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Returning Resident Visa - Top 7 FAQs

In this post we answer some of the questions that are most frequently asked by individuals who previously resided in the UK with Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and now wish to return following a period of absence. 

(1) What happens if I leave the UK for less than 2 years and now want to return? 

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. 

(2) If I left the UK for less than 2 years, do I need to apply online for a visa to re-enter as a Returning Resident? 

No, if you meet the requirements set out in paragraph 18 you will not be required to apply for a visa to enter the UK. Once in the UK, you can apply for a biometric residence permit (BRP) to replace the vignette in your passport. You may wish to speak to our immigration barristers for advice in making this application.

(3) What happens if I want to return to the UK but I have left the UK for over 2 years? 

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.

The factors which will be considered are set out in the Returning Residents guidance and include: 

  • your strength of ties to the UK including the nature of those ties and the extent to which those ties have been maintained during your absence;
  • the length of your original residence in the UK;
  • the length of time you have been outside the UK;
  • the circumstances in which you left the UK and the reasons for your remaining absent;
  • your reasons for now wishing to return to the UK;
  • whether, if you were to be readmitted, you would continue to live in the UK;
  • any other compelling or compassionate factors.

(4) Can my dependants join my application for a Returning Resident visa?

Your dependants (partner or children under 18) cannot be added on the same application form. If eligible for a Returning Resident visa, they will be able to submit a separate application. 

(5) What are the alternatives if I do not meet the requirements for a Returning Resident visa?

You may be able to meet the requirements for indefinite leave on the basis of long residence if you satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that you have spent a period of at least 10 years residing in the UK continuously and lawfully. The Long Residence guidance states:

Once an applicant has built up a period of 10 years’ continuous lawful residence, there is no limit on the length of time afterwards when they can apply. This means they could leave the UK, re-enter on any lawful basis, and apply for settlement from within the UK based on a 10 year period of continuous lawful residence they built up in the past. There is also nothing to prevent a person relying on a 10 year period that they may have relied on in a previous application or grant.”

Read our blog post to find out whether you meet the requirements for an ILR on the basis of long residence. 

(6) How much are the application fees?

At the time of writing, an application for a Returning Resident visa costs £516. 

(7) How long will it take to receive a decision on a Returning Resident visa

The Home Office service standard for out-of-country applications is 90% within 3 weeks, 98% within 6 weeks and 100% within 12 weeks.  Many application centres outside the UK offer a priority visa service which can expedite the processing times.

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