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I'd been living in the UK for a few years as a student when I got denied entry some 25 years ago. I did appeal but after all it wasn't successful and consequently I was removed (deported).

I have no documents on my refusal kept with me and frankly I do not remember all the details after such a long time.

Now that I'm wondering if my refusal/deportation record is still kept by the UK Immigration Office?

Since I'm from one of the countries whose citizens are allowed to travel visa-free to the UK, I've been completely baffled all these years that if or how I can obtain "Entry Clearance" (I think that's what the IO advised me to when I was refused).

What on earth is Entry Clearance?? Do they mean a visa?? If it is, again, citizens of my country don't need a visa to enter the UK and I'm not sure if I'd still need a visa or what type of visa I should apply for to enter as a general visiter/tourist.

Could I travel visa-free with no trouble by now?

I'd appreciate any assistance/help and feedback on this...

marked as duplicate by phoog, JonathanReez Mar 14 at 19:06

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • 1
    Entry Clearance = visa. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Mar 14 at 13:35
  • 12
    NOte: don't call it a deportation to UK officials. Removal means you were taken out of the country. In UK legalese, Deportation means you were removed because of a criminal conviction, much more serious. – CMaster Mar 14 at 13:56
  • Even though you don't have the exact details, you can still describe the situation to the best of your ability on a visa application form. I believe there's a free-form text box for you to give details so, even if they force you to give the exact date, you can say, e.g., 14 March 1994 in the date field and explain that the date is approximate and you no longer have the full details. – David Richerby Mar 14 at 15:48
  • @CMaster: Thank you for your clarification. In that case I was simply refused entry (= removal). NOT deported. – totally puzzled Mar 14 at 16:39
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    @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas technically, "entry clearance" denotes a broader category of documents that includes visas and some other visa-like documents such as the EEA family permit and the exempt vignette. Those documents are legally not visas because they identify people who are "exempt from immigration control," but from a functional and practical standpoint they are basically equivalent to visas. – phoog Mar 14 at 17:55
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Entry clearance means a visa https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/673999/GGFR-Section-2-v29.0EXT.PDF ‘Leave to enter’ is the term applied to those requesting entry at a UK port (ie visa-free, and those with visas) https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/674000/GGFR-Section-3-v29.0EXT.PDF

If you go to https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa and enter your nationality and trip details you’ll see that the response for visa-free Nationals wanting to enter as a tourist is that you don’t need a visa but you may want to apply for a visa if you have a criminal record or have previously been refused entry into the UK. If you don’t apply for a visa, the advice is to bring the same documents https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/visitor-visa-guide-to-supporting-documents that you’d use to apply for a visa with you, to show to Border Officers if required.

If you apply for a visa you must declare your immigration history in the application; you’d also have to disclose it if asked if you attempted to enter visa-free. A deportation within the last 10 years is grounds for entry refusal.

If I were you, I would apply for a visa for my first attempted return as a visitor, it depends on your risk appetite (mine tends to be very low).

If you want to know what personal information about you is held in the UK’s Immigration records to help you decide which entry route to take, you can make a Subject Access Request https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/requests-for-personal-data-uk-visas-and-immigration/request-personal-information-held-by-uk-visas-and-immigration

  • I've noted that "visa-free Nationals wanting to enter as a tourist may want to apply for a visa if they have previously been refused entry into the UK etc". This is what applies to me, so that I can either take chances and visit visa-free or obtain a visa beforehand. But it was a matter of over a quarter century ago and I really wonder if it's still a concern of the Immigration Office? I think I'll first make a Subject Access Request to find out if my previous removal/refusal (not deportation) records are still held in their database. Many thanks for your feedback! – totally puzzled Mar 14 at 17:27
  • 1
    "Leave to enter" is also granted to those with visas; it does not apply only to visa-free travelers. – phoog Mar 14 at 18:00
  • Of course - things could change by the end of the month... who knows! – UKMonkey Mar 14 at 18:14
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Here's the downside. Suppose you skip applying for a visa in advance and then find yourself refused entry at the immigration desk in Heathrow. You'll pay for whatever part of your trip is not refundable, and non-discounted fare back home. A wasted trip.

As to the chances, it really depends what the reason for refusal was. They will know. You can't fool them*. Tell the truth about the past incident, don't hide something because you think they don't know; and if you don't know, say "I don't know", do not guess the answer you think they want.

In most cases, reasons for refusal fade with the passage of time, because your life circumstances change. Their rule of thumb is 10 years. Generally they want to know that you'll

  • leave the country when agreed
  • not seek employment
  • not become a burden to publicly funded social services

You didn't describe the circumstances, but with a young student it is typically a) lack of sufficient ties to your home country, no house, job, partner, social ties etc, as a result nothing compels you to return home and you could just stay and make those ties in the UK instead; or b) a lack of financial resources to fund the trip, which would tempt you to fall back on social services.

I imagine after a quarter century those things are solved. So you should get a fresh start at immigration.


* Lying now, turns it into a big, new problem.

  • Thank you for responding. The reason for my refusal was definitely (a), that they put me under suspicion I was looking for work or to settle down in the UK etc - common reasoning held by the UK IOs that I’ve come to know since. Now that after a quarter century if you say I should get a fresh start at immigration, do you mean it with or without my obtaining a visa? I have no intention of fooling them. Holding a passport that entitles me to travel visa-free to just as many countries as, say a Briton can, I’d naturally prefer to avoid the hassle of visa process at the Embassy if I could... – totally puzzled Mar 19 at 13:24
  • Yes, the thought process is to make a rebuttable presumption that you aim to immigrate, and allow your facts to prove otherwise. I'm not being cynical, that is their reasoning. I think the sure-fire win is to apply for a visa. You could try just trying to come in visa-free, but you should still bring all the proofs you'd send in to apply for a visa. – Harper Mar 19 at 17:43
  • Your point is well taken and noted with many many thanks indeed. I'll certainly take your advice into account when I get the opportunity to visit the UK again...👍🏻 – totally puzzled Mar 25 at 11:36

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