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How Can an Illegal Immigrant Become Legal in the UK?

by Advocko
How can an Illegal Immigrant become legal in the UK

Who Is an Illegal Immigrant?

An individual is considered an illegal immigrant if they enter the UK through unauthorized means or stay in the country beyond their visa expiry.

Contrary to popular belief, illegal immigrants are not always seeking to evade the law. They may also include asylum seekers looking to escape persecution in their homelands whose applications for refuge in the UK were denied. Additionally, a range of factors such as documentation errors, oversights, or lack of proper information may be involved in an individual’s illegal residence within the UK’s boundaries.

Remaining in a country without appropriate documentation will result in a lower standard of living. New Immigration Laws in the UK make it even harder for illegal immigrants to survive. Landlords are required to check tenants’ immigration status, access to healthcare facilities is even more restricted, and Rights of Appeal have been revoked. Such factors make it even more critical to rectify one’s immigration status and answer the question ‘how can an illegal immigrant become legal in the UK.’

It is possible to legalise your stay without having to leave the country according to UK Immigration Law. However, owing to these varying factors, circumstances, and the complicated global and political context which often leaves immigrants vulnerable, it is usually required for applicants to be professionally represented by lawyers.

How can an illegal immigrant become legal in the UK?

The first step to becoming a citizen is to seek immigration advice from a specialist, usually a solicitor. These specialists will guide you according to your unique circumstances. They will also keep the information confidential, so seeking professional help will not get you in trouble!

Next, it is also prudent to identify what factors might strengthen your application to legalise your stay in the UK.  Keep in mind that if you are applying after more than 14 days of your visa expiration date, then chances of getting rejected increase. Otherwise, there are many factors which can improve your chances. If you cannot return to your country due to threats of persecution or unsustainable lifestyles (poor education, employment, or lack of acceptance), you might be able to stay in the UK. Other factors include partners who have the right to remain within the UK and children who are either British or have resided there for more than seven years. If your visa was dependent upon a partner who you have separated or suffered domestic abuse from, then also you have higher chances of being permitted to stay.

The duration of an illegal immigrant’s stay in the UK also plays a significant role in determining whether their application will be accepted. If you are within 18-25 years of age and have lived in the UK for at least half your life, then your immigration status will be regularized. The same can be done by undocumented immigrants who have: stayed in the UK for over 20 years or have stayed for less than 20 but have no ties to their origin country. 

The children of illegal immigrants in the UK can legalize their stay if they are below 18 years of age and have lived in the country for more than seven years. The ‘10 Year Route to Settlement’ is another helpful alternative. This allows children of illegal immigrants a status as minor citizens of the UK if they were born in the country and lived there for at least ten years. These options also improve the chances of receiving legal citizenship for the parents of such children.

Legacy Cases refer to asylum seekers who entered the UK more than six years ago. If such an applicant’s case is undecided, they will qualify to reside in the country permanently. 

Individuals who have illegally or overstayed in the UK for at least twenty years can receive an extension for ten years if their application is approved. These ten years are divided into four periods of 2.5 years each. It is only after completing this 30-year long period as directed, that one can apply for Settlement in the UK. 

Will I become a citizen through these options? If not, what happens?

If your application is initially rejected, don’t panic! There are multiple options you can still try. In the first instance, if your application is turned down, you can appeal to a first-tier tribunal. Here your application is reassessed for any oversights which might overturn the initial rejection. If, however, this also fails, you can apply to an upper tribunal, also known as a Reconsideration Application. They will reassess your application and review the decision of the first-tier tribunal and your initial rejection. However, you must ensure you have a legal professional guiding you through this complicated process.

What is the possibility of deportation?

If all these options and steps fail, an applicant may face deportation or detention. In this situation, it is crucial to reach out to legal professionals who specialize in immigration. They may still come up with ways to prevent your deportation, depending on your specific case facts. However, this has to be done as quickly as possible since removal occurs at rather short notice, leaving little time to rebuild one’s case.

In case you are unable to secure a legal stay in the UK, you can still seek help from the government for the payment and arrangement of your return journey. This process is referred to as Voluntary Return. Such government assistance can also be utilized by people who find themselves stuck in the UK due to various reasons. The government accordingly decides who is eligible for this financial support.

Once an individual has been deported from the UK, there are slim chances that they will be able to return to visit or stay before a minimum 10-year period. Consequently, it is essential for those facing this prospect to ensure they handle their affairs before deportation instead of waiting it out.


The modern illegal immigration regime is a consequence of various social, political, economic and legal factors attached to it. International humanitarian laws and the instability occurring in various regions around the world make it vital to consider each case’s unique circumstances before reaching a verdict. Hence, it is important to remain sensitive to the trying circumstances which may have led to unauthorized residence within the UK. It is also due to these complexities that it becomes difficult for the government to come to a single, unanimous decision regarding illegal immigration.

To read more about immigration laws in the context of Brexit, click here.

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