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Migrants and students who have overstayed their visa terms may be able to take advantage of one of the ‘Assisted Voluntary Return’ schemes, which pays for flights home and expenses from public funds, but watch out for the ‘sting in the tail’. Despite leaving voluntarily, you will still be banned from returning to the UK under Paragraph 320 of the Immigration Rules.

The Home Office recently reported that, since May 2012 in London alone over 2,000 illegal visa overstayers and students have returned home following the UK Border Agency’s ‘Operation Mayapple’ campaign to tackle visa abuse in the capital.

A third were forcibly removed, with two thirds leaving voluntarily.

The Home Office said that bout 800 ‘left of their own accord’, with 400 leaving after being contacted by UKBA. Around 700 overstayers were forcibly removed following UKBA raids on businesses and residential premises in London.

Only 58 out of 2,000 overstayers chose to leave under the Assisted Voluntary Return scheme, now run by Refugee Action (formerly IOM) under the banner of ‘Choices’.

There are three ‘Choices’ schemes under which you may qualify depending on your circumstances:

  1. Assisted Voluntary Return for Irregular Migrants programme 
  2. Assisted Voluntary Return for Families and Children Programme
  3. Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme

You can find full voluntary return programme details on the Choices website.

However, whilst you will see plenty of nice photographs of happy families who have been assisted to return home, you may not be aware that overstayers who use this scheme will normally be banned from returning to the UK for up to 2 years.

You will also be fingerprinted and asked to sign a form agreeing to allow your prints to be shared on a European Union database available to EU member states.

Even more worrying is that if you take advantage of the scheme and subsequently return to the UK and try to use it again, you could be liable to a 6 months prison sentence.

New Immigration Rules effective 1 October 2012 means that overstayers who leave the UK at their own expense will not be liable to a re-entry ban if they overstay for less than 90 days (previously 28 days).

The 14 year long stay concession has gone – you now need 20 years or 10 years legal stay!

Many overstayers are holding out in the hope of qualifying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or permanent residence under the ‘14 year long stay rule’, which no longer applies following recent changes to the Immigration Rules on 9 July 2012.

You may still have grounds to stay under human rights in particular Article 8 – right to a private or family life.

Automatic bans do not apply if you are applying to join a family member in the UK, or if you were under 18 at the time of the breach of immigration law.

If are deported (rather than ‘removed’) from the UK can only apply to return you’re your deportation order has been revoked.

The 90 day ‘grace’ period, in which you would not receive an automatic ‘320’ ban, does not mean you will not be recorded as a person who has broken the terms of their visa, it just means you will not be banned!

The ban on overstayers returning to the UK formalised into law what Entry Clearance Officers (ECO’s) were already practicing – refusing visas if you previously broke the rules. So whether you overstay by 1 day or 91 days, you have still overstayed past your visa.

Cynthia Barker of Immigration Advisers Bison Management warns overstayers not to be complacent or casual about overstaying your visa. She said:

“Many people ask me whether it’s ‘ok to overstay a few days’ at the end of their visa to ‘clear up a few things’ or ‘visit a friend’.

“The answer is ‘NO’! You’ve had long enough to sort your life out and visit Buckingham Palace, so do those things within the term of your visa.”

Cynthia added that children are the key to many human rights appeals:

“Under the 1981 British Nationality Act, any children who were born in the UK and have lived in the UK for more than 10 years  – even to parents in the UK illegally – are eligible to apply for British Citizenship.”

See also:

UK Border Agency will ‘write off’ 80,000 overstaying migrants they have given up trying to find

Contract to ‘bounty hunt’ 174,000 illegal immigrants awarded to Capita


New Immigration Rules take effect 1 October

Migration Watch calls for 5 year extension to UK work restriction for 30m Bulgarians and Romanians

If you need any immigration advice or are worried about the new immigration rules or need help with Sponsorship or Tier 2, Tier 4, applying for university if your college has closed down, Visa, ILR, Settlement, Citizenship, Dependant Visa or an appeal against a UK Border Agency or British Embassy refusal, or if you have been waiting for a reply from the Home Office for longer than a year, please email: 

info@immigrationmatters.co.uk or visit www.immigrationmatters.co.uk for free immigration news updates.

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22 Responses to “Assisted Voluntary Return scheme for visa overstayers has a ‘sting in its tail’”
Read them below or add one

  1. Almirazsz@yahoo.com'
    Almirazsz@yahoo.com'Almirazsz says :

    Hi i am a filipina i was deported in saudi arabea last july 2010,how many years im ban to saudi arabea.

  2. […] Assisted Voluntary Return scheme for visa overstayers has a ’sting in its tail’ […]

    MYPAAWILL@YAHOO.COM'williams mensah says :


  4. oliver.macaspac@yahoo.com'
    oliver.macaspac@yahoo.com'Oliver Macaspac says :

    Dear Sir,

    My friend a Philippine citizen visited Malaysia on year 2002 and overtayed for less than one year, he get out from Malaysia without presenting any document via Borneo to Philippines (via boat).

    At present (year 2013), will it still possible for him to visit again Malaysia for 1 or 2 days only as a tourist? He is now presently working abroad for 6 years and wish to visit Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia before proceeding to Philippines and will return to Saudi Arabia after a month to continue working abroad.

