My Indefinite Leave to Remain has Expired – What Can I Do?


Does Indefinite Leave to Remain Expire? – Understanding the ILR Expiry Rule 

If you’re not a British citizen but have the Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), you can freely live, work, and study in the UK. Although indefinite means staying forever, and ILR allows you to live in the UK indefinitely, it can be revoked in certain circumstances.

This guide explains the ILR expiry rule. We’ll tell you when you could lose your ILR status and what to do if it happens. We’ll also cover exceptions to the expiry rule.

What is Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) Status?

Also called indefinite leave to enter or “settlement’, indefinite leave to remain (ILR) is a UK immigration status that gives a foreign national the right to enter, live, work, and study in the UK. Better still, with the indefinite leave to remain status, you can travel in and out of the country without facing any immigration restrictions. However, it is worth noting that freedom is not absolute; you can lose it under some circumstances, affecting your right to reside permanently in the country. 

For you to qualify for ILR, you must have lived in the country for at least five years under an immigration category such as a spouse visa, a work permit holder under the Skilled Worker Visa (formerly Tier 2 Work Visa), or because you have been in the UK all together lawfully for at least 10-years, besides meeting other ILR application requirements. 

How Long Does Indefinite Leave to Remain Last?

The Home Office gives you an opportunity to have ILR for life. However, you risk losing your ILR status or having it revoked in certain instances. One of the circumstances that put you at risk of losing your ILR status is a lengthy absence from the UK. 

Specifically, according to UK immigration rules, a continuous 2-year absence from the country could lead to the expiration or revocation of your indefinite leave to remain.

This means that if you have been granted the leave and decide to stay out of the UK for two consecutive years or more, UKVI will revoke its decision, and you may not be considered a permanently UK-settled person when you attempt to return to the UK after two years of absence. In this case, you will probably receive leave to enter as a visitor instead. 

However, there are specific individuals who are exempted from the ILR expiry rule as far as extended stay outside the country is concerned. They include: 

  • The dependents of/or a member of the British armed forces. The dependents must accompany the member of the armed forces in their overseas posting during their extended stay outside the country for them to be exempted from the rule.
  • The dependents of British citizens or settled persons who are permanently employed and working in the British Council, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, or the Department for International Development. To be exempted from this rule, the dependents should be in the company of such employees whom they’re dependent on during their lengthy overseas stay. 
  • UK-settled persons who are returning to the country under situations that don’t need clearance for indefinite leave to remain.
  • Commonwealth citizens are covered by Chapter 19, section 3: section 1(5) of the Immigration Act 1971.

If you have ILR under the EU Settlement Scheme (settled status), you can stay outside of the country for up to 5 years, and the Home Office will not revoke your leave status. Upon approaching the 5th year, it’s advisable that you return to the country to avoid finding that your indefinite leave to remain is due to expire or has already expired. 

If I have stayed Outside the UK, Can I Restore my Indefinite Leave to Remain if it Expires? 

An expired leave to remain means that you can no longer have the right to live, work and study in the UK permanently with the status quo. If you’re still interested in re-entering and settling in the country again as a returning resident whose ILR has expired, you should seek entry clearance under Returning Resident Visa rules (discussed below) before you embark on returning to the country. Otherwise, any attempt to enter the country without the visa will be rejected outrightly, and you risk being returned to your home country. For expert advice from our legal team on how to navigate this process, do not hesitate to contact us.

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What is the Returning Resident Visa?

According to UK immigration law, indefinite leave to remain status can be lost if you have been absent for two years or longer; you will need a returning resident visa to re-enter the country for settlement. Your ILR will be reactivated after you are readmitted as a returning resident.

Even if your ILR has expired and you have returned to the UK as a guest, you must apply from outside the UK to reclaim your status as a returning resident. Individuals in this scenario may previously apply for re-entry at the border, but as of July 2018, you must submit your entry clearance application along with a returning resident visa before flying to the UK.

What is the Returning Resident Visa Requirements?

The requirements for the returning resident visa vary and depend on the duration over which an ILR holder has overstayed their re-entry limit. To be accepted, you must show that you had a valid indefinite ILR status when you left the UK, that you did not receive public funding for your departure, and that you want to make the UK your permanent home.

Under paragraph 19 of the Immigration Rules, UK authorities have the authority to decide on returning resident status, taking into account many crucial needs and factors:

  • You must demonstrate significant ties to the United Kingdom, which may include family, professional, and property connections. Maintaining these connections while you are away will increase your chances of acquiring a returning resident visa.
  • The length of your absence from the UK is an important consideration in reinstating your ILR. The longer you’ve been gone, the more difficult it may be to demonstrate close links.
  • Your claim of strong ties can be supported by the length of your initial stay in the UK.
  • You should provide proof and an explanation for your departure from the UK as well as your present circumstances. For example, did you leave to care for a sick relative, work, or study, and you now are planning to return permanently.
  • Other factors to consider or include would be foreign service with a specific company outside of the United Kingdom, lengthy medical treatment abroad that is not available in the UK, or extended education abroad by someone who intends to rejoin their family in the UK after graduation.
  • Dependents, such as your spouse, partner, or children under the age of 18, must apply for their own returning residence visa if qualified.

