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Qualifying for Entry as a Returning Resident

In order for you to be qualified to be a UK entrant as a returning resident, you are required to:

  • Have been issued an Indefinite Leave to Remain the last time you left
  • Have not spent more than two years outside the United Kingdom
  • Have not gotten help from public fund to meet the cost of departing the UK.
  • Have the intension to settle in the United Kingdom hence your application.

You will not qualify for entry if you:

  • do not fulfill one of the criteria as mentioned above
  • wish to re-enter the United Kingdom while holding a valid limited leave to remain or enter
  • have been removed from the UK because you pose a threat to public welfare or liable to a deportation order
  • were exempt from control because of your relation to diplomatic or consular missions during your previous residence in the United Kingdom


Further inquiries would not be required if the Export Control Organization (ECO) through common sense and flexible approach decides that your application is authentic, while also noting that your ordinary place of residence in the United Kingdom.

If you as an ordinary UK resident have spent a considerable amount of time abroad on business, studies, or visitation you may be permitted to re-enter the country as a returning resident. You are however expected to prove that you were usually resided in the United Kingdom or have the intension to return to residence in the UK while you have spent no more than 2 years abroad.

The 2 years rule has some exceptions which will be further elaborated in the coming sections.

In a situation where there are slight errors or exclusions in the application and there is enough proof to evince that the application will be approved, you are expected to enquire and seek clarification or request the documentation or information missing.


Your passport contains the stamps of previous endorsement by the Home Office for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) which stands as evidence that supports your claim for returning residence.

In a situation where you have spent more than two years outside the United Kingdom, you will be required to provide additional evidence that explains why you are qualified as a returning residence.

Interviews are conducted and sometimes used in identifying fraudulent claims like in situations whereby the claimant is found to not be able to speak English language or in other circumstances where the claimant cannot describe his/her area of residence in the UK after claiming to have been previously resided there. These situations will usually lead to further investigation of the claim.


Exceptions to the two years rule are broadly categorized into two; Exceptions for applicants with strong ties to the United Kingdom and Exception for holders of special UK passports.

1. Strong Ties to the United Kingdom:

If you have strong ties to the United Kingdom you will be considered for entry even if you have ever spent more than two years outside the United Kingdom. The immigration rule provides that you will not lose your status as a holder of an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) if you spend two years or more outside the UK because you have accompanied your spouse, civil partner or same-sex partner who is:

  • posted abroad and he/she (the spouse) is an HM forces member serving abroad
  • a National of the United Kingdom or Indefinite Leave to Return (ILR) holder who is:
    • a permanent HM Diplomatic Servicemember
    • a comparable member of staff of the British Council based in the United Kingdom
    • a member of staff of the Department for International Development
    • an employee of the UKBA

For the Export Control Organization (ECO) to ascertain if you really have strong ties to the United Kingdom they will take into consideration the following factors:

  • How long you were in the United Kingdom as an original resident
  • How much time you spent outside the United Kingdom.
  • The basis for your prolonged stay outside the United Kingdom (2 years and over) such as; if it was intentional or through an unforeseen circumstance that required you to stay.
  • Why you left the United Kingdom and why you intend to return
  • What sort of family ties you have in the United Kingdom
  • What is the level of relationship with your family and how have they been taken care of while you were outside the United Kingdom.
  • Do you have a place of residence in the United Kingdom and in case you are granted entry are you still going to reside there?

The more time you spend outside the United Kingdom over 2 years the harder it will be for you to be eligible for entry as a returning resident. On the other hand, if you have resided for a longer time during your previous residence in the United Kingdom the probability of you getting approval for entry into the UK will increase as long as you have not had a break during your stay which lasted for some years.

Some specific situations might support your claim as a returning resident, they include:

  • If your prolonged stay abroad was for service with a specific employer after which you will return with the same employer to the United Kingdom.
  • If your prolonged stay abroad was to render service for the Government of the United Kingdom, or as a dependant of an HM Forces member, or as an employee of a private organization backed by a branch of the UK Government, a United Kingdom company or a UN organization.
  • If your prolonged stay abroad was to take up work in public service for a nation that shares a cordial relationship with the United Kingdom, for which you are not presumed to reside permanently in that country.
  • If the purpose of your prolonged stay is for educational studies after which you intend to return to your family in the United Kingdom at the conclusion of the programme.
  • If the purpose of your prolonged stay was for medical reasons due to treatments not available in the United Kingdom.

2. Holder of Certain United Kingdom passports

If you hold certain United Kingdom passports you will be entitled to exceptions as a returning resident.

  1. In accordance to the Immigration Rules under paragraph 16, if you under any of the following statuses make available a passport issued in the United Kingdom and Islands or the Republic of Ireland prior to the 1st of January 1973, you will be granted entry except there is an endorsement on the passport stating that you are subject to immigration control.
    • A British Overseas Citizen (BOC)
    • A British Dependent Territories Citizens (BDTC)
    • A British National (Overseas) (BN(0))
    • A British Protected Person (BPP)
  2. In accordance to the Immigration Rules under paragraph 17, if you are a British Overseas Citizen (BOC) who holds a United Kingdom passport (no matter where the passport was issued), you are authorized to enter the United Kingdom at any time as a returning resident as long as you can prove to the Immigration Officer that you were issued Indefinite Leave to Remain on or after the 1st of March, 1968.

    If you can fully certify the criteria mentioned above (1 & 2) your passport will be endorsed with "Holder is entitled to re-admission to the United Kingdom"

    If you fall under any of the categories in 1 or 2 above and you have an endorsement on your passport for Indefinite Leave to Remain or Enter you will be authorized to re-enter the United Kingdom at any time.

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