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Travel outside the UK while waiting for an immigration decision

Recent changes to the immigration application process through UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) enable applicants to keep their passport while they wait for a decision on their immigration application.  In this post, we look at the impact of travel outside the UK while waiting for a decision on a pending immigration application.

Travel outside the UK while waiting for an immigration decision  

Under the new immigration application system, if you apply for further leave to remain or settlement through UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services, you will keep your passport throughout the application process.  

Although this has been the position for some time now, from 6 October 2021 the Immigration Rules will state as follows:

34J. The proof of identity provided under paragraph 34(5), or any other application for permission to stay, will be returned to the applicant whilst their application is being considered, unless the Secretary of State considers it necessary to retain it.

The Home Office will generally only consider it necessary to retain an applicant’s passport where they are an overstayer or in the UK as a visitor.

With UK immigration applications regularly taking many weeks or months to be decided, and with your passport in hand, you may consider leaving the UK before a decision has been made on your immigration application.

Can I travel outside the UK while waiting for a decision on my immigration application?

We strongly advise applicants who are considering leaving the UK and travelling overseas whilst their application for leave to remain or ILR is pending, not to do so without considering the very serious consequences that could follow as set out below.  

What will happen if I travel abroad while my immigration application is awaiting a decision?

If you travel abroad (outside the Common Travel Area (CTA) – which includes the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man) before a decision is made on your application for leave to remain or settlement, the Home Office will treat your application as withdrawn.

The legal basis for treating a pending immigration application as withdrawn where the applicant travels overseas is set out at paragraph 34K of the Immigration Rules, which from 6 October 2021 will state as follows:

34K. Where a decision on an application for permission to stay has not been made and the applicant travels outside the common travel area their application will be treated as withdrawn on the date the applicant left the common travel area.

If you leave the Common Travel Area before the Home Office makes a decision on your immigration application, your application for further leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain will automatically be treated as withdrawn.

What are the consequences of my immigration application being withdrawn if I travel overseas before a decision is made?

If your immigration application is withdrawn because you use your passport to travel outside the UK (and Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man) while waiting for a decision on your application, you will no longer have an immigration application pending with the Home Office.  

If you applied prior to the expiry of your previous leave and transferred onto section 3C leave because your leave expired before you left the UK, your section 3C leave will have expired on the date when you left the UK.  

If you applied prior to the expiry of your previous leave but still had extant leave when you left the UK, your extant leave will still be valid unless the expiry date has passed.

If your pending immigration application is treated as withdrawn because you travel outside the Common Travel Area, you should receive a refund of your immigration health surcharge payment, but your application fee will not be refunded.  If you were told to attend an appointment, you can cancel your application online and your fee will be refunded if you have not yet given your fingerprints and photograph. If you used the smartphone application, you can cancel your application online. Your fee will be refunded if you have not yet uploaded your documents.

Can I re-enter the UK to receive a decision on my immigration application?

If you have an outstanding application and you travel outside the CTA, the application will not give you any right to re-enter the UK to receive a decision on your application.  

Because your pending immigration application will be treated as withdrawn, you will be refused entry to the UK unless you are allowed to re-enter the UK with a different type of leave (i.e. because you have made another immigration application before returning to the UK) or your existing leave has not yet expired and is not cancelled at the border.

Contact our immigration barristers & immigration lawyers

Our immigration barristers and immigration lawyers have over 20 years experience preparing applications for entry clearance, leave to remain and settlement in the UK.   For expert advice regarding a visa or immigration application, contact our immigration barristers and immigration lawyers on 0203 617 9173 or via our enquiry form below.

This article was co-written by Paul Richmond & Zoe Bantleman

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To arrange an initial consultation meeting, call our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or fill out the form below.




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