Indefinite leave (ILR) to remain in the UK and changes to the Right to return


The grant of indefinite leave to remain (ILR) allows a person to stay and work in the UK for an indefinite time period. Such a person is allowed to travel freely from the UK and has no restrictions on re-entry.  However, under the old law, if such person has stayed outside the UK for a continuous 2 years’ time period, the ILR was considered lapsed. Which means that the ILR could not be used to travel back to the UK and was deemed invalid.

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The case of Mrs Clennell

In 2017, Mrs Irene Clennell, a grandmother who had lived in the UK for 30 years fell foul of the old law. She was held at Dungavel detention centre and later on she was deported back to Singapore despite the fact that she was the main carer of her sick British Husband and mother and grandmother of two British sons and British granddaughters respectively.

Mrs Clennell had an ILR, however, she did not acquire the British Citizenship. Her troubles started when she left the UK to look after her dying parents in Singapore. She stayed in Singapore for over 2 years. She lost her right to return to the UK and her ILR due to the time spent in Singapore.

New Law

From June 2018 the rules on the right to return and ILR has been changed. It is now possible for a person who was granted with ILR, and who had stayed for more than 2 years outside the UK to be readmitted to the UK. The ILR which under the old law had expired can also be restored.

Immigration Rules on returning residents

It is possible for a person who previously had indefinite leave to remain to be readmitted to the UK and for his ILR to be restored. However, there is no right to readmission and it is up to an individual immigration official whether to allow it.

How to restore your lapsed ILR

If you were absent from the UK for over 2 years, you can now apply for entry clearance. You have to demonstrate that you have strong ties to the UK and intend to make the United Kingdom your permanent home in order to be issued with ILR again.


A spouse or partner of members of the armed forces serving overseas or certain diplomatic staff is exempt from this rule which means that they do not have to apply for an entry clearance to re-enter the UK where they have stayed abroad for more than 2 years.

Re-entry Process

Applicant has to make an application for entry clearance as a returning resident. The decision to reinstate your ILR and re-entry to the UK will be based on the following factors;

  • the strength of ties to the UK including:
  • the nature of those ties
  • the extent to which those ties have been maintained during the applicant’s absence
  • the length of their original residence in the UK
  • the length of time the applicant has been outside the UK
  • the circumstances in which they left the UK and their reasons for remaining absent
  • your reasons for now wishing to return
  • whether, if you were to be readmitted, you would continue to live in the UK
  • any other compelling or compassionate factors


                                                                                 (Source Home Office)


You can apply for returning residence entry clearance visa on  Any dependent including partner and children under 18 who also had an ILR and who was absent from the UK for more than 2 years, need to apply separately for a returning residence visa. Once the visa is granted the applicant can return to the UK in order to live permanently.


The current fee is £516 per applicant.

If you are affected by the issues raised in this article, you can seek reliable and cost-effective legal advice from our experienced immigration lawyers instantly from anywhere in the world.

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