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Returning residents

This page explains whether you can return to live in the UK if you were allowed to settle here permanently in the past but decided to leave.

A resident is someone who has been given permission to stay in the UK without any time limit. A returning resident is a resident who left the UK and wants to come back to live here again.

You may return to the UK as a resident if:

  • you were settled in the UK when you last left; and
  • you have been away for two years or less; and
  • you are returning to live here permanently; and
  • you were not given public funds to pay the costs of leaving the UK.

If you have been away for more than two years, you may still qualify to return to live in the UK if, for example, you have strong family ties here or have lived here most of your life.

If you have been away for more than two years, you must apply for permission to return (known as 'entry clearance'). You should apply at the British diplomatic post in the country where you live now. The entry clearance will take the form of a visa or an entry clearance certificate. For more information, see the visa services website.

If the stamp that originally gave you permission to settle here (known as 'indefinite leave to remain') is in an old passport, you should carry both your old passport and your new passport when you travel here, as evidence of your settled status. If you cannot produce your original stamp, you may not be allowed to enter the UK.

You do not need to have your stamp transferred to your new passport (provided you also carry your old passport), but you can do this if you wish. The transfer cannot be done at passport control when you enter the UK. If you can prove that you are entitled to return to settle here, the immigration officer will put an open date stamp in your new passport. You must then apply to us for a residence permit to be placed in your new passport. See Transfer your visa to a new passport to find out how to do this.

Terms explained

  • Diplomatic post

    A British diplomatic post is a United Kingdom embassy, high commission or consulate.

  • Indefinite leave to remain

    Indefinite leave to remain (often known as ILR) is permission to stay permanently (settle) in the United Kingdom, free from immigration control.

  • Settled

    You are normally resident in the United Kingdom with no immigration restriction on the length of your stay. To be free of immigration restriction you must have the right of abode or indefinite leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom.

All glossary terms