Indefinite Leave to Remain Expiry [ Expert Advice ]


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Does Indefinite Leave to Remain Expire?

If you are a non-British national who has lived in the UK for at least five years under an immigration category or under the EU settlement scheme, then you’re probably looking forward to gaining permanent residence status. In case you successfully apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), rest assured that you have Home Office’s permission to live, work and study in the country unrestrictedly. Although indefinite means indefinite, that is, without a time limit, you may be interested in finding out if there’s anything that can render your indefinite leave to remain expired or revoked by the home office.

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In this article, you’ll find out about what constitutes indefinite leave to remain expiry, and also, if your ILR can expire, the factors that can contribute to the revocation of your leave and what to do if you lose your indefinite status. Besides that,  you will discover if you’re exempted from expiry rules for Indefinite Leave to Remain. 

What is Indefinite Leave to Remain?

Also called indefinite leave to enter or “settlement’, 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 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. 

Indefinite Leave to Remain Expiry 

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, the UK immigration department will revoke its decision, and you may not be considered as 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 UK is concerned. They include: 

  • The dependents of/or a member of the British armed forces. The dependents must be accompanying 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 the expiry 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 the UK for up to 10 years, and the Home Office will not revoke your leave status. Upon approaching the 10th year, it’s advisable that you return to the country to avoid finding that your indefinite leave to remain has expired. 

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 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.I

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If you manage to go through the process and return to the UK on the Returning Resident visa, it will mean that you will have restored your indefinite leave to remain. The requirements for the returning resident visa vary and depend on the duration over which an ILR holder has overstayed their re-entry limit. However, some of the requirements cut across the board, including: 

  • Proof showing that you had been granted indefinite leave to remain 
  • Evidence to prove that you didn’t leave the UK using public funds 
  • Proof that you intend you reside in the UK permanently

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 it is not, there will be a right of appeal as this will be a human rights-oriented application.

Deportation and ILR

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.

Final Words 

Staying outside the UK for two subsequent years will lead to the revocation of your indefinite leave to remain. Therefore, if you plan to make the UK your permanent country of residence, you need to be careful about your overseas stays. While returning to the UK after two years will break the continuity of your absence, thus preventing maintaining your ILR, you shouldn’t be out of the UK excessively, even if you don’t stay out for more than two years, because you may draw attention say if out for more than a reasonable period for a holiday each year, that your real intention is not to have the UK as your main home but only as a matter of convenience in which case the immigration officer at the port of entry may revoke your ILR.

If your indefinite leave to remain is being revoked or has already been, then do not hesitate to book a consultation with our legal team to see how you can proceed in a way that is favourable to you. 

If you are an individual with ILR in the UK and anticipate lengthy overseas engagements that might prompt you to be outside the country for years, it’s crucial to seek advice from trusted UK immigration experts like ours to know your rights and restrictions. Contact us anytime for timely and risk-free advice and help in avoiding ILR expiration or ILR restoration.

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    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.


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