Returning Resident Visa

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Returning Resident Visa

Indefinite leave to remain is automatically invalidated if the holder has been out of the UK for more than two years. If you are returning after an absence of more than two years, you will need a Returning Resident visa.


General overview

The Returning Resident visa reinstates settled status and in order to get it you will need evidence that you previously held indefinite leave to remain (ILR), the documented evidence of the length of your previous residence, reasons for leaving the UK, ties you have kept with the UK and the reason for returning.

Indefinite leave to remain can only be reinstated if there was no intervening visa or leave to enter after the grant of indefinite leave to remain. In other words, if the holder of indefinite leave to enter or remain left the UK for more than two years and then returned as a visitor, a student or in any other temporary category, returning resident visa will not be available.

If you have been out of the country for more than two years and wish to return and reactivate your settled status, the application has to be made from outside the UK. In exceptional circumstances, you may be given temporary admission at the border to sort out the paperwork from within the UK. But the application process would be more complicated. And there is a risk you may be admitted as a visitor, especially if you are a non-visa national. We strongly advise returning residents to check the stamp in their passports to make sure they are not granted leave to enter as visitors – this will debar any future applications to reinstate ILR.

There is no right of appeal against refusal of returning resident visa. The only available remedy against refusal is administrative review.

Documentary evidence

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 £516. 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. Legal fees are likely to be in the region of £2000 – £3000 but may be higher in more complex scenarios.

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

Returning resident visa is not part of the points based system. There is much discretion left to the decision maker and there is no right of appeal against refusal. Your legal representatives will not be able to guarantee the success of the application, but they would maximise the chances of success. If you have to challenge an unfavourable decision, 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 challenging a wrong decision.

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Last updated on October 5, 2021

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