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What if I stay longer than I am allowed to?

It is against the law to stay in the UK beyond your time limit, unless:

  • you have applied to the Home Office for permission to stay longer or to settle and you are waiting for a decision; or
  • you are appealing against a refusal.

Otherwise you become an ‘overstayer’ and you may be prosecuted and sent home ('removed'). The immigration authorities may also deport or remove you for other reasons. They can do this after you have settled here if:

  • you are found guilty of a serious crime; or
  • they discover that you told lies in order to settle here. For example, if you were allowed to settle because you married someone living here, and the Home Office later finds out that you were not living together.

However, you cannot be deported if you become a British citizen (see 'How can I become a British citizen?'). Also, many Commonwealth citizens who have lived in the UK since before 1973 cannot be deported.

 What is a registered civil partnership?

Since the end of 2005, same-sex (gay and lesbian) couples in the UK have been able to register their partnership, called a registered civil partnership. Registered civil partners have the same rights and responsibilities in law as married couples. For more about immigration issues for same-sex partners, see the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group website.

 Can I appeal if my application is refused?

Whether you can appeal if your immigration application is refused depends on what you were applying for and where the decision was made. The rules about who can appeal are complicated, and are likely to change by 2007. If your application has been refused you should get advice quickly, as the time limits for any appeal are quite short.

If you are refused entry clearance while overseas, you can usually appeal unless:

  • you wanted to study in the UK for less than six months;
  • you wanted to look for a study course in the UK; or
  • in some cases, you applied for clearance as a visitor.

If you were refused entry clearance to visit the UK, you can appeal only if you were coming for a family visit. There are special rules about family visits, including a long list of which relatives are considered ‘family’. An appeal against refusal to visit the UK is usually dealt with faster than other appeals. You can ask for your appeal to go ahead based on the papers that you and the Entry Clearance Officer send in, or you can ask for a hearing if you have someone in the UK to represent you.

When you are refused entry at a port or airport or when coming through the Channel Tunnel, you can only appeal while you are in the UK if you:

  • have entry clearance; or
  • are returning to the UK while you already have permission to be here.

Otherwise, you will be able to appeal only after you have gone back to where you came from. Some students and visitors have no right of appeal.

If you are refused by the Home Office in the UK, you will have a right to appeal if the Home Office has said you must leave the UK. You can’t appeal if you are given permission to stay on certain terms but this sort of permission is not what you applied for (for example, if you applied to stay permanently, but were given a time limit on your stay).

If the immigration authorities want to remove you from the UK (send you back) because they believe you got your permission by lying, for example, you can appeal against this decision only after you have left the UK.

In this sort of situation, your only option while you are still in the UK would probably be to get a ‘judicial review’ of the refusal. This procedure looks at whether the authority has broken the law in making its decision, not at whether the decision itself was fair. If you are in this position, you will need expert legal advice.

You will not be able to appeal against any decision if the refusal is ‘mandatory’. This means the official must refuse you if:

  • you do not have a work permit and are seeking entry to work;
  • you are outside the age range allowed for one of the temporary working categories;
  • you do not hold one of the nationalities required by a rule; or
  • agreeing to your application would take your total length of stay beyond the maximum time permitted under the rules.

 How do I appeal?

If your application is refused, you will get a notice telling you whether you may appeal. If you may appeal, you will also be given a form to fill in to do this. You must fill in the form and return it within:

  • 10 working days if you are appealing in the UK (or five days if you are being detained); or
  • 28 days if you are appealing from overseas.

You may be able to appeal under other laws as well as the immigration law. The most important of these is the Human Rights Act. This law says (among other things) that the government can’t normally make decisions that would ‘interfere with your right to respect for private and family life’. If it does interfere in this way, it has to have a good reason.

However, this law does not mean you have the right to choose which country you want to live in with your family. The Human Rights Act will only help your immigration appeal in the UK only if you can show a good reason why you should not have to live in another country. 

If you think your application has been refused unfairly because of your race or ethnic origin, you may also be able to appeal under race relations laws.

If you want to base your appeal on reasons of human rights or race relations, you must do this as part of your immigration appeal. You must include all the points you want to raise on the same appeal form. However, the law in these areas is complicated, and you will need expert legal advice. See 'Further help’ for more information about finding advice.

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