    Your accurate advice is highly appreciated.

    Thank you.

  5. […] Assisted Voluntary Return scheme for visa overstayers has a ’sting in its tail’  […]

  6. […] Assisted Voluntary Return scheme for visa overstayers has a ’sting in its tail’  […]

  7. […] Assisted Voluntary Return scheme for visa overstayers has a ’sting in its tail’  […]

  8. […] Assisted Voluntary Return scheme for visa overstayers has a ’sting in its tail’ Tags: Article 8, backlog of overstaying students, Bison Management UK, Cynthia Barker, Eastern European girlfriend, EEA national, Human Rights, overseas students, overstayed visa, overstayed your visa, overstayers, points based system, right to a family life, Tier 4, Tier 4 student visa, UK Border Agency, UKBA, visa overstayer […]

  9. […] Voluntary Return scheme for visa overstayers has a ’sting in its tail’ […]

  10. […] Assisted Voluntary Return scheme for visa overstayers has a ’sting in its tail’ […]

  11. […] Assisted Voluntary Return scheme for visa overstayers has a ’sting in its tail’ […]

  12. […] Assisted Voluntary Return scheme for visa overstayers has a ’sting in its tail’ […]

  13. […] Assisted Voluntary Return scheme for visa overstayers has a ’sting in its tail’ […]

  14. […] Assisted Voluntary Return scheme for visa overstayers has a ’sting in its tail’ […]

  15. euukimmigration@gmail.com'

    If the child was born in the UK and lived here for 10 years she could apply for British Citizenship. There may still be other human rights grounds for an application to remain. You should consult an immigration adviser to look at the whole case if you need further help. Call for an appointment with Cynthia Barker of Bison UK on 0208 905 1822.

  16. euukimmigration@gmail.com'

    The UKBA will not put every condition of a tourist visa on the website – you would have to look up the Immigration Rules. A visit visa is just that and switching has not been allowed for a few years now. You can consult an immigration adviser to look at the whole case if you need further help. Call for an appointment with Cynthia Barker of Bison UK on 0208 905 1822

  17. klaudia.richter@gmail.com'
    klaudia.richter@gmail.com'Minneyar says :

    Hi there ,
    Yesterday I received my visa refusal as a spouse of a UK citizen. The reason given is because I applied while being on my visitor visa. When I wanted to apply from my country I went trough the assessment to see if I am eligible and when that was finished I received an answer that I can apply for visa. But as I overseen the difference between applying from outside UK and inside UK by my mistake I did not see that I was not able to apply while being a visitor. My husband was temporary worker at the time and we did not meet all the other requirements so we couldn’t apply from outside. I left my job , place I lived at and moved here to be his support as he was waiting for a date of entry to the army ( that was the reason he worked as a temp ). On the web page UKBA there was no clear statement about not being able to apply while being a visitor ( as it is now after change made on 9th of July ) in the apply from the UK page . They kept my documents, it took them 5 months to deal with my visa ( even tough they encourage you to apply not less than 28 days before your current permit expires ) and now I am overstayer and need to leave the country. We will appeal but not sure on which grounds we can. He is a soldier and can not serve his country living in Croatia , as they find it fine for us both to leave UK . They say that they are not interfering our right of private life , but isn’t that exactly what they are doing? He signed to give his life for his country and all he gets back are problems because I made an innocent mistake. They could have take the money, send me back application few days after they received it , and I would go back to my country and reapply, but instead they kept it all there and sent me form for biometric residence permit after they already knew that my application is clearly invalid . I feel stupid and I know that i made that mistake but it was not intentional. Are there any grounds by which we can appeal?

  18. speranzabt@yahoo.com'
    speranzabt@yahoo.com'sheila tilan says :

    My niece was born in Italy and moved to the UK and has been living with her parents, who are undocumented migrants, for 10 years now. Is she eligible to apply for British citizenship? Thank you and more power!

  19. […] Assisted Voluntary Return scheme for visa overstayers has a ’sting in its tail’ […]

  20. shisdew@gmail.com'

    hi there,
    I have came to know after being removed/deported in 2004. But that was not my fault because my application was with home office and they did also had my passport. Is there any way that i can protest UKBA for that , i still feel i have been ROBBED for ignorance.
    Thanks !

  21. marksoft786@yahooc.om'
    marksoft786@yahooc.om'LIAQUAT ALI QURESHI says :

    Dear sir,

    Frankly the immigration matters give a lot of knowledge about UKBA rules & regulation as well updated situation and news etc. its pretty very informative. So keep it up.

    Supreme Court of Pakistan

  22. Yinkaodesola@yahoo.com'
    Yinkaodesola@yahoo.com'Olayinka Aliu ODESOLA says :

    In fact , is a great idea for a lot of people from african if is single could be man of woman , But is issues of poverty in African is really so hard because if u are there is good but issues that some one has been in Europe for five years out of is age and later finally back to African alone is hard to go to his family and starting walk Lone beloved that is hiding after few years ,He will running mad Seven out ten . And secondly for a family’s his very sad because We have shops keepers we dont have leaders not Goverment know one will look after orphan in African . Deportys in African doesn’t stay long in life back home .

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