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UK Immigration Rules: Visas and Overstayers

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 20 Feb 2018 | comments*Discuss
Immigration Visa Overstayer Offence

When considering applying for a UK visa, it is really important to consider what you want to do whilst you are here. In particular:

  • How long do you want to stay in the UK?
  • Do you want to work whilst in the UK?

There are several types of visa / leave to enter or remain for which you can apply:

Indefinite leave to remain

This allows successful applicants permission to live and work in the UK permanently. It will essentially allow you to permanently reside, work and build a life in the UK. You will not however have the full rights of a UK citizen (such as the right to vote in local government elections).

As 1: Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Migrant

This route is for extremely talented individuals in the fields of science, humanities, engineering and the arts who wish to work in the UK. Individuals are expected to be already recognised as world leaders in their fields, or who have demonstrated exceptional talent and are likely to become future world leaders in their particular field.

Entry will be granted to successful applicants for a period of up to 3 years and 4 months, subject to the following conditions:

  • You will not be entitled to benefits paid by the UK government such as job seekers allowance
  • You may be required to register your accommodation address with the UK police and keep this updated
  • You must not be employed as a doctor or dentist in training, or a professional sports person
Applicants must not fall foul of the general grounds for refusal (discussed below).

As 2: Tier 1 (General) Migrant

This route is for highly skilled migrants who wish to work or become self-employed in the UK. This is particularly targeted at those with particular skills that are desired to aid the UK economy such as writers, composers, artists and lawyers. Generally the applicant must have spent a continuous period of at least 5 years lawfully in the UK prior to application.

Entry will be granted for a period of 2 to 3 years with similar conditions to the above. Applicants must not fall foul of the general grounds for refusal (discussed below). In addition, the applicant must not be in the UK in breach of immigration laws, with the exception that a period of overstaying of up to 28 days will be disregarded.

Visitors visas

If you wish to stay in the UK for a shorter period, visitors visas are available. This will allow you to remain in the UK for a maximum of 6 months (or 12 months for a person accompanying an academic visitor as their child, spouse or partner). You must however meet certain conditions, including but not limited to:
  • You must not take employment in the UK.
  • You must not be coming to the UK with your main purpose being to undertake a course of study
  • You must have enough money to maintain and accommodate yourself, or demonstrate that your friends or family are able and intend to do so
  • You can meet the cost of your outward journey
  • You are age 18 or over
  • You do not intend during your visit to marry or form a civil partnership
  • You do not intend to receive private medical treatment during your visit to the UK

If you wish to visit the UK to marry, form a civil partnership, study, receive private medical treatment or work, you will need a visa which specifically allows you to undertake that activity.


We all know that there can be serious consequences for those entering the UK illegally, including deportation. However there can be equally serious cases for those who enter the UK legally but stay in the UK beyond their period of authorised stay. This group of people are commonly referred to as "overstayers".

It is a criminal offence (under Section 24 Immigration Act 1971) to overstay your period of authorised stay in the UK or fail to comply with the conditions imposed upon your admission into the UK without reasonable excuse. It is also an offence (under Section 25 Immigration Act 1971) to do anything to facilitate another person's illegal entry, transit or stay in the UK. This includes assisting an asylum seeker if done knowingly and for your own gain; there are exceptions for asylum charities.

'I am an overstayer and have been for a couple of years. I have a child, wife and a job in the UK. I'm scared that I'll get found out and get my employer into trouble'.

You are committing a criminal offence by staying in the UK beyond your period of authorised stay. So are your employers if they are aware that you are an overstayer. The offence can be tried within 3 years of commission (which it sounds here is ongoing). The maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment and a fine. It is recommended that you speak to a lawyer if you are concerned that you may be currently committing a criminal offence.

'I have a student visa which expired recently. I am unsure about the extension process but only want to stay another 6 months. I'm thinking it would be easier to just overstay, but will that have an impact on ability to apply for a visa in the future if I want to come back?

As you have seen from the above conditions, a general migrant's application may be denied if they are a previous overstayer. Further this is a general ground for refusal of leave to enter or remain in the UK. If you overstay your authorised period of leave, you may therefore jeopardise your ability to apply for an extension or apply for a further period of stay in the UK in future.

