Individuals who are away from the nation for more than two years immediately lose their ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain) status. Therefore, in order to get back into the UK, they will need to apply for entry clearance, normally found under the Residents Return Visa category.

What is a Resident Return Visa and who is eligible for one?

The Returning Resident visa can be used when one previously had UK ILR but has not been in the country for more than two years and intends to come back and settle in the UK. For all returning residents, they can get back to the UK permanently and live, work, or study. The caveat is that one should have obtained their Returning Resident visa before traveling to the UK.

If you have an ILR and have been out of the country for less than two years, one automatically preserves their settled status and are not really required to obtain a visa to be allowed back in the UK. If one has kept their ILR status, they would need a new Biometric Residence Permit instead of a Returning Resident visa in case their ILR document got lost or was stolen.

Is it necessary for you to apply for a Returning Resident Visa?

The Returning Resident visa is used to restore one’s settled status. One requires proof that they previously held an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). This is recorded evidence of the period of one’s prior residency, and contains reasons for leaving the UK, links they have maintained with the UK, and the purpose for coming back so as to get approval.

As a result, if you attempt to enter the UK without entry clearance – meaning, without an ILR because it has expired after 2 years or missing a valid residents return visa – one will be barred access. Everyone has to apply for an entrance clearance outside of the UK.

Returning Resident Visa requirements

Before applying as a Returning Resident, you must first establish that you meet the UK immigration laws. You are required to:

  • aim to come to the UK permanently.
  • have already settled in the UK since one’s last visit.
  • You should not have received public subsidies to assist you in leaving the UK.

One must also offer adequate proof of their present circumstances, how they have retained strong links with the UK, and establish the grounds for their lengthy stay outside the UK.

Is it possible to make an exemption to the loss of ILR?

Times spent outside the UK will not contribute towards the two-year timeframe if these specific conditions are met:

  • Spouse or children joining a member of the HM Forces on an overseas deployment.
  • Spouse or children joining an overseas permanent member of the British Council, Department for International Development, Home Office, or Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

In such cases, an individual’s ILR is not considered to have expired and would not be revoked.

How to obtain a Returning Resident Visa

Returning Resident visa applications are submitted to UKVI online. Some local embassies offer expedited services for a fee. One must check for availability at the Embassy where one plans to submit their application.

Documentary evidence to back up the information you’ve provided will be requested as part of the application process. This includes the following:

  • a valid passport or another form of travel identification.
  • previously held passports.
  • a colour passport photograph.

One should also anticipate being requested to provide documentation proving your “strong links” to the UK, such as:

  • Marriage certificate or other proof of marital status.
  • Details about family relatives who live in the United Kingdom.
  • Evidence of property ownership in the United Kingdom.
  • Letters indicating enrolment or attendance at a school or university.
  • Employment letters that outline one’s income and responsibilities inside their firm.
  • Evidence of their commercial interests.
  • Utility bills or council tax statements are examples of such documents.
  • If one was absent for medical reasons, they must provide a written declaration from a medical practitioner.

Because this list is not complete, one can submit a variety of papers to increase their chances of receiving a Return Visa. If the proof of intent to settle in the UK is insufficient, the Home Office may call you for an interview.

A BRP card certified with indefinite leave to remain, a vignette in one’s passport with indefinite leave to enter or remain, or a letter from the Home Office verifying award of indefinite leave to remain – can all be used as proof of previously holding ILR. 

If you are depending on a vignette inside an old passport or a letter written years ago (before BRPs were formed), one needs to have their previous passports to demonstrate that there was no interim visa substituting your ILR. One also needs to provide a list of their journeys to and from the UK throughout the appropriate time period.

How long does it take to complete a Resident Return Visa?

The time it takes to complete a Returning Resident Visa may vary depending on where one applies it, how complex their case is, and the level of their application. Always verify when you began the application process for a more accurate estimate. Before travelling, ensure that you obtain a Returning Resident Visa.

What if you don’t qualify for a Returning Resident Visa?

If one does not fit the conditions for re-entry into the UK on the grounds of a Returning Resident visa, one may have other options to explore. For example, if one has resided in the UK for at least 10 years before leaving, one may be allowed to enter through another immigration procedure and apply for Long Residence while in the nation.


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