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Thomas, Solicitor
Category: UK Immigration Law
Satisfied Customers: 7430
Experience:  BA (Hons), PgDip, Practising Solicitor
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what does limited leave to remain in the uk mean?

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I was given limited leave to remain in the UK from 2004 to 2006 by then I was married to a British citizen and I am still married to him but getting divorced soon. When my limited leave to remain expired in 2006 I forgot to renew it so now that we are getting divorced I need to work on my status here and I was wondering what my options are really. Also, what does limited leave to remain in the UK mean?

Are there any children of the relationship?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.


Limited leave to remain means that you had permission from the UKBA (the regulatory body for immigration rules) to remain in the UK for the length stated on your passport.

Once this leave to remain expired you ceased to have leave to remain in the UK. This means that you are here in breach of the immigration rules, that you (effectively) illegally in the UK.

Therefore, if you divorce then you would not be able to make an application to remain in the country because being illegally here is a general ground for refusal for almost all types of visas.

If you leave the country you would have difficulty getting back in because they would see that your leave to remain has expired.

You and your spouse need to jointly see an immigration solicitor. Technically you would have been eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain just before your visa expired. Now, it’s going to be difficult. If you are not going to divorce for period of time and your spouse is willing to support an application for further leave to remain then this would probably be the best option.

Kind regards,

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

You mean there's no other way other than him supporting my documents as we are not getting along very well at the moment? As I have been here 11 years and been married to a British citizen for 9 years doesn't that count?

Basically, yes. I'm afraid that you have prejudiced yourself quite badly by not dealing with your status at the time.

You do not have leave to remain. You obtained it as a spouse of a UK national. If you are to divorce then it makes it nearly impossible to regularize your status if you do not have any children that are based in the UK.

In order to apply for indefinite leave to remain on the basis of long residence you have to be able to show that you have an unbroken chain of legal leave to remain for ten years. Your chain (I accept unwittingly) has been broken.

The UKBA does recognize that spouses of UK nationals should have a right to stay here and this is reflected in the fact that if you have held a spouse visa for two years and apply when you still have leave to remain then you can get Indefinite Leave to Remain, but you do actually have to make an application.

They sometimes exercise discretion where the person is still married to the UK spouse but if you are divorcing and he is not supporting the application then it makes it very difficult.

If you divorce and then marry a UK national or foreign national with Indefinite Leave to remain or EEA national then you would be able to apply on the basis of the new marriage.

If your employer is willing to sponsor you for a Tier 2 Sponsored Skilled Worker visa then this would have a slim chance of being accepted but you would be asking them to exercise a very large discretion:-

I would also suggest taking your passport to a local solicitor to confirm - absolutely - that you held limited leave to remain, rather than "Indefinite Leave to Remain) for confirmation.

I am really sorry.
Kind regards,

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