Not from UK: your status

What does ‘Immigration Status’ mean?

If you are not from the UK or from certain countries in Europe, you will need permission to stay in the UK. Your ‘Immigration status’ is the kind of permission you have to be here (this is often called ‘leave’ or ‘leave to remain’).

The type of permission you have changes how long you can stay in the UK and what you can do while you are here. Permission is given by the Home Office, which is part of the UK government.

What immigration status might you have?

There are lots of different types of immigration status. Here are some of them:

Asylum-seeker

You can claim asylum if you are at risk of being treated very badly (persecuted) in your home country because of your race, your religion, where you are from, your views on politics or the government, or because you are in a particular group of people who get treated badly (for example, if you are gay). While the Home Office decides on your case and if the case goes to the Tribunal (court), you are an asylum-seeker.

Refugee status

If your claim for asylum is accepted by the Home Office, you will hold Refugee Status, this means that you will be allowed to stay in the UK for 5 years.

Sometimes the Home Office might decide that it is safe for you to go to your country before the end of the 5 years if the situation in your country changes, or if you show that there is no risk to you (for example if you get a passport from your country or travel back there).

Normally this review will not happen and instead just before the end of the 5 years, you can apply for permission to stay permanently in the UK this is called Indefinite Leave to Remain or ‘ILR’. The Home Office will look at your case again and unless something has changed, for example if you have committed a crime, you will be allowed to remain indefinitely.

Humanitarian protection

You will get humanitarian protection if the UK government decides that you are not a refugee but it would still not be safe for you to return to your country. You will be allowed to stay in the UK for 5 years.

Sometimes the Home Office might look at your case to decide if it is safe for you to go to your country before the end of the 5 years if the situation in your country changes a lot or if you show that there is no risk to you (for example if you travel back to your country).

Normally this review will not happen and instead just before the end of the 5 years, you can apply for permission to stay permanently in the UK this is called Indefinite Leave to Remain or ‘ILR’. The Home Office will look at your case again and unless something has changed, for example if you have committed a crime, you will be allowed to remain indefinitely.

UASC leave

Young people who have claimed asylum often get a type of leave called UASC leave, or ‘limited leave to remain as an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child’.

It used to be called ‘discretionary leave’ but this changed in 2013 when the Home Office created UASC leave. You will get UASC leave if you are under 17½ years old and on your own without your family and you claim asylum, but the Home Office refuses to give you refugee status or humanitarian protection, but accepts that you have no one in your country to look after you. You will get UASC leave for 2½ years (30 months) or until you turn 17½, whichever is shorter.

If you get this type of status you must ask your solicitor about whether you can appeal to the Tribunal and argue that the Home Office’s decision is wrong because you should get refugee status or humanitarian protection, which are better than UASC leave.

When you are 17 years old and your UASC leave is going to expire, you should talk to your social worker about seeing a solicitor to make an application to the Home Office to ask to be allowed to stay.

It is VERY important that you apply before your UASC leave expires because then your immigration status stays the same while the Home Office makes a decision and while you appeal to the Tribunal.

Discretionary leave

People get discretionary leave for different reasons.

Until 2013, you got discretionary leave until age 17½ or for 3 years (whichever was shorter) if you were an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child and the Home Office refused to give you asylum or humanitarian protection but accepted that you had no one in your country to look after you.

Since April 2013 you usually get UASC leave (see above), but if your case has been going on a long time you may still be in the old system and have discretionary leave.

You will also sometimes have discretionary leave if you have been granted permission to stay because of your connections or family life in the UK, especially if the Home Office made a decision in your case before 2012.

When your discretionary leave is going to expire, you should talk to your parent or social worker about seeing a solicitor to make an application to the Home Office to ask to be allowed to stay.

It is VERY important that you apply before your discretionary leave expires because then your immigration status stays the same while the Home Office makes a decision and while you appeal to the Tribunal.

Limited leave to remain

People get limited leave to remain for different reasons.

You will often get limited leave to remain if you have been given permission to stay because of your connections or family life in the UK. This will usually be for 2½ years (30 months).

When your limited leave is going to expire, you should talk to your parent or social worker about seeing a solicitor to make an application to the Home Office to ask to be allowed to stay.

It is VERY important that you apply before your limited leave expires because then your immigration status stays the same while the Home Office makes a decision and while you appeal to the Tribunal.

Usually people who have limited leave to remain have to wait for ten years before they can apply for indefinite leave to remain.

Indefinite leave to remain

If you have been given indefinite leave to remain (ILR), this means that you can stay in the UK forever and there is no time restriction. You can lose your ILR if you commit a crime or if you leave the UK for over two years.

Visa

You may have permission to stay in the UK on a tourist visa, a student visa or another type of visa.

Sometimes children come with their families on a visa and are called ‘dependants’. You will get this before you arrive in the UK. It will allow you to stay for a specific period of time. If your visa is running out, you need to apply for permission to stay longer in the UK if you do not want to return to your country.

It is a criminal offence to overstay a visa. If you have overstayed in the past and you now have no permission to be in the UK, it might be possible for you to apply to sort out your immigration status and you should get legal advice.

European Union citizen

If you come from a country in the European Union, you are free to live in the UK. However, your permission to stay living in the UK often depends on whether your parent or carer is working in the UK. If your parent or carer has worked in the UK for five years, they will have acquired permanent status and you will have too as their dependant.

The 2016 referendum result does NOT affect your rights yet because the UK is still a member of the European Union for now.

If you are looked after by Children’s Services or are a care leaver, your right to live in the UK might still depend on your parent or carer working here. Alternatively, if you work yourself, you will have a right to live here as an EU worker.

Advice

If you are confused about your immigration status, or if you think you do not have permission to stay in the UK, you should get legal advice soon.

You can contact Migrant Children’s Project:

Phone: 0207 636 8505
Email: mcp@coramclc.org.uk.