What are the Absence Limits for Settlement?
The goal for many people moving to the UK is to ultimately gain settled status, otherwise known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or Permanent Residence (PR). An important thing to remember when making a settlement application is that there are maximum absences set by the Home Office.
If you’ve been outside of the UK for longer than the maximum time permitted, the application will normally be refused. The maximum absences permitted differ depending on which settlement route you take.
At White Rose Visas we have produced Absence Calculators to help you work out when you may be able to make a successful application through the following routes.
10 Year Long Residence: SET(LR)
If you have been in the UK legally for 10 continuous years you may apply for settlement through long residence, through an application known as SET(LR). This continuous residence can be broken however if you have either of the following absences:
6 Months (180 days) spent outside of the UK within a single trip, or
18 Months (over 540 days) total in the 10 year period.
If you have spent more time outside of the UK than this amount, your application will likely be refused. It can often be wise to plan your settlement application submission on a particular date, so that you can be sure you haven’t been out of the UK for too long in the last 10 years.
The Home Office do exercise discretion in regards to these absences, meaning that in specific situations you might still be eligible for settlement. These are known as ‘compelling or compassionate circumstances’, such as if the applicant could not return to the UK through unavoidable circumstances.
In these situations, the reason for the absence is also taken into account. When reviewing exceptional absences for more than 18 months within the 10 year period, case workers will also consider when in the 10 year period this absence happened. If you are considering an application which relies on discretion it is essential that expert assistance is obtained.
5 Year Working Categories: SET(O)
If you have been in the UK legally for 5 continuous years in working category visas such as Tier 1 Entrepreneur and Tier 2 General you may apply for settlement. This continuous residence can be broken however if you have the following absences:
6 months (180 days) or more spent outside the UK in a single year, considered in 12 month periods ending on the date on which you make your ILR application.
If you’ve been outside of the UK for longer than this amount then, as before, your application will likely be refused. These rules changed slightly in 2018, as the Home Office declared that any absences taken after 11th January 2018 must be considered on a ‘rolling basis’.
This means that for any visas granted after this date, absences are not considered in separate 12 month periods, but instead are considered on a rolling basis, and any period where you have been absent for over 180 days could result in refusal. Any leave taken before this date must then still be considered on the old 12 month period system. As you can tell, this can make calculating absences very complicated!
Our Absence Calculators have been designed as guidance to help you work out whether you are still able to apply following this rule change.
The Home Office also exercise discretion in regards to these absences, meaning that in specific situations you might still be eligible for settlement. In order to qualify if your absences have been greater than the maximum permitted you will need to evidence “serious and compelling reasons”.
As above, if you are considering an application which relies on discretion it is essential that expert assistance is obtained.
Settle as a Partner: SET(M)
The absence requirements for settling as a partner are slightly different to the other two routes, as there is technically no limit to the amount of time you can spend outside of the UK.
However, you have to evidence that you and your family are based in the UK, or intend to be based permanently in the UK when you receive ILR. Page 40 of the Home Office’s Family Migration guidance explains this further:
“In applications for further limited leave to remain or for indefinite leave to remain in the UK as a partner, where there have been limited periods of time spent outside the UK, this must be for good reasons and the reasons must be consistent with the intention to live together permanently in the UK.
Good reasons could include time spent overseas in connection with the applicant’s or their partner’s employment, holidays, training or study.
If the applicant, their partner or both have spent the majority of the period overseas, there may be reason to doubt that the couple intend to live together permanently in the UK.
Each case must be judged on its merits, taking into account reasons for travel, length of absence and whether the applicant and partner travelled and lived together during the time spent outside the UK. These factors will need to be considered against the requirements of the rules.”
Per these guidelines, you are be able to spend any amount of time outside of the UK when making your application. However, you will have to prove with no doubt that you intend to live permanently in the UK once you’ve received settlement.
How do I calculate my absences?
We have regularly found absences to be the cause of refusals for settlement, in situations where they have either not been calculated properly or haven’t been supported with the correct evidence.
Here at White Rose Visas we use our own dedicated Absence Calculators for all settlement applications, through which our immigration advisers are able to accurately consider all time spent outside of the UK. We also advise on the evidence needed to prove that they were acceptable for your particular immigration route.
If you are concerned about any absences that might affect your ability to apply for settlement, or are having trouble calculating or properly evidencing any time spent outside of the UK, please do get in touch with us using our contact information below and our skilled team of immigration advisers will be able to help.
Simon Magava, Immigration Adviser at White Rose Visas, comments:
“We have always found absences to be one of the highest causes of refusals for settlement applications. Sometimes applications are refused simply because they have been made on the wrong day – delaying an application by just a week can make the difference between success and failure. Our absence calculators have been invaluable in helping prevent this from happening to our clients and making sure they can gain Indefinite Leave to Remain here in the UK.”