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Appendix Private Life - Very Significant Obstacles to Integration

On 15 March 2022 a 205-page Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules was published.  Appendix Private Life was inserted into the rules and the new Appendix  took effect on 20 June 2022.  This Appendix replaced paragraphs 276ADE to 276DH of the Immigration Rules.  We examined the changes and implications in an earlier post: Changes to the Private Life Route: Appendix Private Life (Leave to Remain)

Appendix Private Life (Leave to Remain)

Appendix Private Life retains the category for those aged 18 or over (who do not meet the half-life test, if under 25), who can either satisfy the decision-maker they have been continuously resident in the UK for more than 20 years, or satisfy the decision-maker that there would be very significant obstacles to their integration into the country where they would have to live if required to leave the UK.

There is a separate provision precluding applicants from meeting the very significant obstacles test  if they have made a protection claim that was declared inadmissible under Part 11 of the Rules before 28 June 2022 or section 80B and 80C of the Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 .

What Does Very Significant Obstacles to Integration Mean?

Private Life, Version 1.0 casework guidance was published on 20 June 2022 to coincide with the implementation of the new Appendix.  The guidance sets out how caseworkers will assess whether there are ‘very significant obstacles to integration’ into the country of return.

The starting principle for a caseworker will be that someone who has lived outside the UK as an adult will be able to integrate into their country of proposed return.  The burden lies on the applicant and this is a high threshold to meet.   The assessment will usually focus on the proposed country of return, unless there is information to suggest that the Applicant may have a choice as to the country they may go.  The Applicant may for example have more than one nationality and therefore choice.

The guidance reads:

A ‘very significant obstacle to integration’ means something which would prevent or seriously inhibit the applicant from integrating into the country of return. You are looking for more than the usual obstacles which may arise on relocation (such as the need to learn a new language or obtain employment). You are looking to see whether there are ‘very significant’ obstacles, which is a high threshold. Very significant obstacles will exist where the applicant demonstrates that they would be unable to establish a private life in the country of return, or if establishing a private life in the country of return would entail very serious hardship for the applicant. 

A caseworker will expect to see ‘independent and verifiable documentary evidence of any claims made in this regard’. 

As can be seen the threshold applied is high.  It is important to note that the ability of the applicant to form an adequate private life is by the standards of return of the country, not by the standards of the UK.  A private life in another country may be constituted very differently.

What Factors are Considered in Assessing Whether There Are Very Significant Obstacles to Integration?

The guidance lists the following as relevant factors to consider:

  • Cultural background;
  • Length of time spent in the country of return
  • Family, friends and social network
  • Faith, political or sexual orientation or gender identity

This  is not an exhaustive list and it is important to consider all aspects of an individual’s life and circumstances in the country to which they would be expected to return, should they be required to leave the UK.

The guidance acknowledges the ‘impact of a mental or physical disability or of a serious illness which requires ongoing medical treatment. Living in or moving to another country may involve a period of hardship for any person as they adjust to their new surroundings, whether or not they have a mental or physical disability or a serious illness which requires ongoing medical treatment’.  A lack of adequate health care where the applicant would live may result in a breach of Article 8.

What Do the Home Office Consider to be Common Claims?

The Home Office considers that many common claims on their own do not meet the required threshold.

For those who claim to have no friends or family members in the country of return, there must be an assessment whether there are particular circumstances that mean they require assistance to integrate.  For example, an applicant who struggles significantly  with their health may need a strong support network around them. 

An applicant who has never lived in the country to which they would be expected to return or only spent a short period  there will not establish immediately that they cannot return and integrate.   Not speaking the language of the country to which an applicant will be expected to return is approached in the same way.   However, there should be consideration of all circumstances and in the case of language whether the applicant would be  unable to learn the language, for example due to a mental or physical disability.  

Lack of employment prospects will not  be considered alone as a reason to advance.  Finally, the guidance confirms that ‘less weight should be given to generalised claims about country conditions that have not been particularised to take account of the applicant’s individual circumstances’.

Of course, this does not preclude an applicant from raising anything that is considered common and it may be considered amongst many other weighty factors that cumulatively may impact on the ability to integrate. 

What About My Private Life in the UK?

The guidance reads:

The nature and extent of the private life that an individual has established in the UK is not relevant when you are considering whether there are very serious obstacles to integration into the country of return. However, the existence of a private life in the UK and its strength will be relevant should the applicant fall for refusal under the rules, when you move on to consider whether refusal would breach Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention.

At [14] of Kamara v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2016] EWCA Civ 813, Sales LJ defined the concept of “integration”: 

“[…] The idea of “integration” calls for a broad evaluative judgment to be made as to whether the individual will be enough of an insider in terms of understanding how life in the society in that country is carried on and a capacity to participate in it, so as to have a reasonable opportunity to be accepted there, to be able to operate on a day-to-day basis in that society and to build up within a reasonable time a variety of human relationships to give substance to the individual’s private and family life.”

At [9] of Parveen v The Secretary of State for the Home Department [2018] EWCA Civ 932, Underhill LJ considered the definition of “very significant” in paragraph 276ADE(1):

“I have to say that I do not find that a very useful gloss on the words of the rule. It is fair enough to observe that the words “very significant” connote an “elevated” threshold, and I have no difficulty with the observation that the test will not be met by “mere inconvenience or upheaval”. But I am not sure that saying that “mere” hardship or difficulty or hurdles, even if multiplied, will not “generally” suffice adds anything of substance. The task of the Secretary of State, or the Tribunal, in any given case is simply to assess the obstacles to integration relied on, whether characterised as hardship or difficulty or anything else, and to decide whether they regard them as “very significant”.” 

At [58] of AS v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2017] EWCA Civ 1284, the Court of Appeal held as follows:

“…Consideration of the issue of obstacles to integration requires consideration of all relevant factors some of which might be described as generic. What Mr Buley identified as “generic” factors, as referred to above, can clearly be relevant to the issue of whether there are very significant obstacles to integration. They can form part of the “broad evaluative judgment” as is specifically demonstrated by the reference in Kamara to “good health” and “capable of working”. 

What Evidence Should I Consider Including?

There are no specified evidence requirements for such an application and you may wish to seek legal advice as to what evidence to gather and how best to present an application. 

It is important to gather as much evidence as possible from a wide range of sources. You may wish to consider including expert evidence with your application.  A combination of reports from individuals with different areas of expertise can often be useful in supporting and presenting a case.  This involves careful planning and preparation to ensure that the expert is able to engage with all the relevant issues. 

All private life applications will have questions relating to suitability and the public interest including language, maintenance and accommodation.

All applications will require an applicant to confirm their understanding that they must provide all reasons for wanting to stay in the UK. It is important to ensure that any other arguments are raised, including for example relationships with family members in the UK. 

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