How Can an illegal Immigrant become Legal in the UK?

How Can an illegal Immigrant become Legal in the UK

How Can an Illegal Immigrant become Legal in the UK?

As one of London’s top immigration law firms, we often get asked the sensitive question – how can an illegal immigrant become legal in the UK? Rest assured, this article has been written to inform you of what options may be available if you are an illegal immigrant who is in the UK.

Reasons Why Someone may Become an Illegal Immigrant in the UK?

A migrant may be in the UK illegally for a whole variety of reasons. For example, they may have come undetected on a lorry or other form of transport or entered the UK with fake documents. 

Suppose that is the case, and they came here because of a fear of persecution in their country of origin. In that case, they could claim asylum or humanitarian protection here by contacting the Home Office for an appointment to attend an interview. Persecution could be due to the migrant’s race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group (such as an LGBTP individual), or their political opinion. 

If an individual does decide to pursue this path, there will be an interview between themself and an immigration officer to discuss the specifics in more detail. The downside to these interviews is that if the migrant is from a country where the British government generally accepts that there is no fear of persecution, then the migrant may be detained after the interview in a detention centre pending a decision on their case. Moreover, if their application is processed, there will be a couple of interviews. The second one will be geared towards finding out the exact cause of fear on return, and it could take over a year for a decision to be reached. If, after a year, there has been no decision made and the issue has not been resolved, then the migrant could ask for permission to work pending the result of their application. These interviews are heard in the presence of a Home Office caseworker and an interpreter of the migrant’s choice as to language and dialect. 

20 Years Long Residence Application

Another option is to dig deep and stay out of trouble for at least 20 years in the UK. This can be proved by accumulating documents to show the migrant has been here for every claimed year of unlawful residence, such as tenancy agreements, bills paid, accounts opened etc. However, proof in this way is not easy either, as unless there is proof of lawful residence in the UK, landlords and other institutions might be unlikely to assist, as they might be subject to a fine by assisting or harbouring an illegal migrant.

Suppose a migrant is able to accumulate documents for a 20 year period and go undetected in the UK. In that case, an application could be made under the current immigration rules for “discretionary limited leave to remain”, followed by an application in due course of time for indefinite leave to remain, which is permanent residency. 

Get Expert Advice from our Legal Team​

Call us on 020 7269 9590 or Fill in our form


Other options to regularise stay in the UK might be: entering into a relationship with a UK based partner, heterosexual or same-sex, leaving the UK and making an application for entry clearance to return, when the previous period of illegal stay here may be disregarded.

Alternatively, if the illegal migrant fears returning abroad to make an application on the basis that the application may fail and they might then be stranded abroad pending any appeal to be heard in the UK or reapplication. Then it is possible, but obviously not easy, to build up a relationship in the UK, then try to apply to regularise their stay here by an application to the Home Office on a human rights basis, such as one related to family life here. 


If children are a result of the relationship, and in particular if the children are British or settled here lawfully through the status of the other partner, or are here themselves unlawfully, but have reached at least seven years of age, this would mean it is not in their best interest to be removed, and the family should remain together. Or the illegal migrant should be able to remain with their UK based family; there again, it is possible to make an application to the home office to regularise the unlawful immigration status. If it’s successful, the migrant should be granted 2.5 years of discretionary leave subject to renewal on application. Again in due course of time, an application for settlement (indefinite leave to remain) could be made. 


Any refusal of such application might result in an appeal that would give the migrant a second chance to argue their case before an immigration judge. If you do need to go through the appeal process, it is highly advised that you seek legal advice from an experienced immigration lawyer to guide you through the process and represent you in the courts. As one of the best immigration law firms in London, our team are here to help and assist you.

There are, therefore, several ways an illegal migrant may try to regularise their stay here, but as can be noted, such applications need to be undertaken after expert advice and consideration of all the circumstances.

Ask our Expert Legal Team

At Gulbenkian Andonian, we pride ourselves on “Excellence, Experience and Efficiency”. With over 35 years of experience on your side, our team of London based lawyers and solicitors have a wealth of experience advising individuals, families and businesses of all sizes to find clarity on UK law.

Call us on +44 (0) 207 269 9590 or fill out the form below. We usually reply within a few hours.

    Share This Post


    Neither Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors ltd, nor their employees, agents, consultants or assignees, accept any liability based on the contents of written articles which are meant for guidance only and not as legal advice. We advise all readers to take professional advice before acting. If you would like to consult with a professional lawyer or solicitor to discuss your case, please do not hesitate to contact us directly. This site uses reCAPTCHA and is protected by the Google privacy policy and terms of service.