It’s crucial to note that it’s not guaranteed that your returning resident visa application will be accepted; it can be rejected. This is because you will need to make an online application as a returning resident from abroad. The approval or rejection of the application will be dependent on various factors, the major one being the strength of your ties with the UK and why you overstayed abroad for two years. 

On this note, the UK immigration department may want to find out if you have family members who are settled in the UK, the length of your continuous absence from the country and how long you had originally resided in the country. 

Your reason for the extended continuous absence from the UK will be weighed to ascertain if your visa application will be accepted or not. If your application is denied, you should seek legal advice from our team of UK immigration specialists, as you may be able to appeal the decision through an administrative review.

If you manage to go through the process and return on the Returning Resident visa, it will mean that you will have restored your status and can continue to live and work in the UK permanently. 

Can Indefinite Leave to Remain be Revoked?

If you are to be deported from the UK because, say, you obtained ILR using false details when you first came here, or if you have served a personal sentence and it is thought that your further stay in the UK is not conducive to the public good and you had ILR, that permission to stay in the UK indefinitely will be revoked.

Always Make Sure Your Respect the 2-Year Rule on ILR Expiry

If you enter the UK with an expired ILR status and no returning resident visa or another grant of entry clearance, you will be denied entry at the border and must return to your home country.

The two-year rule is something you must do your very best to obey with regard to your travel obligations, and you must make sure that the time your spend outside of the country is in line with the 2-year allowance.

Moreover, it is your responsibility to check and verify your travel documentation, tickets, and passport for visa and immigration stamps issued since you were granted ILR.

Remember, regardless of the expiry date on your BRP card or visa stamp, your ILR will expire after two years of absence is up to you to keep track of that time frame and obey it. Furthermore, if your Biometric Residence Permit – BRP card has been lost or stolen and you need it to prove your immigration status, you will need to apply for a replacement within 3 months.

Indefinite Leave to Remain Expiry Rule – Final Words

If you live in the UK with an indefinite leave to remain (ILR), be aware of your travel. Two years outside the UK can cancel your ILR. So, if the UK is your chosen home, limit your time abroad.

Coming back to the UK after two years resets your time away. But don’t spend too much time outside the UK. If it seems like you’re away too often, even for short trips, officials might think the UK isn’t your main home. This could lead to losing your permanent stay status.

If you’re at risk of losing your status or it’s already happened, contact our legal team. We’ll help you figure out the best steps to take.

For those with ILR and planning long trips abroad, it’s essential to talk to immigration experts. We can guide you on your rights and how to keep your status safe. Contact us for advice on avoiding losing your status or getting it back.

How Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors Can Help If Your Indefinite Leave to Remain Has Expired?

At Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors, we have a wealth of expertise to help you navigate ILR expiry issues. Our team of immigration experts can provide you with the necessary legal advice and guidance. Here’s how we can assist:

  1.  ILR Check: We can see if your ILR has expired, considering your time away from the UK and other factors.
  2. Visa Application: If your ILR has expired, we can help you apply for a returning resident visa.
  3. ILR Retention: We can guide you on keeping your ILR status, like not staying out of the UK for more than two years.
  4. Appeals and Reviews: If your ILR renewal or visa application is denied, we can explain why and help you with a review or appeal.
  5. Legal Help: We can represent you in all talks with the UK Home Office and during any appeals.
  6. Personal Advice: Every case is different. We’ll give advice that fits your situation to help you keep or get back your ILR status.

Remember, legal advice is paramount when dealing with immigration matters. Trust Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors to guide you every step of the way. 

FAQ's About Indefinite Leave to Remain Expiry

The ILR expiry rule states that your ILR status may lapse if you have been absent from the UK for a continuous period of more than two years.

Yes, if you have been absent from the UK for more than two years, your ILR status can lapse, according to the expiry rule.

Various factors can lead to the revocation of your ILR, such as committing a crime, threat to national security, or being absent from the UK for more than two years continuously.

If you lose your indefinite status due to ILR expiry, you would typically need to apply for a returning resident visa or an entry clearance visa to return to the UK.

There might be some exceptions based on individual circumstances, such as those who have served in HM Forces or certain family members of British Citizens and settled persons. It’s best to check with immigration officials or legal advisors for specific details.

The key difference is that the Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme doesn’t automatically lapse after two years of absence from the UK, unlike ILR. Individuals with Settled Status can spend up to five continuous years outside the UK without losing their status.

The expiry rule is different due to the terms of the EU Settlement Scheme, which was designed to secure the rights of EU, EEA, and Swiss citizens and their family members residing in the UK after Brexit. The five-year absence rule for Settled Status holders reflects the UK government’s commitment to these individuals, acknowledging their strong ties to the UK.

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