Returning Resident Visa

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Who needs a Returning resident visa

Returning resident visa is for people who held indefinite leave to remain in the UK in the past but this leave lapsed (or was invalidated) because of a prolonged absence.

Generally, indefinite leave to remain is automatically invalidated if the holder has been out of the UK for two years or longer. For EEA nationals with settled status, indefinite leave to remain remains valid unless they are absent from the UK for five years, with the exception of Swiss nationals, whose ILR lapses after four years of absence. 

Returning Resident visa application has to be made outside the UK.

In October 2023 the Immigration Rules changed to allow applications for a returning resident visa even if there had been an intervening visitor visa after ILR lapsed. For example, a non visa national who previously held ILR but was out of the UK for more than two years would typically by admitted to the UK as a visitor but would have the option to apply for a returning resident visa upon return to their country of nationality or residence outside the UK.

Documents required for a returning resident visa application

Evidence of previously held ILR

This can be a BRP card endorsed with indefinite leave to remain, or a vignette in the passport with indefinite leave to enter or remain, or a letter from the Home Office confirming grant of indefinite leave to remain. If you are relying on a vignette in an old passport or a letter issued years ago (the letters were issued before BRPs were introduced), it would be helpful for you to have your old passports to show that there was no intervening visa replacing your ILR. You will also need a list of your trips to and from the UK during the relevant period.

Reasons for leaving the UK

Reasons for leaving the UK would be taken into consideration when considering your application for a returning resident visa. It will help your application if the reasons for leaving the UK were of a temporary nature – a work contract for a fixed period of time, study abroad, looking after a relative abroad, or any reason showing that the underlying intention was to return to the UK.

Reasons for returning to the UK

You would be expected to show that you have not lost your ties with the UK. These ties are assessed against your ties with any other country. Factors that are taken into consideration, are family ties, property, pension, work related and social ties. Of these, family and property ties are easiest to demonstrate. It is recommended that you adduce evidence if you still have a home in the UK – owned or rented, if you have any income, and if you have any close family – partner, children, parents, siblings, or extended family.

Dependants of the returning resident

Each family member is entitled to apply as a returning resident in their own right. If the family member did not have indefinite leave to remain before leaving the UK, or have not lived in the UK at all, they will need to make an application under Appendix FM.

How much it costs to apply for a returning resident visa

The visa fee is £637. There is no immigration health surcharge. The legal fees will depend on the complexity and urgency of the application and the volume of additional evidence to be adduced. 

How long is the processing time?

A decision should take around 3 weeks from the date you attend your appointment at the visa application centre. There may be an option to get a faster decision for an extra fee, depending on what country you’re applying from.

Lost BRP cards or vignettes in expired passports

Returning resident visa does not apply if you’ve been away for less than 2 years but have lost your documentation (BRP). In this case, you would simply need to get a replacement BRP visa.

How to apply

Applications are made online using this link – make an online application.

Your documents will have to be uploaded on the government portal. You will also need to submit your biometrics at a visa application centre as part of the application.

Why it is recommended to get legal help

There is a considerable level of discretion left to the decision maker in a returning resident application and there is no right of appeal against a refusal.

Your legal representatives cannot guarantee success of the application, but they would maximise the chances of success. 

If you get an unfavourable decision and have to apply for an administrative review, you will not be able to submit additional documents at this stage. Your legal representatives will make sure that all supporting documents that help to strengthen your application are submitted in the first instance. This will make the decision making process quicker, will ensure the best possible outcome, and will protect your chances of a successful outcome.

As Immigration Rules state at the moment, visiting the UK once in two years should be sufficient to keep it going.

The previous version of Immigration Rules, prior to October 2023, stated that you had to return for settlement within the period of two years and a short visit would not be enough. This paragraph was deleted and there is no provision in the rules which would require you to return to the UK for the purpose of settlement to keep your ILR going.

No, immigration officers have no discretion to revive your ILR if you have been absent for more than 2 years. But equally, they do not have discretion to cancel your ILR if you are returning for a short visit within two years.

No, the application for a returning resident visa can only be made from outside the UK.

If you have been absent for 2 years or more, you may be admitted to the UK as a visitor but you will not be able to switch from the visitor status to ILR.

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Last updated on October 25, 2023

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