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Is it Illegal to Overstay on a UK Visa?

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It is illegal to overstay on a UK visa but immigration solicitors can help. If you are worried about overstaying on a UK visa it’s best to get immigration law advice as early as possible. In this article we look at what overstaying means.

UK Online and London based Immigration Solicitors and overstaying visa UK

For immigration law advice and visa help call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete the online enquiry form.

Is it illegal to overstay on a UK visa?

The law in England makes it a criminal offence to overstay on a UK visa. The law says, in section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971, that it is an offence to overstay on your UK visa without reasonable cause.

If you have overstayed, or think you may have done so, or you want to stay in the UK but you haven’t sorted out your visa, then it is vital that you get specialist legal advice as soon as you can. Immigration solicitors won't judge you or criticise you for being in the position you are in; they will try to help and advise you on your best immigration options.

What is overstaying?

You are classed as overstaying on your visa, or labelled an overstayer, if you stay in the UK beyond the date of your visa or entry clearance. If possible, you want to do your best to avoid the label of ‘’overstayer’’ because if you are an overstayer on the immigration record held by the Home Office that will affect your future immigration and visa applications.

I didn’t get a warning that I am an overstayer

It may not seem fair, but the Home Office won't warn you that you are at risk of becoming a UK overstayer as your visa is about to expire. The Home Office expects you to remember when your visa is due to end and to either make a new visa application before the expiry date of your old visa or leave the UK.

It isn’t a defence under section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971 to say that you forgot to apply for a visa extension as that doesn’t count as ‘’reasonable cause’’, unless there were other reasons such as forgetting because you were hospitalised through serious ill health.

How do I check if I am at risk of overstaying?

If you aren’t sure when your visa is due to expire, or you are worried that your visa will expire shortly, then don’t ignore the situation. Instead, look at the date on the stamp in your passport or look at your biometric residence permit (BRP). If you are in any doubt about the visa end date, it is best to check with your immigration solicitor.

My visa has expired so how long can I stay in the UK?

If your visa has already expired the immigration rules give you thirty days to leave the UK. Leaving on a voluntary basis means you pay your own travel expenses but provided you leave the UK within the thirty days you won't face a ban on re-entry.

I overstayed my visa in UK, can I return?

If your UK visa has already expired you need to act quickly to take advantage of the fourteen-day immigration rule.

The fourteen-day with good reason rule says the Home Office will ignore or disregard your overstaying provided:

  • You apply for a visa extension or for a new visa and
  • The application is made within fourteen days of the expiry date of your old visa and
  • You can show and evidence that there was good reason for having overstayed on your visa.

What counts as a good reason for a late visa application?

The Home Office has issued guidance on what amounts to a good reason for failing to apply for a new visa or to renew your visa before the expiry of your old visa. You have to be able to show there were exceptional circumstances and have evidence in support.

Examples of good reason include the death of a close family member or your hospitalisation. If you are in hospital for planned non-urgent and non-life-threatening surgery at the time your visa expires then the Home Office may question if this amounts to good reason or simply poor planning. That’s why it’s best to get your visa application in on time rather than risk the Home Office rejecting your application on the fourteen-day rule because the Home Office official doesn’t think you have shown exceptional circumstances or you haven’t provided sufficient evidence in support.

Have I overstayed if I applied for a visa but didn’t get a decision before my visa expired?

Provided that you applied to extend your visa or for a new visa before the expiry date of your entry clearance then you aren’t classed as an overstayer by the Home Office whilst your visa application or visa extension is pending.

Can I still work in the UK if my visa has expired but I am waiting for a Home Office visa decision?

Once your work visa or other visa has expired you can't legally work in the UK, even if you have a pending work visa application with the Home Office. If your employer continues to let you come into work then you and they could be in breach of illegal working legislation and face prosecution.

What happens about overstaying if my new visa application is refused?

If your visa application is refused by the Home Office you may, depending on the immigration rules for your particular visa , be able to ask the Home Office to review the decision. You only have fourteen days within which to do so and this deadline can't be extended for good reason. That’s why it is best to get speedy immigration legal advice to look at your visa appeal or alternate visa options if your visa application is refused.

If you can't secure a new visa then you have thirty days to leave the UK. If you don’t leave voluntarily within that time frame you face being banned from re-entering the UK. The ban could last for between one to ten years unless you leave the UK voluntarily within the first ninety days in which case you may not receive a re-entry ban.

Overstaying doesn’t just affect your life now but your future plans. That’s because overstaying, even if it occurred in the past, will be taken into consideration when a Home Office official looks at your  future UK visa and entry clearance applications. To avoid that situation, it is best to plan ahead and get your visa application in well ahead of the deadline and, if you have concerns about your visa application, to get specialist legal advice as early as you can.

UK Online and London based Immigration Solicitors

For immigration law advice and help with your visa call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete the online enquiry form.

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