New Immigration Rules for Overstayers in the UK 2023
Overstaying your UK visa is a serious issue and can in many instances lead to severe and far-reaching consequences, including deportation, forced removal, detention and other legal implications and convictions that may disadvantage your future immigration opportunities within the country. If you have overstayed your visa and want immediate assistance on how to sort this out please get in touch so we can act swiftly on your behalf.
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In this article, our immigration experts explore the most up-to-date immigration rules for overstayers in the UK and how they can impact your life if you are in a situation where you have overstayed your visa.
Understanding the New Immigration Rules for Overstayers
The new immigration rules for overstayers in the UK are designed to make it easier for the authorities to identify and remove those who are in breach of their visa. The changes include the introduction of more tech-savvy tracking database systems, which keep more robust records of all those who have entered the country and overstayed their visa rights. Additionally, new powers have been granted to immigration officers to detain those found to be in breach of these rules.
Who is an Overstayer in the UK?
According to the UK immigration rules, an overstayer is someone whose UK visa or leave period has expired while still in the country.
Additionally, you can be treated as an overstayer if your Visa has been curtailed and you stay beyond the time limit given by the Home Office. For example: a foreign national who married a British citizen, was granted 2.5 years leave to remain. The British husband reports the wife to the Home Office alleging she wanted to marry him only for the Visa. The Home Office writes to the wife, curtailing her Visa, leading it to expire in 4 weeks. If she stays here after the four weeks have expired, she will be classed as an overstayer.
Possible Reasons for Overstaying in the UK
Besides wanting to remain in the country for reasons related to work, fun, family or investment opportunities, other reasons that might make you overstay in the UK include:
- Having a medical condition that puts you at a high risk of travel
- Restriction by the country you intend to travel to
- Inability to arrange your travel on time
- Delayed response on a new visa application
- Covid reasons
- Forgetting your dates
How do I know if I Have Overstayed My UK Visa?
It is worth noting that you won’t receive a notification from the Home Office regarding the expiry of your visa. It is your duty, as a UK visa holder, to ensure that you’re in the loop concerning the status of your visa.
UK law prohibits immigrants from overstaying in the country. You’re supposed to leave for your home country or apply for leave to remain in the UK before the expiry date. You should make the application to extend your visa before it expires, or if you have been refused, you can make a fresh application no later than 14 days after the refusal of your visa, or if you have a right of appeal and don’t want to make a fresh application, then you appeal within 14 days of the refusal.
If you choose to return to your home country upon the expiration of your visa, you have to do so voluntarily and at your own expense within the first 30 days after the expiry. Otherwise, you’ll lose a lot of immigrant rights. The initial 60-day grace period provision was reduced to 30 days under Paragraphs A320 and 320(7B) of the Immigration Rules.
Penalties for Overstaying Your Visa
If you have entered the UK legally and then remained in the country on an expired visa, you are in breach of the new immigration rules for overstayers, and if you are caught, you will likely face serious consequences.
Various penalties can be given for overstaying your UK visa, including immigration fines, detention, imprisonment, and, quite possibly, even deportation. It is also important to understand that the new rules apply to all overstayers, regardless of their passport, nationality or the length of time they have overstayed their visa.
This is why we advise that it is wise to stay organised, keep track of your dates and also be aware of your visa entitlements. If you can, you should also stay updated with the most up-to-date news and immigration rules, which change frequently.
If I Overstay My Visa, Will I Be Considered an Illegal Immigrant by UK Authorities?
The UK’s immigration rules consider you as an illegal immigrant the moment you overstay on your UK visa for no good reason. With reference to Section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971, overstaying your visa without reasonable cause is a criminal offence.
As an illegal immigrant in the UK, you cn be subjected to to detention or forceful removal from the country, overexploitation at the workplace, and struggle to find decent housing, among other crucial services, as you will not be in the system officially.
Additionally, overstaying comes as a detriment to your future applications for UK government services. For instance, being an illegal migrant, your official application to extend your stay in the country will not be accepted unless there are very compassionate and compelling circumstances. Even worse, you don’t have the right to challenge the decision by appealing to the independent Immigration Tribunal.
In the UK, if you overstay for more than 90 days, there are high chances that you will be banned or barred from re-entering the UK for one year or more.
