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Day counting - How long can you be absent?

Updated: Feb 7

Most UK visas allow you to come and go freely, but to naturalise as a British Citizen (and be eligible for a passport), you need to demonstrate your commitment to the UK, your intention to have your main home in the UK, and that you have not exceeded the absence limits, before you can naturalise as a British citizen. This guide looks at the absence limits, where there is discretion, and where it is a binary pass/fail. But what counts as a day of absence? (here we are considering only immigration and naturalisation rules. Questions of Tax residence, Ordinary residence, and Domicile, have their own rules that do not necessarily correlate with immigration and naturalisation rules).


Only full days of absence are counted, which means that the day of departure and day of arrival are not counted as absences.


If you have excessive absences, the Home Office may exercise discretion in your favour if we can show serious or compelling reasons. The application will be complex, and to have a reasonable prospect of success will usually have to be supported by advocacy and detailed evidence. Details such as future intentions can be particularly hard to prove convincingly, as the requests for discretion has only arisen due to having spent a lot of time out of the UK.


If briefing us in a case of excessive absences, do please give us details of anything that may explain or justify your absences. These could include:

  • Serious illness (your own, or of a close relative)

  • A conflict

  • A natural disaster, for example, volcanic eruption or tsunami

  • Absence spent helping international relief efforts


Absences due to COVID disruptions (cancelled/postponed UK flights, needs to isolate) during the COVID pandemic may also be grounds for requesting discretion.


Due to airline and ferry passenger databases, the Home Office can probably work out when you have been present/absent, but you need to declare absences, and to provide proof where possible. A passport full of entry and exit stamps can be helpful. Few applicants, other than refugees do not have a passport, and most people keep their old passports too (we advise you to do this). If you don’t have a passport, and/or are having to rely on memory, please do not be tempted to understate your absences in the hope it will help you. If you claim you were present in the UK when you were actually absent, you are making a false declaration, which is an offence and could disbar you from nationality in future, and/or endanger your settlement. It is better to wait until you do qualify, rather than apply early and make false claims that risk disaster. As long as what you say is true, there is no problem with applying and asking for discretion to be exercised in your favour: if they say ‘no’ you still have your settled status and can apply again later when you don’t have excessive absences.


Absences - UK Naturalisation (NOT on the basis of marrying a UK citizen)


For this (British Nationality Act 1981, section 6(1) application) There are residence 3 hurdles to clear:

Hurdle

Flexibility (if any)

(a)

You should not have been absent exactly 5 years before the day you apply for naturalization.

Minimal There are limited exceptions for those applying on the grounds of Crown Service, those who are / were in the UK armed forces, or who were only technically absent from the UK. (i.e) if applying on 31st Jan 2022, you must have been in the UK on 31st Jan 2017).

(b)

You should not have been absent from the UK for more than 450 days in the prior 5 years.

Leeway of 29 days (to a total of 479 days absence) is routinely available. Greater leeway is possible providing that: 1.Your total absences are not more than 900 days (i.e. are in the 480-900 day range). 2.If you have been absent for 480-730 days, you have spent the last 2 years in the UK without substantial absences. 3.If you have been absent for 731 - 900 days, you have spent the last 3 years in the UK without substantial absences. 4.The other requirements have been met.

(c)

You should not have been absent from the UK for more than 90 days in the prior 12 months

Leeway of 10 days (to a total of 100 days absence) is routinely available. Greater leeway can be given, subject to caseworker discretion, providing that: 1.Your absences are not more than 180 days (i.e. are in the 100-180 day range. 2.The caseworker is persuaded that you have strong ties to the UK and have made the UK your home base, considering:*do you have a home in the UK, is your family based in the UK, is your employment based in the UK. Your total absences over the last 5 years, are within the requirements (i.e. you are not asking for discretion on multiple fronts). If you are in the 100-180 days absence range in the last year, and you have exceeded the 450 day limit over 5 years, the application is likely to fail unless we can show not only strong ties to the UK, but also that absences are justified by Crown service or by compelling occupational or compassionate reasons. If you are absent for more than 180 days in the last year, but have not exceeded the 450 day limit over 5 years, we may also request discretion. If you are absent for more than 180 days in the last year, AND have exceeded the 450 day limit over 5 years, we would need to show that you have made the UK your home and that there are exceptional reasons justifying your absences.


Absences - UK Naturalisation (on the basis of marrying a UK citizen)


For this (British Nationality Act 1981, section 6(2) application) There are residence 3 hurdles to clear:

Hurdle

Flexibility (if any)

(a)

You should not have been absent exactly 53 years before the day you apply for naturalization

Minimal There are limited exceptions for those applying on the grounds of Crown Service, those who are / were in the UK armed forces, or who were only technically absent from the UK. (i.e. if applying on 31st Jan 2022, you must have been in the UK on 31st Jan 2019.

(b)

You should not have been absent from the UK for more than 270 days in the prior 3 years

Leeway of 29 days (to a total of 299 days absence) is routinely available. Greater leeway is possible providing that: 1.Your total absences are not more than 540 days (i.e. are in the 300-540 day range). 2.If you have been absent for 300-450 days, you have spent the last 1 year in the UK without substantial absences. 3.If you have been absent for 450-540 days, you have spent the last 2 years in the UK without substantial absences. 4.The other requirements have been met.

(c)

You should not have been absent from the UK for more than 90 days in the prior 12 months

Leeway of 10 days (to a total of 100 days absence) is routinely available. Greater leeway can be given, subject to caseworker discretion, providing that 1.Your absences are not more than 180 days (i.e. are in the 100-180 day range). 2.The caseworker is persuaded that you have strong ties to the UK and have made the UK your home base, considering: *do you have a home in the UK *is your family based in the UK *is your employment based in the UK 3.Your total absences over the last 3 years, are within the requirements (i.e. you are not asking for discretion on multiple fronts). If you are in the 100-180 days absence range in the last year, and you have exceeded the 270 day limit over 3 years, the application is likely to fail unless we can show not only strong ties to the UK, but also that absences are justified by Crown service or by compelling occupational or compassionate reasons. If you are absent for more than 180 days in the last year, but have not exceeded the 270 day limit over 3 years, we may also request discretion. If you are absent for more than 180 days in the last year, AND have exceeded the 270 day limit over 3 years, we would need to show that you have made the UK your home and that there are exceptional reasons justifying your absences.

If you have questions about absences from the UK, please get in touch.

Call 07879 480 755, email us, or complete our contact form.








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