Can I lose my ILR? Changes to the rules on returning residents

Despite its name, Indefinite Leave to Remain or ‘permanent residence’ can be lost by staying outside the UK for two years or more.

It is possible to lose ILR in other ways, such as when ILR is revoked or following deportation from the UK. This article focuses on why your ILR automatically lapses through absence from the UK.

Non-EU nationals lose their Indefinite Leave to Remain after spending more than two years outside the UK. It automatically lapses after two years’ continuous absence.

EU and EEA nationals who are granted Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme can remain outside the UK for five years before losing their settled status. The only exception is Swiss nationals who can spend up to four years outside the UK without losing their status.

However, it is possible for a person who previously had ILR to be readmitted to the UK and have their permanent residency restored through an application to enter the UK as a Returning Resident.

Guidance confirms what factors will be taken into consideration:

  • Strength of ties to the UK
  • Family ties
  • Property and business ties
  • Length of residence in the UK
  • Length of time spent outside the UK
  • Reasons for leaving and wishing to return
  • Other compelling or compassionate circumstances
  • Absences due to Covid-19

Recently the Home Office introduced two key changes:

  • The requirement to have held ILR when they last left the UK has been removed. This is a welcome change in the rules as it means people who returned to the UK as visitors in the intervening years can still apply, and those visits can be used as evidence of ties to the UK. The Returning Resident application must still be made outside the UK.
  • Applicants must have ‘maintained strong ties to the UK during their absence’. The previous rule required that a person has strong ties to the UK. This is perhaps a subtle difference but here they are looking for evidence of how you have maintained your ties (familial, business, financial) during your absence.

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