking database systems, which keep more robust records of all those who have entered the country and overstayed their visa rights. Additionally, new powers have been granted to immigration officers to detain those found to be in breach of these rules.
We answer some frequently asked questions about the impact of overstaying and if it is possible to regularise your immigration status and regain lawful status.
What is overstaying?
Overstaying refers to a situation when someone no longer has permission to be in the UK. This could be as a result of an expired visa or period of leave, or if their visa has been curtailed because the individual no longer meets the requirement of their visa, such as getting divorced if you have a spouse visa.
What is the legal position on overstaying?
It is a criminal offence under section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971 to overstay your visa without reasonable cause.
If your visa has expired, you have 30 days to leave the UK voluntarily at your own expense before you face a ban on re-entry. Alternatively, you may seek to rely on the 14-day rule.
The new rules would see the punishment for knowingly overstaying in the UK being increased to up to four years’ imprisonment, as opposed to the current six-month maximum period.
What is the 14 day ‘with good reason’ rule?
Previous rules allowed for a 28-day grace period without the requirement to make excuse, but any degree of leniency afforded under the grace period was abolished as of November 2016 and replaced by this stricter ‘14-day with good reason rule’.
Under the current rules, for late applications, the Home Office will disregard a period of overstaying provided you apply for a new visa, or renewal of your existing visa, within 14 days of your previous visa expiring, and that you can evidence ‘good reason’ for having overstayed your visa permission.
What qualifies as a ‘good reason’ for the 14-day rule on overstaying?
The Home Office has provided outline guidance on what constitutes acceptable ‘good reason’ for missing your visa expiry deadline. You must be able to demonstrate that there were exceptional circumstances and be able to provide evidence to back up your claim. For example if you were receiving emergency treatment in hospital, or due to bereavement of a close family member or having a late reply from an educational institution that informed you of acceptance to study.
Unacceptable reasons include forgetting your deadline or being too busy with work or studies.
You would need to support your reason with evidence. A hospital stay for example would require an official letter that states the date of admission and discharge as well as what you were treated for. This must be submitted with your application within the 14 day period.
What happens if my visa expires while I’m in the UK?
If your UK visa has expired while you are still in the country, you will be out of status and deemed an ‘overstayer’.
The Home Office does not routinely notify or remind visa holders of visa expiry. It is the visa holder’s responsibility to monitor their individual visa expiry.
What if my visa expires after I’m waiting for a decision on a Home Office application?
You would not be considered an overstayer if your visa expires while you’re awaiting a decision on a Home Office application to remain in the UK, provided the application is valid. This could be a visa application, or an application for appeal or Judicial Review. These circumstances are covered by the Section 3c leave provisions of the Immigration Act 1971, which render the individual’s leave valid until their application is either decided or withdrawn.
However, Section 3c leave may not apply where an application is considered invalid. This could be due to ineligibility under the relevant visa requirements, failure to pay the correct application fee, or failure to submit the correct documentation.
What happens if my visa has been curtailed?
Visas can be curtailed if the visa holder is no longer eligible under that specific route. For example, if a Skilled Worker visa holder’s sponsor loses their sponsor licence and therefore is no longer sponsored, of if a spouse visa holder gets divorced from their British citizen spouse. In such instances, the Home Office must be made aware of the change in circumstances. In response, they would ordinary issue a curtailment letter, specifying how long the individual can remain lawfully in the UK for before they have to leave the country, unless they can attain new lawful status.
Staying in the UK for longer than the period of curtailment will mean you are overstaying, which is likely to impact any future UK immigration you make to either remain or return to the UK.
What if you apply in time, but your application is rejected?
Provided you made your application for renewal before your current visa expired, you will have 14 days after receiving the refusal to apply again (if you are permitted to) and in doing so avoid overstaying.
In this instance, the good reason rule will not apply but your new application has to be made within 14 days of the refusal letter. Should you fail to apply within that period, you will then be considered an overstayer.
When do you have to leave the UK?
Paragraphs A320 and 320(7B) of the Immigration Rules state that you have to leave the UK voluntarily within 30 days of your visa expiring in the UK.
If you leave the UK voluntarily after the 30 day period, you could be banned from re-entering. The length of ban will depend upon when you leave the UK, whether you left voluntarily or were deported and whether you have the funds to pay to go back to your country of origin.
If you do not leave voluntarily, you risk enforced removal by deportation.
Will overstaying affect your ability to reenter the UK?
There are long term consequences for individuals who overstay their visa period in the UK. If you leave the UK voluntarily after the 30 day period, you risk being banned from re-entering the UK for one to ten years. However, if you have left the UK voluntarily within the first 90 days and at your own expense, you may not receive a re-entry ban.
Overstaying your authorised period of leave will be taken into consideration in any future UK immigration applications under general grounds of admissibility. This could have a negative impact on any future applications you make for UK visas; the Home Office may refuse your application on the grounds that you are a high risk of staying on illegally in the UK.
If the reasons are seen as deception (deliberately overstayed without good reason), there are significant consequences when trying to re-enter the UK. The onus will be on you to prove you are of good character, especially if you have been previously deported from the UK.
Consequences of overstaying your visa
Should you not be able to prove that you have good reason for applying after your visa has expired you may face some serious consequences. The 14 day grace period does not give you much time to prepare your good reason, so it is important to act swiftly and seek legal counsel.
You will not be able to get your visa renewed if you have already exceeded the 14 day limit.
It is a criminal offence to overstay your visa without good reason. You will not be lawfully allowed to work, and if caught doing so, could face a prison sentence. Proposed changes to the rules on overstaying in 2022 are set to increase the maximum prison sentence from six months to four years for knowingly overstaying in the UK.
If your period of overstay exceeds the 90 day limit, you will more than likely face an exclusion on re-entering the UK for at least one year.
Do you have any rights as an overstayer?
Your rights are necessarily restricted if you become an overstayer. You will still be able to use the emergency services in the UK, police, fire brigade and ambulance. You will also still be able to access essential healthcare treatment, including ante-natal support.
If you have children under the age of 16, they may still attend school during the period you remain in the country after your visa expires.
Overstaying risks a number of immigration issues. While it is always preferable to act within the timescales and in advance of your visa expiring, if you do find you are facing an expired visa, you will need to act quickly to understand your options and make the necessary application swiftly.
DavidsonMorris are specialist UK immigration advisers, supporting individuals with all types of Home Office applications. If you have a question about an expired visa, contact us.
Overstaying in the UK FAQs
What happens if you overstay your visa UK?
You will need to make an application to regularise your stay within 14 days, providing good reason for the delay. Otherwise, you have 30 days to leave the country from the date the visa expired or you risk being deported.
Is it a criminal offence to overstay your visa?
Yes, it is a criminal offence to knowingly remain beyond the expiry date of your visa. However, you may be able to apply to regularise your status if you make a new application within 14 days of expiry.
Can you be deported for overstaying your visa?
Yes, you may be removed from the UK if you do not have an application pending and have not left the UK 30 days after the visa expires.
Last updated: 12 September 2023