Returning Resident

If you have been out of the UK for an extended amount of time, you may be able to return without restarting your route to citizenship.

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If you have previously been settled in the UK and then left for an extended amount of time, you may be wondering if it is possible to return and continue from where you left off. This depends on how long you were away, and why. 

If you were away for less than 2 years, you may re-enter the UK as long as:

Simply show the stamp, vignette, or biometric residence permit (BRP) when you re-enter the UK. If it is in your old passport, enter with both your old and new passport. If your stamp, vignette, or BRP have been lost – you will not be able to reenter, however, you can apply to replace your BRP

If you have been away for more than 2 years, you will need to apply for a Returning Residents Visa. 

How we can help 

If you are unsure whether or not you qualify, or need assistance ensuring your supporting evidence is substantial enough, get in touch with our expert immigration lawyers. They have experience in handling complex cases and have worked with Home Office long enough to know what type of evidence is best.  

The below individuals and their dependants will not need to get a Returning Residents visa: 

EU Settlement Scheme
British Armed Forces
UK Gov & Council Employees

For people who have been out of the UK, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man for more than 2 years, you may lose your indefinite leave to remain (ILR). However, in the below situations, you may still be able to enter:

  • If you settled under the EU Settlement Sceme (unless you are a Swiss citizen or family member), you may re-enter after being out of the UK for up to 5 continuous years.
  • If you are a Swiss citizen or family member under the EU Settlement Scheme, you may re-enter after being out of the UK for up to 4 continious years. 
  • For everyone else, you may only be out of the UK for a maximum of 2 continuous years.

Once out of the UK for more the 2 years, you need to apply for the Returning Residents visa. 

You will maintain your settlement status (ILR) after 2 years outside of the UK if you:

  • Are a part of the British Armed Forces and you were posted overseas
  • You are a partner of a member of the British Armed Forces and joined them on their overseas posting. 

No Returning Residents visa will be necessary, simply reenter the UK with the correct documentation.

If you are a UK government or British Council employee, you will maintain your settlement status (ILR) if both of the following apply to you: 

  • your partner is a British citizen or holds settled status in the UK
  • your partner or you work for certain UK government departments or for the British Council

You or your partner must:

  • be permanent in the Diplomatic Service
  • work outside the UK as a UK-based British Council employee
  • be employed by a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)
  • be a Home Office employee

If your or your partner have one the abovementioned jobs, you will not need a Returning Residents Visa. 

Applying for a Returning Residents Visa

If none of the above apply to you, then you will need to apply for a Returning Residents Visa. To successfully apply for this, you will need to meet the eligibility requirements and provide evidence as to why you left and why you intend to come back. We can assist you in collating the evidence required to meet this requirement and assist in delivering a successful outcome.

Returning Resident Visa FAQs

What evidence should I provide to show eligibility? 

You should have strong evidence showing: 

  • Strong ties to the UK – this could be family that lives here, evidence that you and/or your family have lived here your whole life, a career, strong community, etc.
  • The circumstances you are currently living in and why you left the UK.
Can my dependants return with me?

Your partner and children (dependants) will need to apply for a Returning Visa separately if they are eligible (same criteria).

How much will it cost?

The fees charged by Home Office can be found on their official website here

How long will it take to get the visa?

You can only apply a maximum of 28 days before you have been in the UK for 5 years on a qualifying visa. If you apply earlier, your application can be refused. 

Do not wait until your current visa expires. If it expires, you will need to reapply for your visa and then apply for ILR. 

It costs £2,885 per person applying. 

Decisions can be made in as short as 3 weeks or it may take up to 24 weeks. You can track your application online. 

What documents will I need to provide?

You will need to provide:

  • Your current passport or another valid form of travel identification
  • Previous passports
  • A recent passport-sized colour photograph
  • Supporting evidence and documents that prove you have ties to the UK. For example: income earned in the UK, rented or owned property, close family.

Situation dependent, you may need to provide other documents. 

Can I pay to get a faster decision?

You may be able to get your visa faster depending on which country you are applying from. Check with your visa application centre (where you have your biometric information taken). 

Do I need to redo my biometric information?

Yes. You will need to make an appointment to give your fingerprints and have a new photograph taken. This will be stipulated during your application process. 

Your appointment will be made at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point. 

What is the best way to provide supporting documents?

You can either upload them onto the online service during your application, you can have them scanned at your biometric information appointment with UCVCAS, or we can assist with your application. 

Does this visa lead to British citizenship?

Yes. Once you have returned to the UK you will be able to apply for British citizenship.

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