When is the Earliest Time to Apply for a Visa Renewal or ILR?

When is the Earliest Time to Apply for a Visa Renewal or ILR?

When it comes to visa applications, whether you are in the UK, outside, applying for the first time, or you need an extension, it pays to be prepared.  When renewing your visa or applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), it is essential that you apply before the expiry of your current visa to avoid being an over-stayer in the UK. Not only will you then risk being removed from the country, but it may also jeopardise your chances of being granted an extension or a future visa or indefinite leave to remain (ILR).  You also risk losing your right to work and your right to rent.  By making an application before the expiry of your current leave to remain, you can then legally stay in the UK under the same terms and conditions until you have received your decision (even if this is weeks or months after the expiry of your current leave).  This is the reason why online applications (which apply to almost all visa types in the UK now) are so beneficial; knowing that once you have clicked the €˜submit' button, and your application has been received, you can then remain until the point of decision. 

In this article, we will discuss the earliest point at which current visa holders can apply to extend their visa, or for ILR.

When is The Earliest I Can Apply for a Visa?

The general advice provided by the Home Office is that visa extension applications should be made no earlier than 28 days before the expiry of the current visa.  As with many aspects of immigration law, there are some exceptions.

In the case of the points-based system, applicants must apply for a Tier 2 visa extension within three months of the new Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) being assigned, or 60 days before the visa expires (whichever is sooner). 

For Tier 4 study visa holders, the Home Office website states that you must apply for an extension within six months of getting a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) and before your current visa expires - but no more than three months before the course start date on your CAS.

For the Tier 1 investor visa, the general recommendation of applying 28 days before your current visa expiry is applicable.  By applying too early, you may have a shortfall in your leave when you apply for ILR as your extension visa will run from the date of the decision, not the date when your leave expires.  As such, Tier 1 investor visa holders need to balance the need to apply before the expiry of their visa with ensuring they have enough leave when applying for ILR, otherwise, there is a risk that a further extension application will be required.  Tier 1 Investor visa holders should also be aware of the specific extension deadlines which apply, depending on your circumstances and when your visa was initially granted. 

If you were granted your Tier 1 Investor visa between 6 November 2014 and 28 March 2019, you must apply before 6 April 2023 for an extension if you wish to rely on investment in government bonds.  The Home Office guidance states If you apply for an extension on or after 6 April 2023, you can only rely on investments that were in government bonds before 6 April 2023.  You must maintain £2 million in qualifying investments in active, and trading UK registered companies from 6 April 2023 onwards. 

How Early Can I Apply for ILR?

Timing is critical when it comes to applying for ILR.  As explained above, by applying too early, you do risk being rejected on the basis of not having met the required continuous lawful period in the UK.   It is essential that you apply before your current leave expires, or you risk becoming an overstayer.  The earliest date from which you can apply is based on a) the continuous period of leave you need to be eligible for ILR and b) when you were granted entry to the UK.  In most cases, the ILR qualification period is five continuous years (there are exceptions for some visa types such as the investor visa which permits ILR after two years).  To meet the continuous time in the UK requirement, you must not have been outside of the country for more than 180 days in any consecutive year. 

The earliest possible application date is 28 days before the five-year anniversary of the granting of leave to enter the UK (i.e. not the date you actually entered the UK).  This is because the Home Office include the time between the granting of the visa and your entry into the UK as part of your leave time in the UK.  If, however, the gap between being granted leave and entering the UK is more than 90 days, then this is not included, and you will need to work out the five-year anniversary from the date of entry.  If you are in any way unsure when you should apply for ILR, or whether you are eligible, perhaps due to extended absences, it is recommended that you seek professional guidance from immigration Solicitors before proceeding. 

Final words

As with any endeavour, success in immigration depends on planning and preparation.  While it is tempting to apply early for an extension, this may not have the desired effect and may lead to a refusal by being made too soon.  This does not, however, prevent you from €˜getting your ducks in a row' and preparing all of the necessary information, evidence, and translations necessary to make a successful extension application.  That said, you will also need to ensure that the dates on any documents (e.g. bank statements) fit with the correct time periods for when you do apply for an extension.  As you will know from your initial application, attention to detail is crucial in receiving a positive decision from the Home Office.

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