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Returning residents rule

The Home Office has finally consolidated the immigration rules about “returning residents”, ie migrants who previously held settlement but who have lost it because of being outside the UK for too long. The rules were found in different places but now they have been tidied up and put together in the relevant part of the immigration rules, and so they are easier to access and understand.

It also rather looks as though the rules are being much more strictly operated now than they were historically.

The rules tell us that somebody who was granted settlement (also known as “indefinite leave to remain”) under general immigration categories – ie categories other than the EU Settlement Scheme – will lose their settlement status automatically “by operation of law” if they stay outside the UK continuously for more than two years.

They also tell us that EEA migrants and family members granted Settled Status can stay outside for up to five years, with the exception of Swiss nationals and family members, who can stay outside for only four years.

So there we have it: two years, five years or four years, depending on the category.

It can sometimes happen that a person arrives at the UK border when their settlement status has been lost – perhaps in some cases because they are not aware of it. Historically such migrants might have been granted leave to enter as a visitor and advised to contact the Home Office to try and get their status restored.

But published Home Office policies indicate that this might not happen any more, and that such a person might not be admitted to the UK and might be removed back to where they came from.

It hardly needs to be said that this would not be a good situation to get into, and the best course of action if you have stayed outside the UK for too long is to apply for an entry clearance visa as a returning resident. For a strong application you would need to show that you have maintained strong links with the UK and that you intend to return to the UK for the purpose of settlement.

If you are affected by this area of law we at GSN Immigration can advise you accurately and do our best to help you.


Oliver Westmoreland

Senior Immigration Lawyer