“Indefinite leave to remain” sounds as though it is, well, indefinite, but it is not necessarily. A person who holds indefinite leave to remain or another type of settlement can lose it if they stay outside the UK for too long.
Not everybody is fully aware of the rules about this and some people get into trouble. A person who holds indefinite leave to remain/settlement and is outside the UK and wants to return, but is on the wrong side of the rules, may be able in many cases to get on to an airliner successfully. But when they get to the UK border the immigration officer may refuse them leave to enter the UK because they have been outside for too long and they are therefore deemed to have lost their settlement status. In a worst case scenario they can be sent back to wherever they flew from, which might be rather upsetting.
There are two different sets of rules about this. Those who hold EU Settled Status can stay outside the UK for up to five years, but those who hold any other type of settlement are governed by a much less generous two-year rule.
If you hold settlement and are outside the UK and have breached the time rule the appropriate procedure is to submit an application for a visa as a Returning Resident. In the application you will have to show why you spent so long outside the UK and the strength of your connections with the UK.
If the visa application is successful you will be allowed to return to the UK and resume your settlement status.
If you are in difficulties in this area and you want advice or assistance we at GSN Immigration will be able to help you.
OISC Level 3 Immigration Adviser