Is there a Grace Period for Overstaying a UK Visa?
Under section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971, overstaying your UK visa for any duration is a criminal offense, potentially leading to a fine or imprisonment. However, you could benefit from a 14-day grace period if you have a “good reason” for submitting a late immigration application. Additionally, you have a month to leave the UK voluntarily from the day your leave expires to avoid a potential re-entry ban. During this period, you’re still considered an overstayer.
Advice for Those Who Have Overstayed Their Visa
If you have overstayed your visa in the UK, it is important to seek professional advice as soon as possible from a law firm that has specialised in UK immigration law so you can understand the new immigration rules for overstayers and can help you to navigate the complex immigration system.
If you have noticed you overstayed briefly after your visa expired, then you must act swiftly to try and regularise your immigration status as soon as possible within the 14 day grace period, or leave the country within 30 days.
Depending on who is accompanying you in the UK, your rights and options might vary. If you’re with your family, you might have more options to stay in the country. You’ll still retain some basic rights, like schooling your kids till they turn 16 and access to emergency services, although your right to residency is no longer valid.
Our immigration team can help determine if there’s a “valid reason” for your overstay or if you qualify for exceptional assurance.
There is a high chance that your application will be accepted if:
- Your children have UK residency rights. Your children could be British nationals or have indefinite leave to remain.
- You are in the process of extending your current visa.
- You are in the process of applying for indefinite leave to remain.
- You are admitted to hospital or have health problems.
- A close family member died.
- You forgot your visa expired by have a “good reason” which our immigration team can confirm.
What If my UK Visa Expired While I Was Waiting for a New One?
Usually, if you filed for a new UK visa before your current one expired, you’re allowed to stay in the UK even if your visa expires during this period. This falls under “section 3c leave” as per the Immigration Act 1971, which prevents an individual from becoming an overstayer while waiting for their visa application decision or during any pending appeal or administrative review. This leave remains valid until the application is either decided or withdrawn.
However, if your application is invalid for reasons such as applying for a Skilled Worker visa when you’re not eligible, not meeting the minimum age or nationality requirements, missing documents in your application, making a mistake or error on your visa application, or unpaid visa application fees, your protection under 3c leave may not apply. It’s crucial to promptly respond to any requests from UKVI regarding fee payment or missing documents.
Requesting Exceptional Assurance
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the British government has created various interventions to help those who have overstayed their visa Exceptional assurance (EA) is among the interventions.
Exceptional assurance is a legal provision by the Home Office that protects documented UK immigrants who are unable to leave the country because of COVID-19 restrictions. For specific details about how this would apply to you in 2023 please contact us directly for the most up to date info.
However, it is worth noting that exceptional assurance doesn’t offer leave to remain. If you want the leave, you need to apply for it specifically through the Home Office at the right time, within the initial 14 days of the expiration of your Visa or previous leave.
You don’t want to be labelled an overstayer by the UK government because the consequences can be dire. But if you are already an overstayer or want help to avoid further problems, let us guide you on becoming compliant with the immigration rules.
Can Overstaying Affect my Future UK Visa Applications?
Typically, the Home Office might impose a ban on overstayers, preventing them from re-entering the country for up to a decade. However, this might not apply if you voluntarily depart the UK within a month of your leave expiry.
After being banned, there are several options for re-entering the UK. The main option would be to wait until your ban concludes. Once this happens, your record is cleared and you can reapply for a UK visa. Alternatively, you could file an appeal if you think your removal or re-entry ban was unjust.
How Can Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors Help?
If you’ve overstayed your UK visa, our immigration solicitors at Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors can provide invaluable assistance to help you navigate through the complexities of immigration law. As a top-rated UK immigration firm, we will offer you comprehensive legal advice along with immediate actions to minimise the chances of you suffering any legal repercussions.
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.
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Dr Bernard Andonian – the Co-Founder of Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors, is an experienced Immigration Solicitor, former Judge, and recipient of a PhD in Law from the University of West London. He has over four decades of experience practising UK Immigration, Human Rights and Civil Litigation Law. He has served on the Law Society Immigration Law Panel, achieved numerous groundbreaking decisions in higher courts and is featured in the Legal 500’s Hall of Fame.