You may be able to come to live permanently in the UK as a ‘returning resident’ if you were previously settled here.
What you need to do depends on how long you were away.
If you were away for less than 2 years
You still have your indefinite leave to remain if you were away for less than 2 years.
You can re-enter the UK as long as you:
- had indefinite leave to remain in the UK when you last left
- did not receive financial support from the Home Office to leave the UK
When you travel to the UK, show the stamp, vignette or biometric residence permit that originally gave you permission to settle here.
If it’s in an old passport, carry both your old passport and your new passport when you travel.
If you’ve lost your original stamp, vignette or biometric residence permit
If you do not have your original stamp, vignette or biometric residence permit, you may not be allowed to enter the UK.
You will need to get a replacement biometric residence permit (BRP).
If you were away for more than 2 years (Returning Resident visa)
You lose your indefinite leave to remain if you’ve been outside the UK for 2 or more continuous years.
You may be able to re-enter the UK and get indefinite leave to remain by applying for a Returning Resident visa.
You may not need to apply if you or your partner are in the British armed forces, or work for certain UK government departments or the British Council.
You must provide enough evidence to show:
- your strong ties to the UK - for example you or your family have lived here most of your life
- your current circumstances and why you’ve lived outside the UK
Family members (‘dependants’)
Your dependants (partner and children) need to apply separately for a Returning Resident visa if they’re eligible.
It costs £531 to apply.
How long it takes
Check the guide processing times to find out how long it might take to get a visa in your country.
Documents you’ll need
You’ll need to provide:
- a current passport or other valid travel identification
- previous passports
- a passport-sized colour photograph
- documents that prove you have ties to the UK, for example proof you’ve earned income, or rented or owned property, in the UK
You may need to provide additional documents depending on your circumstances.
You must apply online for a Returning Resident visa.
Once you’ve started your application, you can save your form and complete it later.
You’ll need to have your fingerprints and photograph (known as ‘biometric information’) taken at a visa application centre.
You may be able to get your visa faster depending on what country you’re in - check with your visa application centre.
You cannot apply online from North Korea.
You still have your indefinite leave to remain even after 2 years outside the UK if either:
- you’re a member of the British armed forces and have been posted overseas
- your partner is a member of the British armed forces and you’ve joined them on an overseas posting
This means you do not need a Returning Resident visa.
UK government and British Council employees
You still have your indefinite leave to remain even after 2 years outside the UK if both of the following apply:
- your partner is a British citizen or settled in the UK
- they or you work for certain UK government departments or the British Council
You or your partner must be:
- a permanent member of the Diplomatic Service
- a UK-based British Council employee who works outside the UK
- a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) employee
- a Home Office employee
If either of you have one of these jobs, you do not need a Returning Resident visa.