Individuals automatically lose their ILR status if they remain out of the country for a period of more than two years. As a result, they will have to apply for entry clearance to re-enter the UK.
The Returning Resident visa is used where you have previously held UK ILR but have been out of the country for more than two consecutive years and want to return here to settle. As a returning resident, you can re-enter the UK to live, work and study here permanently. You would need to have secured your Returning Resident visa prior to travel to the UK.
If you have been out of the UK for less than two years and hold ILR, you have retained your settled status and can re-enter the UK without the need for a visa. Where you have maintained your ILR status, lost or stolen ILR documentation will require a replacement Biometric Residence Permit, rather than a Returning Resident visa.
Do you need to apply for a Returning Resident Visa?
Re-admission into the UK for those with expired ILR is at the discretion of the immigration officer at the border. You should expect to be re-admitted for settlement provided you:
- held indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK when you last left the UK;
- have not been away from the UK for more than 2 years;
- did not receive assistance from public funds towards the cost of leaving the UK; and
- you now seek admission for the purpose of settlement.
Where you do not meet these criteria and wish to re-enter the UK to settle, you would need to apply for a Returning Resident Visa to evidence your eligibility at border control.
Returning Resident Visa eligbility checklist
Before applying as a Returning Resident, you’ll first need to ensure you qualify under the UK immigration rules. You must:
- plan to return to live in the UK permanently;
- have been settled in the UK before you last left; and
- not have been given public funds to help you leave the UK.
You must also provide sufficient evidence of your current circumstances, that you have maintained strong ties to the UK and the reasons why you have lived outside the UK for an extended period.
Exceptions to the loss of ILR
Where certain circumstances apply, periods spent outside the UK will not count towards the 2 year period for:
- Partners or children accompanying a member of HM Forces overseas
- Partners or children accompanying a permanent member of the British Council, Department for International Development, Home Office, or Foreign and Commonwealth Office overseas
In such instances, an individual’s ILR is deemed not to have lapsed and will not be lost.
How to apply for the Returning Resident Visa
Applications for the Returning Resident visa are made online to UKVI. Fast-track services are available at cost at some local Embassies. You will need to confirm availability at the Embassy where you intend to make your application.
As part of your application, documtary evidence will be required to support the information you have provided. This includes:
- a current passport or other valid travel identification
- previous passports
- a passport-sized colour photograph
- documents that prove you have ties to the UK, for example proof you’ve earned income, or rented or owned property, in the UK
You will also need to pay the relevant application fee and attend a visa application centre to provide your biometric information i.e. fingerprints and photograph.
Your dependants (partner and children under 18) need to apply separately for a Returning Resident visa if they’re eligible.
Returning Resident Visa processing time
The length of time to process your Returning Resident Visa will depend on where you are making your application, the complexity of your case and the quality of your application. Check at the time of making your application for a better estimation.
You will need to have secured the Returning Resident Visa before you travel.
How much does a Returning Resident visa cost?
You will have to pay the Returning Resident Visa fee when you make your application. The fee is subject to change, and you should check at the time of applying.
Ineligible for a Returning Resident Visa?
If you do not meet the requirements to re-enter the UK on the basis of a Returning Resident visa, there may be alternative options to consider. For example, if you had lived in the UK for a period of at least ten continuous years prior to leaving the country, you may be eligible to enter under another immigration route and once in the country, make a Long Residence application. We can advise on your circumstances.
Do you have a question about making an application to re-enter the UK?
DavidsonMorris are specialist UK immigration advisers, supporting individuals with Home Office applications. If you have a question about the Returning Resident visa or about your ILR and UK immigration status, contact us.