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Returning Resident Visa Applications and Covid-19

The Returning Resident visa is for individuals who have previously held indefinite leave to remain (“ILR”) in the UK, but this leave has lapsed due to absence from the UK of more than 2 years continuously. 

Our previous posts have outlined the requirements of this route. In this post, we address the issues surrounding Returning Resident visa applications for those who have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Returning Resident Visa Immigration Rules

Paragraph 18 of the Immigration Rules sets out the requirements for entry to the UK as a Returning Resident with less than 2 years of absence. It states: 

“A person may resume their residence in the UK provided the Immigration Officer is satisfied that the person concerned:

(i) had indefinite leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom when he last left; and

(ii) has not been away from the United Kingdom for more than 2 years; and

(iii) did not receive assistance from public funds towards the cost of leaving the United Kingdom; and

(iv) now seeks admission for the purpose of settlement.

Therefore, your indefinite leave to remain status is retained if you meet the requirements set out above.” 

You may be able to rely on Paragraph 19 of the Immigration Rules  to apply for a Returning Resident visa if you can show you have ‘strong ties’ to the UK. Paragraph 19 states:

“A person who does not benefit from the preceding paragraph by reason only of having been absent from the United Kingdom for more than two consecutive years, must have applied for, and been granted indefinite leave to enter by way of entry clearance if, he can demonstrate he has strong ties to the United Kingdom and intends to make the United Kingdom his permanent home.”

Returning Resident Visa Guidance Relating to Covid-19

Due to Covid-19, there may be a number of individuals who were unable to travel back to the UK prior to their ILR lapsing. 

The current Covid-19 policy states for those whose ILR has lapsed: 

“If you’ve remained outside the UK for over 2 years and due to coronavirus travel restrictions your indefinite leave has lapsed

Your Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK (ILR) or Indefinite Leave to Enter the UK (ILE) will lapse if you are absent from the UK for over 2 years.

If your ILR/ILE lapsed on or after 24 January 2020, and you’ve been unable to return to the UK due to travel restrictions in place relating to coronavirus, you may apply under the Returning Resident visa route to return to the UK and get indefinite leave.

You need to complete the online Returning Resident application form and pay the fee. As part of your application you’ll need to explain how coronavirus restrictions prevented your return to the UK.

You’ll receive a refund of the application fee and, where applicable, a refund of £55 if you submitted your application at a Mandatory User Pay Visa Application Centre. Confirmation of your refund will be sent to you by email once we’ve made a decision on your application.”

This has been reflected in the Returning Residents Guidance:

“Extended absence from the UK due to COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions 

Some applicants will have been prevented from returning to the UK in 2020 and 2021, due to travel restrictions in place relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. In some cases this will have resulted in their indefinite leave lapsing. 

You should consider whether travel restrictions after 24 January 2020 resulted in unintended absences from the UK. Where you assess someone had intended to return to the UK before their leave lapsed but were prevented from returning by travel restrictions, you should consider this as an additional factor supporting a grant of entry clearance.”

Therefore, if the application is made on the basis of ILR lapsing due to the pandemic, it should be explained how travel restrictions impacted the applicant’s ability to return to the UK. If applicable, evidence could be provided to demonstrate how restrictions impacted the ability to travel. For example, evidence of cancelled flights could be included. 

If it is accepted that ILR lapsed due to Covid-19, the applicant should receive a refund of the application fee. 

If You Have Already Been Issued a Returning Resident Visa

The current Covid-19 policy confirms that if an individual has already been issued a returning resident visa, and leave has lapsed due to Covid-19 and travel restriction, they may still be eligible for a refund of the visa fee. 

Other Factors For Returning Residents To Consider

The guidance above confirms that inability to return to the UK due to Covid-19 is an “additional factor” supporting a grant of entry clearance. The other factors which will be considered in a Returning Resident visa application are set out in the Returning Resident guidance:

“You must consider the following factors when assessing whether a person can be readmitted to the UK as a returning resident under paragraph 19:

  • their strength of ties to the UK including:
  • the nature of those ties
  • he extent to which those ties have been maintained during the applicant’s absence 
  • the length of their original residence in the UK 
  • the length of time the applicant has been outside the UK 
  • the circumstances in which they left the UK and their reasons for remaining absent 
  • their reasons for now wishing to return 
  • whether, if they were to be readmitted, they would continue to live in the UK 
  • any other compelling or compassionate factors”

These additional factors should also be addressed and evidenced as much as possible in a Returning Resident visa application.

Contact Our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance with a Returning Resident visa, contact our Immigration Barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.


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