Other general grounds for refusal include:

  • The applicant is currently subject to a deportation order
  • The applicant has been convicted of an offence for which they have been sentenced for a period of imprisonment of at least 4 years
  • The applicant has been convicted of an offence for which they have been sentenced for a period of 1 to 4 years, unless a period of 10 years have passed since the end of the sentence
  • The applicant has been convicted of an offence for which they have been sentenced for a period of up to 12 months, unless a period of 5 years have passed since the end of the sentence

If you are unsure about immigration applications to the UK and would like further assistance, you can obtain free advice from your local . Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)You can also obtain more detailed immigration advice from an immigration specialist. All immigration advisors must be registered with the Office of Immigration Commissioner (OISC) unless they are an exempt organisation such as CAB. OISC can be contacted on: 0845 000 0046 info@oisc.gov.uk

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[Add a Comment]
@kfb - You should seek clarification from your nearest British embassy or high commission.
TJ. - 20-Feb-18 @ 6:35 AM
32 years ago i over stayed my work visa in the uk,as i would like to return for a 5 week holiday i need to knowwill i get turned away at the airport.
kfb - 20-Feb-18 @ 4:56 AM
@Ken - Overstayers should leave the UK as soon as possible after their visa expires. You will only be able to become a legal resident after 20 years of residency in the UK unless you have a child in the UK and that child is over 7 years old.
TJ. - 18-Feb-18 @ 8:03 AM
@art - If you have been in the UK illegally for over 20 years you should see a solicitor about legalizing your status.
TJ. - 18-Feb-18 @ 7:58 AM
Hi, I came in Uk legally but overstayed due to me not knowing that my application was made late and without enough money to clear the fees. I am currently 14 years in th UK. Is it possible to be granted an visa?
Ken - 17-Feb-18 @ 10:36 PM
i have overstayed my visa 25 years and have a 14 year old daughter. Do i have case to get legal residentcy in the Uk
art - 17-Feb-18 @ 1:46 PM
@Kris - You can leave the UK once your visa expires and return as a visitor as long as you do not violate the rules surrounding a visitor visa.
TJ. - 14-Feb-18 @ 7:19 AM
I have been living in the UK for nearly five years and my spousal visa will expire at the beginning of June. Our aim is to move back to the States BUT if our flat hasn’t sold before then, I’d like to stay to help my husband with the move. Is it possible to extend my visa just for a few months or must I apply for the next tier and pay the full required amount? Alternatively, is it legal for me to leave the country before my visa expires (say, go to the France for a weekend) and re-enter with a tourist visa? Thanks!
Kris - 13-Feb-18 @ 2:57 PM
LP - Your Question:
My FLR M visa expired 2 days ago. My husband and son and I are permanently moving to the United States in 2 weeks. I will have overstayed my visa by 15 days. Will I be banned from coming back to visit in future?

Our Response:
You can more via the CAB link here, which should help answer your question.
AboutImmigration - 2-Feb-18 @ 9:55 AM
My FLR M visa expired 2 days ago. My husband and son and I are permanently moving to the United States in 2 weeks. I will have overstayed my visa by 15 days. Will I be banned from coming back to visit in future?
LP - 1-Feb-18 @ 2:27 PM
I was an overstaying in Uk, I went to France and I get a citizenship can I back to Uk as France citizen?
S43 - 27-Jan-18 @ 3:14 PM
@Harry - unless they are actually working and earning money though, there's not that much you can do. But if they get a job then yes report it.
AlanG - 26-Jan-18 @ 3:06 PM
@Harry - You can go to the "report an immigration crime" section of the govuk website.
TJ. - 26-Jan-18 @ 11:58 AM
How do I report someone from SA for being in the UK on a visiting visa but illegally trying to find work.
Harry - 26-Jan-18 @ 3:27 AM
Harry - Your Question:
What if I leave within 30 days after my current student visa expires, would I subject to deportation or being banned from entering the UK ?

