The Myth of ‘180-Day Rule’

The popular non-existent myth echoed among fellow migrants/visitors to the UK goes like this- Any person (a non-EEA national) who enters the UK with a visitor-visa cannot stay more than 180 days in total in any given year. It has also taken the shape of the 6 months’ limit where the visitor can spend no more than 6 months out of any 12 inside the UK, even if the person fetches a new/extended visit-visa. Unfortunately, by misconstruing the actual law in place, this non-existent rule is also being preached by immigration advisors and Home Office officials.

Consider the following as an example for the myth- a person, using a visit-visa, stays in the UK for 5 months from January to May. She then goes to her home country and comes back in the month of October with a new visit visa with another 6 months’ validity. However, according to the myth, she only has 1 month left to stay in the UK in that particular year, regardless of her new visit-visa’s validity.

Having said that, we would still advise, it is better to stick with the mythical 180-day rule as much as possible. This is because, longer periods of stay in the UK comes with a rebuttable presumption of ‘non-genuine visit’, which could be used against the applicant the next time he/she applies for a new/renewed visit-visa.

What’s the Actual Law?

According to the visit-visa rules, any visitor is eligible only for a maximum stay of 6 months in the UK at any given stretch. The said 6-month expiry period will be displayed on the entry clearance vignette on the visitor’s passport. As long as the said 6-month time period has not elapsed, the person can depart and re-enter the UK as many times as they want, without having to satisfy the immigration officer that he/she is a ‘genuine visitor’.

The above rule is also applicable to a person who holds a visit-visa valid for more than six months, like a 2-year or any other multi-year visa. The visitor cannot be in the UK for more than 6-months on any one given time/stay. He/she will have to apply for re-entry clearance at the immigration office.

How did such a Myth Arise?

The non-existent ‘180-day rule’ emanated from the incorrect but naive interpretations as to what constitutes a ‘genuine visitor’ under the UK visit-visa rules. One of the parameters revolves around the period of stay in the UK, i.e., ideally, a ‘genuine visitor’ will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK their main home.

According to the Home-Office guidance in this aspect, the caseworkers are urged to analyse the following factors, among others while scrutiny for entry clearance:

  • previous immigration history;
  • the pattern of travel;
  • duration of previous visits, especially the cumulative period of time the applicant has visited the UK over the last 12-month period; and
  • whether the above amounts to de facto residence in the UK.

The above tests indirectly point that, if a person spends in the UK for more than 6 months in a year, then that person has lived in the UK for the majority of their time in the previous 12-month period. This could, in turn, be a potential signal that the person is living in the UK for an extended period, and not to mention, the presumption that he/she is making the UK their main home. Here, as a consequence, the applicant may get added to the bad books of the case-workers/border staff and hence gets rejected with no entry clearance.

Gradually, this manner of procedure resulted in the uncodified standard of the ‘180-day rule’.

How to Deal with the Mythical ‘180-day Rule’?

The recent trends show that immigration officers often fall prey to the mythical ‘180-day norm’ and uses it to reject numerous applications quoting non- genuineness. And unfortunately, there exists no immediate remedies, like right of appeal, other than the extraordinary option of judicial review for the prevention of imminent departure.

This is exactly why, as stated earlier, we advise to play safe when it comes to visit-visas. As much as possible, try not to spend more than 6 months per annum in the UK. However, this doesn’t mean that you can never exceed the imaginary limit. The UK Home Office has expressly negated the mythical ‘180-day rule’ in its guidance document to caseworkers. So, if you want to stay in the UK for extended time periods, this could be accomplished through proper documentations and reasoning, sufficient enough to satisfy the immigration officials.

Therefore, in case of such difficulties, feel free to contact and get assistance from the immigration lawyers in East London at Legend Solicitors to persuade the Home Office decision makers/border staff and overcome any adverse situation.

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