We were recently approached by a client who entered the UK in 2012. Since entering, he applied for a number of visas and accumulated 10 years lawful residence in the UK. Our client applied for Indefinite Leave to Remain / Settlement himself on the basis that he had been in the UK for 10 years lawfully.


Paragraph 276 of the immigration rules confirms what is considered as lawful residence and in what circumstances lawful residence is considered broken. One of those circumstances is if the applicant has left the UK for longer than 548 days in 10 years.


Our client left the UK for over 1,000 days within the last 10 years and therefore his application was refused. However, the Home Office did not seem to consider the fact that 700 days’ worth of absences was due to the client being stuck in China during the Covid-19 pandemic.


We are of the view that the Home Office have a duty to consider such circumstances as exceptional. Covid was a worldwide catastrophic event and should not be taken lightly. There are many people from China and other places in the world who faced severe restrictions preventing their return to the UK.


We have helped many in successfully waiving such absences. However, we do note that many have submitted applications themselves or are preparing to do so. We would like to give some guidance on how to prepare such an application.


So how should you prepare an application where you have exceeded absences due to Covid?


Well, the starting point would be to ensure that you are requesting that your absences related to Covid are to be considered exceptional and / or compassionate circumstances.


  1. Entry and Exit

We suggest including your flight ticket in your application. If you could not use your return ticket, it shows that you have had an intention to return to the UK on a scheduled date but for unforeseen circumstances.


If you didn’t book a return ticket, then explain why. Were you unsure as to when you would come back for a particular reason? If so, explain and how long you were intending to leave the UK for.


  1. UK Employment / Studies

If you had employment or studies in the UK at the time you left the UK, provide details. This is a good way of showing your commitments in the UK and that you did not intentionally wish to travel abroad for such a long time. If any consequences arose from this explain. For example, if you had to resit exams, take unpaid leave etc.


  1. Health

If you or your family member fell ill provide details. Hospital records would help if you had them. If you had elderly family members who required support and had no one else to turn to explain. A good way is to write a statement explaining the support that you had to give. It is well known that Covid-19 posed the most risk to those who are elderly or vulnerable.


  1. Family in the UK

If you left the UK during Covid but had family living in the UK provide details. This helps to show that you did not intend to leave the UK for so long. If you were still supporting them from abroad then provide details.


  1. Covid-19 restrictions

Many countries had restrictions during the pandemic. For example, if you are from China, like the person in this case, explain the restrictions that China had during Covid-19. Flights were cancelled and the country was in lockdown. Once flights resumed, mention how soon after you returned.


  1. Efforts to return to the UK.

A good idea is to provide details of efforts that you made to return to the UK. This could be arranging flights, communicating with your UK employer, or University. Email correspondence could really help evidence this.


  1. Accommodation

Provide details if you had to organise temporary accommodation. Were you staying in a hotel? If so, provide details and argue that this cannot be considered a permanent solution. Back in the UK was you still paying your rent and complying with your tenancy, or if you own a property, still applying the mortgage? All of this shows that you had an intention to return much sooner than you did. Bank Statements would be the starting point to evidence this.


  1. Future lies in the UK

Finally, it is a good idea to conclude such an application by providing details as to how you have built a life in the UK, how your future clearly lies within the UK and how any refusal would breach your rights under the European Convention of Human Rights.


The above is of course not an exhaustive list. It is situations that you should think about to see if it applied to you and if so, then any application should argue that the absence should be considered as a compassionate or exceptional.


All applications relying on this should be carefully considered a well prepared. Should you require assistance with such an application, then please contact us.


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