SET09 - Returning residents
This is internal guidance for use by entry clearance staff on the handling of settlement in the United Kingdom (UK) visa applications made outside the UK. It is a live document under constant review and is for information only.
On this page
- SET9.1 Who qualifies?
- SET9.2 Who does not qualify?
- SET9.3 Assessing the application
- SET9.4 What evidence is required?
- SET9.5 Exception to the two year rule for those who have strong ties to the UK
- SET9.6 Exception to the two year rule for holders of certain United Kingdom passports
- SET9.7 Acquisition of settled status as a result of a defective endorsement in a passport
- SET9.8 What about Holders of Home Office travel documents?
- SET9.9 What is the entry clearance endorsement for Returning Residents?
SET9.1 Who qualifies?
Rules paragraph 18
SET9.2 Who does not qualify?
A person who fails to meet one of the conditions in the section 1 above should normally be refused entry. See exceptions below.
Persons who have limited leave to remain in the UK which has not expired, may wish to re-enter the UK as returning residents. Paragraph 20 of the Rules states that such persons do not qualify.
Anyone who is subject to a deportation order or whose exclusion is deemed to be conducive to the public good should be refused (Rules paragraphs 320(2) and 320(6)). For further guidance on deportation orders, see ECB4.3
Those who were exempt from control during their previous stay in the UK because of their connection with a diplomatic or consular mission or an international organisation (Section 8 of the Act) do not qualify as returning residents.
A returning resident may not be refused entry on medical grounds, although an Immigration Officer can require the person to undergo a medical examination on arrival in the UK (paragraph 38 of the Rules).
SET9.3 Assessing the application
The ECO should adopt a common sense and flexible approach. If it is decided that the applicant is bona fide, it will not normally be necessary to make any further enquiries about a person's plans if it is clear that the UK is the ordinary place of residence.
Those who have their home in the UK may spend substantial periods overseas, on business, studying or visiting relatives. This does not disqualify them from re-admission as a returning resident, though they must show that they are normally resident in the UK, or intend to resume residence there and have not been away for more than two years.
There are exceptions to the two year rule which are covered in the sections below.
If there is clear reason to doubt that the applicant can be treated as a returning resident, enquiries should be made to establish the applicant's intentions. For instance, a person resident overseas cannot maintain their settled status in the UK by paying short visits to the UK before resuming residence overseas. In such cases the applicant should be treated as a visitor.
SET9.4 What evidence is required?
Evidence in support of a claim to be a returning resident is normally available from the applicant's passport and will be in the form of entry and (old) embarkation stamps (endorsed by Immigration Officers) and stamps confirming the grant of further or indefinite leave to remain endorsed by the Home Office.
Questions put to the applicant may sometimes lead to an indication that the claim to be a returning resident is a fraudulent one. Inability to speak any English or to describe the town in which the person claims to have lived previously in the UK will be grounds for closer examination.
SET9.5 Exception to the two year rule for those who have strong ties to the UK
Paragraph 19 of the Rules provides for persons who have ties with the country which merit admission even if they have not been resident in the UK for two years.
The ECO should consider the following factors in assessing whether strong ties exist:
- the length of the original residence in the UK;
- the time the applicant has been outside the UK;
- the reason for the delay beyond the 2 years - was it through their own wish or no fault of their own (for example, having to care for a sick or elderly relative)?;
- the reasons for leaving the UK and for now wishing to return;
- the nature of the family ties in the UK;
- how close are they and to what extent have they been maintained during the absence?;
- do they have a home in the UK and, if admitted, would they remain and live there?
The longer a person has remained outside the UK (over 2 years), the more difficult it will be for them to qualify for admission under this provision. The longer the previous residence in the UK, the stronger the case for consideration, provided that there had not been a break in residence which extended over a number of years.
Other more specific circumstances which would support an application are:
- travel and service overseas with a particular employer before return to the UK with the employer;
- service abroad for the UK Government, or as a dependant of a member of H M Forces or as an employee of a quasi-governmental body, a British company or a United Nations organisation;
- employment abroad in the public service of a friendly country by a person who could not reasonably be expected to settle in that country permanently;
- a prolonged period of study abroad by a person who wishes to rejoin the family in UK on completion of studies;
- prolonged medical treatment abroad of a kind not available in the UK.
SET9.6 Exception to the two year rule for holders of certain United Kingdom passports
There are exceptions to the 2 year rule for certain returning residents who are holders of UK passports as follows:
i) Under paragraph 16 of the Rules if any of the following produce a UK passport issued in the UK and Islands or the Irish Republic before 1 January 1973, they should be admitted freely (unless the passport has been endorsed to show that they were subject to immigration control).
- a British Dependent Territories Citizen (BDTC);
- a British National (Overseas) (BN(0));
- a British Overseas Citizen (BOC);
- a British Protected Person (BPP);
a British Subject (BS) by virtue of section 30(a) of the British Nationality Act 1981(who, immediately before 1 January 1983 would have been a British Subject not possessing citizenship of the UK and Colonies or the citizenship of any other Commonwealth country or territory).
ii) Under paragraph 17 of the Rules, British Overseas Citizens (BOC) who hold UK passports wherever issued are also entitled to admission at any time as returning residents if they can satisfy the Immigration Officer that, since 1 March 1968, they have been given indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK.
Those who benefit from (i) or (ii) above will normally have "Holder is entitled to re-admission to the United Kingdom" endorsed in their passport.
Those in (i) or (ii) who have a stamp showing indefinite leave to enter (ILE) or indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in their passports are entitled to readmission as returning residents at any time.
Persons described in (i) who produce a UK passport issued outside the Common Travel Area, or issued within the Common Travel Area on or after 1 January 1973, are subject to the normal 2 year rule unless their passports bear the 'RIGHT OF READMISSION' endorsement.
SET9.7 Acquisition of settled status as a result of a defective endorsement in a passport
Applicants who entered the UK before 1 August 1988 may have obtained 'returning resident' entry clearance, due to a defective endorsement in their passports.
The UK Border Agency will issue a letter to the individual concerned as confirmation of settled status. If an applicant is unable to produce such a letter, the application should be deferred to the UK Border Agency for a check of previous papers.
SET9.8 What about Holders of Home Office travel documents?
If the holder of a Home Office travel document is issued with a national passport, this invalidates the Home Office document. Nevertheless, the holder may qualify for entry as a returning resident.