We have recently been successful in an application for indefinite leave to remain on the 10-year route. Our client made an application based on exceptional circumstances outside the immigration rules and was granted settlement status despite 966 days outside the UK.


This case demonstrates the approach which the Home Office may take towards cases where not granting settled status would have a significant impact on the claimant and their family. It also gives an example of the impact of Covid-19 on the interpretation of immigration law.




Our client arrived in the UK via a child student visa in 2012, where she began to receive the British education from the age of 12. She had a smooth transition to life in the UK, and faced few obstacles until 2020, with the outbreak of Covid-19. Like a lot of other international students, she returned to China to be with her family. Our client then returned to the UK in September 2022 via a new student visa, when by this point Covid-19 restrictions had been lifted by the UK government.


By our calculation, our client’s absence from the UK totals 966 days, with the last absence of 433 days taking place from 2020 to 2022. We made the application for the client on the basis of 10-year lawful residence outside of the rules on absence for settlement that requires up to 540 days in total and 180 days for a single absence.


The application


In our legal representation letter, our core submissions were as follows:


1. We argued that the last absence period to China which totals 433 days should be regarded as an exceptional circumstance. We focus on the strict circuit breakers between China and the UK implemented by China, demonstrating the rationality for this 433-day absence.


2. We argued for our client on the grounds of her private life established in the UK over the past decade. Our client has been in the UK since childhood, receiving a British education and forming a social network. These are proven by her graduate certificates, social events and her own property in London.


There was some correspondence between the next day of biometric submission and the decision date. We provided additional information and evidence the next day or the same day, in part thanks to our client’s timely assistance. The most important document provided was the cancelled flight ticket, which demonstrated the client’s original intention to come back to the UK instead of taking Covid as an excuse for the long absence.


The approved decision was received the week after providing our client’s biometric information due to our client choosing the Home Office’s priority service.

Our comments


This case demonstrates the fact that the Home Office has accepted that the absence period during the Covid pandemic can probably be disregarded. This successful settlement application is significant to our client and her family. If it was rejected by the Home Office, it would lead to a seriously adverse impact on both the life established in the UK of our client, as well as the devotion and support from her family back in China. We are very pleased with the result, as our client has been granted settlement after her long absence from the UK during the Covid-19 restrictions.


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