Absences from the UK
To be eligible for ILR applicants must not have spent more than 180 days outside the UK in any 12 month period of the five year qualifying period. All absences from the UK are counted, whether for work, family or holidays.
Under a new rule, which took effect from the start of October 2019, periods of research outside the UK is no longer counted against the limit on absences. The new rule only applies to Skilled Worker/ Tier 2 visa holders who are sponsored under the Researcher and Lecturer SOC codes. Skilled Worker/ Tier 2 visa holders who are preparing to apply for ILR and believe they are close to, or over, the limit on absences should contact SIT to discuss whether they can rely on this rule.
A stricter limit on absences from the UK applies under the 10 year ‘Long residence’ ILR route.
Only full days outside the UK are counted against the 180 day limit. For example, travel on Monday to a conference held outside the UK and returning to the UK on Wednesday would only be counted as one day’s absence from the UK.
The Home Office changed the way absences are counted in January 2018 but this change is not retrospective.
- Absences under visas issued before 11 January 2018 - The 180 days limit is counted in 12 month blocks counting back from when the ILR application is submitted. This can make it possible in some cases to split longer absences across two successive 12 month periods.
- Absences under visas issued after 11 January 2018 - The new rule introduced on 11 January 2018 states that the 180 days limit must instead be counted in rolling 12 month periods. This prevents longer absences being split across two successive periods.
More detail on how Home Office caseworkers count absences when assessing ‘continuous residence’ in ILR applications is found in Home Office guidance.
If an applicant thinks they are near or over the 180 day limit, they should contact SIT to discuss further.
Evidence of absences
The Employer’s letter Skilled Worker/ Tier 2 visa holders must submit with their ILR application confirms the history of absences from the UK they list in their application. Other documents showing residence are not, therefore, required. Those who can rely on the rule under which periods of research are not counted against the limit on absences will need to have their employers letter amended to highlight this.