The general rule is that indefinite leave not granted under the EU Settlement Scheme will automatically lapse if the person is outside the UK for more than two years. (Leave lapses after five years for those granted leave under the EU Settlement Scheme and four years for certain Swiss nationals and their family members.) It is, however, possible for someone whose indefinite leave has lapsed in this way to re-apply from outside the UK for indefinite leave, subject to meeting certain requirements. This is known as a returning resident visa.
Returning resident provisions have been part of the Immigration Rules for decades. On 5 October 2023, the Home Office deleted the old rules and introduced a new Appendix Returning Resident. On the face of it, this is primarily a reorganisation of the previous rules through the introduction of a new appendix as part of the Home Office’s wider simplification project.
However, there are a couple of key changes to note. The main difference for applicants is the removal of the requirement that a person must have held indefinite leave when they last left the UK. This is a welcome change. The old rule used to catch out many people whose leave had lapsed but who had subsequently entered the UK as a visitor, often to visit family members. Strictly speaking, while strengthening and maintaining their ties, such a visit made them ineligible to apply as a returning resident. Recently it appeared that, in practice, the Home Office was not necessarily enforcing this provision. The new Appendix Returning Resident now reflects this approach.
There is now, however, a requirement that applicants must have maintained strong ties to the UK during their absence from the UK. The previous rule only required a person to have strong ties to the UK, i.e. without specifying that these ties had to have endured while the person was overseas. This may cause issues for some applicants applying under the new Appendix Returning Resident, especially those who have been absent for a significant period but have not had UK-based family members or business interests throughout this time.
If you or someone you know are concerned that your indefinite leave might have lapsed due to a long absence from the UK, we would be happy to help. Please use our online enquiry form or contact us on 020 7401 6887.