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UK Returning Resident Visa - A Practical Guide (2)

This is the second part of our practical guide to applying for a Returning Resident Visa in which we address a number of frequently asked questions regarding returning residence visa applications.  In our previous post we looked at the position for returning residents who have been away from the UK for less than 2 years.  In this post we consider what happens if you were granted Indefinite Leave to Enter or Indefinite Leave to Remain and wish to return to the UK after having been absent from the UK for more than 2 years.

What if I Have Been Absent From the UK for More Than 2 Years?

If you have been absent from the UK for more than 2 consecutive years, you will automatically lose your indefinite leave as a matter of law and must apply for Entry Clearance as a Returning Resident.  The application will be assessed by entry clearance officers under paragraph 19 of the Immigration Rules.

Are There Any Exceptions To This Returning Resident Rule?

There are exceptions for a partner or child accompanying a member of HM Forces overseas or a partner or child accompanying a permanent member of the British Council, Department for International Development, Home Office, or Foreign and Commonwealth Office overseas (see Paragraph 19A of the Immigration Rules).  

What Factors Will be Considered When A Returning Resident Application is Assessed?

The Returning Resident guidance sets out the following matters for consideration:

  • their strength of ties to the UK including:
    • the nature of those ties
    • the 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. 

When considering ties to the UK a decision maker will consider close family, property and business ties.  

When addressing the reasons for leaving and wishing to return, the relevant considerations are summarised as follows:

  • to access health treatment overseas 
  • to care for family 
  • to retire 
  • for employment/self-employment 
  • study

In some cases, these reasons mean a person remains outside the UK for more than 2 years, and so their indefinite leave lapses. You must consider their reasons for leaving and for now wishing to return to the UK. For example, a person may have left the UK to care for family members and now wishes to return to the UK to retire. 

The guidance identifies further circumstances that would support a Returning Resident application, including:  

  • travel and service overseas with a particular employer before return to the UK with the employer 
  • service abroad for the UK Government, or as a dependant of a member of HM Forces or as an employee of a quasi-governmental body, a British company or a United Nations organisation
  • employment abroad in the public service of a country that has good relations with the UK, by a person who could not reasonably be expected to settle in that country permanently 
  • a prolonged period of study abroad by a person who wishes to rejoin the family in UK on completion of studies 
  • prolonged medical treatment abroad of a kind not available in the UK • unintended absences from the UK due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We examine the impact of absences arising from Covid-19 in an earlier post: here.

What Evidence Should I Provide in Support of a Returning Resident Visa Application?

There is no limit to what evidence you may consider providing in support of a Returning Resident Visa application but you should ensure it is relevant.  

The guidance reads as follows:

Evidence to support an application where a person has been absent from the UK for more than 2 years may include: 

  • evidence of settled status – for those who were settled before 1 January 1973 when the Immigration Act 1971 came into force, this may not be evidenced through a vignette, BRP or passport. Other evidence, such as Doctor’s records, or school letters may be taken into account instead 
  • details of any family in the UK and correspondence with them (to establish strong ties to the UK) 
  • evidence of property in the UK and/or any business interests (to establish strong ties to the UK) • letters of enrolment/attendance at an education establishment if they have been studying outside the UK for long periods 
  • letter of employment where this has been reason for their absence from the UK 
  • a letter from a medical professional if their reason for their absence relates to caring for another person or for their own medical reasons 

This list is not exhaustive and additional evidence may be considered.  You may wish to seek advice as to what evidence to include and how best to present it. 

What If I Have Lost My BRP?

You should not apply for a Returning Resident Visa if you’ve been away from the UK for less than 2 years but have lost documentation.   If those circumstances apply you will need to apply for a replacement BRP.  You can read more in our earlier article: here.

Can My Dependants Join My Application For A Returning Resident Visa?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to add a dependant to the application form, they will be required to make a separate application.  They may wish to seek advice as to their position in order to determine whether they can make a Returning Resident visa application or another type of application is more appropriate.

Returning Resident Visa Application Fees

At the time of writing the application fee for a Returning Resident Visa application is £531, having increased by £15 on 06 April 2022. Any applicant who meets the criteria set out in the caseworking guidance on the Windrush scheme, and who lost their indefinite leave due to an absence from the UK of more than 2 years, can apply to return to the UK permanently as a returning resident free of charge. 

Returning Resident Visa Application Processing Times

Current information on the UKVI website  confirms that a decision should be received ‘within 3 weeks’ and ‘you may be able to get your visa faster or other services depending on what country you’re in – check with your visa application centre”.

What If My Returning Resident Visa Application Is Not Successful?

If an application for a Returning Resident Visa is not successful you will have a right of administrative review against the decision.   In limited circumstances there may arguably be a right of appeal.

You may wish to seek advice and consider making a fresh application with further evidence or more detailed submissions.  

What Other Applications Can I Make?

Other potential applications you may make will depend on your personal circumstances and how you achieved your ILR or ILE in the first place.  You may wish to consider seeking professional advice as to your options.  

What if I Hold Settled Status/ILR Under Appendix EU?

Once you are granted Settled Status/Indefinite Leave to Remain under Appendix EU, that will only lapse if you are outside the UK and Islands for a continuous period of more than 5 years. As such, if you enter the UK or Islands (Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man) within 5 years, the clock will reset (see paragraph EU5 of Appendix EU).

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