If you stay in the UK after your visa or permission from the Home Office has run out, you may be called a “overstayer.” Overstaying can hurt your immigration record, which could make it harder to move to the UK in the future.
The Home Office does not tell people when their visas will run out. Check your biometric residence permit or look for a stamp or sticker in your passport to see if you have overstayed.
We answer some of the most common questions about what happens if you overstay your visa and whether or not you can change your immigration status. We also look at the temporary COVID measures that were put in place because of the pandemic travel restrictions and delays in processing applications.
What if my visa runs out while I’m in the UK?
If your UK visa has expired but you are still in the country, you will be out of status and called a “overstayer.”
The Home Office does not usually tell or remind visa holders when their visas are about to run out. It is up to the person with the visa to keep track of when it will expire.
What are the rules about overstaying?
Under section 24 of the Immigration Act of 1971, it is a crime to overstay your visa without a good reason.
If your visa has run out, you have 30 days to leave the UK on your own and pay for it before you can’t go back. You could also try to follow the “14-day rule.”
Changes to the Immigration Act and the law about staying past your visa’s end date are likely to happen in 2022. Under the new rules, knowingly staying in the UK longer than you were supposed to could get you up to four years in prison, instead of the current maximum of six months.
What is the “with good reason” rule for the first 14 days?
Before, there was a grace period of 28 days where you didn’t have to give a reason. However, as of November 2016, that grace period was taken away and replaced with this stricter “14-day with good reason rule.”
Under the current rules, the Home Office will not count a period of overstaying if you apply for a new visa or renewal of your existing visa within 14 days of the expiration of your previous visa and can show that you had a “good reason” for overstaying.
What does it mean to have a “good reason”?
The Home Office has given a general idea of what a “good reason” is for missing the deadline for your visa to expire. You have to be able to show that there were unusual circumstances and back up your claim with evidence.
For example, if you needed emergency care in the hospital, if a close family member died, or if you got a late response from a school telling you that you were accepted to study there.
Reasons that aren’t good enough include missing the deadline or being too busy with work or school.
You would have to show proof for your point of view. For example, if you went to the hospital, you would need an official letter that says when you were admitted and when you left, as well as what you were treated for. Within 14 days, you must send this along with your application.
What happens if your visa runs out before a decision is made on your application?
If your visa has run out but you are waiting for a decision on an application, you can stay in the UK as long as the application is valid.
If you sent in your application at least 28 days before your old visa ran out, your immigration status won’t change while you wait for a decision on your new visa.
If your visa had already expired when you made your new application, you will no longer be able to work, go to school, or get benefits. You will also have to stop doing things that your old visa let you do, like work, until a decision has been made and a new visa has been given. If your employer knows that your visa has expired and that your new application was not made “on time,” they could get in trouble with the Home Office if they keep letting you work until you get the new visa or until a decision is made on an appeal or administrative review of your outstanding application.
What should you do if you are waiting for a decision on an application for Settled Status?
If you applied for pre-settled or settled status before your family permit, residence card, or visa expired, you can stay in the UK as long as your application is still valid. You won’t be considered an overstayer as long as a decision hasn’t been made on your application. If, however, you applied for EU settled status after your permit or visa expired, you would be considered an overstayer from the date your permit or visa expired.
What if you send in your application on time, but it gets turned down?
If you tried to renew your visa before it expired, you will have 14 days after getting a “no” to try again (if you are allowed to) and avoid staying past your visa’s expiration date.
In this case, the “good reason” rule doesn’t apply, but you still have to send in a new application within 14 days of getting the letter telling you that you were turned down. If you don’t apply within that time, you will be considered to have overstayed your visa.
When must you leave the United Kingdom?
The Immigration Rules say in paragraphs A320 and 320(7B) that you must leave the UK voluntarily within 30 days of your visa expiring.
If you leave the UK on your own after 30 days, you might not be able to come back. The length of the ban will depend on when you left the UK, if you left on your own or were sent away by the government, and if you have enough money to pay to go back to your home country.
If you don’t leave on your own, you might be forced to leave by being deported.
Will your ability to get back into the UK be affected if you overstay?
People who overstay their visa in the UK will have to deal with long-term effects. After 30 days, if you leave the UK on your own, you could be banned from coming back for one to ten years. But if you left the UK on your own within the first 90 days and paid for it, you might not get a ban on coming back.
If you overstay your authorised amount of time in the UK, this will be taken into account in any future applications for immigration to the UK under the general grounds of admissibility. This could hurt your chances of getting a UK visa in the future. The Home Office could deny your application on the grounds that you are likely to stay in the UK illegally.
If the reasons are seen as lying (like if the person overstayed on purpose without a good reason), it can be hard to get back into the UK. You will have to show that you are a good person, especially if you have been kicked out of the UK before.
What will happen if you overstay your visa?
If you can’t show that you have a good reason for applying after your visa has expired, you could be in for some serious trouble. You don’t have much time to prepare your good reason in the 14-day grace period, so you should act quickly and talk to a lawyer.
If you have been in the country for longer than 14 days, you won’t be able to get your visa renewed.
If you overstay your visa without a good reason, it is a crime. You won’t be able to legally work, and if you are caught, you could go to prison. In 2022, the maximum prison sentence for knowingly overstaying in the UK is set to go from six months to four years. This is because the rules on overstaying are set to change.
If you overstay your visa by more than 90 days, you will probably not be able to come back to the UK for at least a year.
If you overstay, do you have any rights?
If you overstay, you have to give up some of your rights. You will still be able to call the police, the fire department, and the ambulance in the UK if you need help. You will also still be able to get basic medical care, like help before you give birth.
If you have kids under 16 years old, they can still go to school while you are still in the country after your visa has run out.
Need some help?
Overstaying could lead to a number of problems with immigration. Even though it is always best to act within the time limits and before your visa expires, if you find yourself in a situation where your visa has already expired, you will need to act quickly to figure out what your options are and make the necessary application.
Atty Lindoven Magsino is a UK immigration lawyer who helps people with all kinds of applications to the Home Office. If you have a question about an expired visa, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or