To maintain your immigration prospects in the UK, it is essential to apply for further leave before your current visa expires. Overstaying your visa is considered a breach of UK immigration laws and is a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment of up to four years.
Overstayers in the UK are at risk of being removed and banned from re-entering the country for periods ranging from 12 months to 10 years, depending on the case’s circumstances. The length of the ban may be longer if the overstayer did not leave voluntarily or was found to have misled the Home Office. Even after the entry ban has expired, a previous visa condition’s noncompliance may result in the Home Office rejecting an application.
However, the Immigration Rules acknowledge that there may be circumstances beyond the applicant’s control that could cause a late application, leading to overstaying. The Home Office may overlook the period of overstaying under certain circumstances, such as emergency hospitalization or close family bereavement, backed by evidence, and if the application was submitted within 14 days of the visa expiring. Still, merely forgetting to extend a visa or work/study commitments is not considered a valid reason for overstaying. Even if the Home Office agrees that there was a good reason for the late application, you will still be considered an overstayer under the Immigration Rules, but you will be protected from removal while your application is being processed.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Home Office had some concessions for overstaying caused by travel restrictions. Although the period is still classified as overstaying, the Home Office generally does not hold it against future immigration applications.
Therefore, it is crucial to apply for further leave before your current visa expires and avoid overstaying in the UK to protect your immigration prospects. If you have previously overstayed your visa in the UK and are considering an immigration application, it is advisable to seek advice.