Our Response:
You can see more via the CAB link here, which should help answer your question.
AboutImmigration - 23-Jan-18 @ 11:41 AM
@Harry - You are only allowed a 14 day grace period to remain in the UK after your visa expires. If you exceed 14 days but leave within 30 days you will still be open for arrest but if you leave voluntarily at your own cost you will not be banned from re entering the UK however you will face difficulties applying for another visa. Any overstay period above 30 days will lead to a mandatory ban of at least 1 year.
TJ. - 22-Jan-18 @ 1:23 PM
What if I leave within 30 days after my current student visa expires, would I subject to deportation or being banned from entering the UK ?
Harry - 22-Jan-18 @ 8:26 AM
@Henry Ang - If you overstay your visa you risk being subject to detention, deportation and being banned from returning to the UK for up to 10 years.
TJ. - 22-Jan-18 @ 3:45 AM
My current Tier 4 student visa runs out on 29th January 2018, would it be possible for me to overstay in the UK without subjecting to any penalties?
Harry Ang - 21-Jan-18 @ 10:25 PM
@Emily - You will not get in trouble for knowing about your boyfriend's status. You will however not be able to get married in the UK unless he regularizes his status. His best bet is to leave the country voluntarily at his own cost and apply to return legally to avoid a ban from the UK of up to 10 years if he is deported.
TJ. - 21-Jan-18 @ 9:25 AM
I just found out that my boyfriend is an overstated and I'm devastated because I'm not sure what will happen to us should he be caught. He apparently has applied to stay but got refused and is in the process of re applying. I'm a British citizen - will I get in trouble for knowing about his status? We've been together for 1.5 years and we're planning on marraige and kids? Will the home office seperate us, will they even believe that our relationship is real? This is all so confusing.
Emily - don't email - 21-Jan-18 @ 5:43 AM
@Bob - Your girlfriend will have to leave the country voluntarily at her own cost and apply for an EEA family permit after serving the mandatory one year re entry ban. It will make a lot more sense if This is done before March 2018 as the UK will be leaving the EU in March 2019
TJ. - 20-Jan-18 @ 7:44 AM
I am Irishman living in UK and have a girlfriend living with me over five years. She is a visa overstayer who works cleaning job. Can I make her legal here as I am a european citizen.
Bob - 19-Jan-18 @ 9:10 PM
@bbabsola - Your application will take can take up to one year to process and even longer. You can only apply for a British passport once the registration process has been completed.
TJ. - 18-Jan-18 @ 7:33 PM
I just like to know how long the MN1 application normally takes as I made the application for my daughter last December through the NCP/JCP checking service. During the checking service, they gave a separate passport application form to complete as I only went there with the completed MN1 application form. The HO debited my account for the naturalization on 20/12/17 and for the passport on 04/01/2018. Q:2- Would I received the passport and the certificate separate or Would I have to make another application for her passport? Thank you
bbabsola - 18-Jan-18 @ 4:58 PM
@dmurph - your wife will not qualify for ILR until she has lived in the UK legally for 10 years since you are using the long residence route. She can apply for a family visa as the spouse of a settled person before her current leave expires.
TJ. - 18-Jan-18 @ 2:35 PM
Hi, My wife has lived as my dependent in the UK for 7 yrs. She entered the UK as in 2010 as a student dependant to me and she has always been depending on my Visa status since then, each time I renew or change my immigration status, I carry her along as my spouse dependant and the HO has been kind enough to grant both of us the same status.Our last granted leave will expire in November 2018. However. I was granted ILR November 2017 based on the 10yrs long residence rule. I have also applied to registered our kids as British citizen using the MN1 application which hopeful we should get a response from the HO on that by March/April 2018. Q: Can my wife apply for ILR when her current leave expires in 2018 by this time she would have lived legally in the UK for 8 yrs and also our kids would have their British Passport while I still hold my ILR? Thank you
dmurph - 18-Jan-18 @ 5:32 AM
@Sim - your boyfriend will be subject to a mandatory one year ban from the UK If he overstayed for more than 30 days. After that period he can apply for a family visa as a fiancee to join you in the UK if you all meet the requirements.
TJ. - 17-Jan-18 @ 10:47 AM
My boyfriend overstayed his visa he voluntary went to Pakistan we have been in a relationship for two years we are serious about each other. I want to bring him into the UK I am British nationality what visa can I apply for and the procedure
Sim - 16-Jan-18 @ 10:45 PM
@Tee - If you overstayed in the UK for less than 30 days and left voluntarily at your own expense you are not subject to any re entry ban if you wish to return.
TJ. - 12-Jan-18 @ 9:59 AM
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