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There is a question on the UK visa application asking if If I have been "required to leave the UK" and I'm not sure if I have been or not.

So, the story is:

I hold a Hong Kong passport which grants me Visa-free to the UK for 6 months.

I first arrived in the UK as a Visitor on 31st Oct, 2019 with my boyfriend. My BF is UK citizen. The office just asked me some general questions and gave me a stamp (refer to pic 1) saying "Leave to enter for six months" from Heathrow airport immigration. He didn't ask if I have a return flight ticket to HK.

After couple months, I left the UK for Amsterdam with my BF for a short vacation on 27th Dec, 2019 and re-entered the UK on 29th Dec, 2019 at Belfast airport.

This time, the immigration officer gave me a hard time after learning I didn't have a return flight ticket to HK (plus, I think it's because my BF's attitude wasn't that nice to him). He took my passport and detained me and walked away (I guess he went to the office). After he came back, he interviewed my BF not me. After the interview, he said to my BF there's two options: (1) send me back to Amsterdam right away and (2) I can enter but have to leave the UK by 31 Jan 2020.

Of course he chose option 2, and got a stamp similar to the one from Heathrow saying "Leave to enter for/until 31 Jan 2020" (refer to pic 2)

Other than that, he didn't give me any documents or anything.

Does that mean I was required to leave the UK?

Pic 1 Pic 2

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Willeke Feb 11 at 11:15
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This question is asking if you were deported, removed or "required to leave" the UK because of illegal entry or overstay. If it applied to you, the Home Office would have served you with paperwork (e.g. an IS151 form) stating that you were being removed, deported or required to leave (which ever the case may have been). You were actually admitted to the UK, albeit for less than six months, and provided you didn't overstay and the Home Office didn't explicitly ask you to leave via paperwork, you should answer No to this question.

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    it is very confusing that the stamp in question, uses the slightly-old fashioned word "leave" to mean "allowed" ! – Fattie Feb 9 at 11:29
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    indeed. "Leave to enter" is such an ambiguous statement; either asking you to leave as a prerequisite to enter (later), or stating that you've been given leave to enter. Obvious only because the first makes less sense. – dlatikay Feb 9 at 13:26
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    Leave is british for Permission. It's one of those immigration facts you have to know. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 9 at 16:06
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    @Fattie it's perfectly confusing even without the word "leave." If they used the word "permission" instead of "leave" if would still be confusing, because when an immigration officer says "you have permission to enter for six months, it means "you are required to depart within six months." That this doesn't mean "required to leave the UK" is not at all obvious. – phoog Feb 10 at 12:58
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    @Fattie there is no evidence in the original question that anyone was confused about the meaning of "leave to enter." The question was asked in the context of curtailed leave: she was given a couple of days more than a month instead of the usual six months. The question is about the January 31st deadline, not about the meaning of the word "leave." – phoog Feb 10 at 17:10
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A quick answer to clarify the crux of the matter.

For non-native English speakers, be aware that:

Very confusingly, the word

"leave"

has a number of completely different meanings.

One meaning is simply "permission".

The stamps shown very simply mean:

"Permission to enter until ..."

This meaning of the word "leave" is utterly different from the meaning of leave as in "leave the country" or "leave the room".

That's all there is to it.

The stamps shown have utterly no connection in any way to the concept "required to leave the UK".

It is two completely different, totally unrelated words which happen to have the same spelling.

It is commonplace in English that words have a number of extremely different meanings.

It can be very confusing!

This is a normal, commonplace part of English. Most English sentences are extremely ambiguous and can only be understood in context and with experience. Additionally, "British" English and "archaic" English also has to be fully grasped by native speakers, which is difficult for everyone. This is a great example of the issue.

Just to repeat, fortunately the word "leave" in the stamps shown is a different word with no connection to the phrase "required to leave the UK"!

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Willeke Feb 11 at 11:12
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I think all the previous answers have missed the point.

I think the confusion comes from the conflicting information in the two entry stamps. The earlier stamp said you have permission to stay for up to 6 months (ie. from 31 Oct 2019 until 30 Apr 2020). Unfortunately, because you left the country on 27 Dec 2019 (for your brief trip to Amsterdam), your permission to stay ended on that date.

Your re-entry on 29 Dec 2019 was therefore a new entry, and on that occasion permission to stay was only granted until 31 Jan 2020, for which you received the new entry stamp. So long as you left on/before 31 Jan 2020, you are probably OK.

I can speculate about the reasons for the Immigration Officer's decision: perhaps he thought you were trying to game the system to get an additional stay for 6 months after 29 Dec (ie. until 29 June 2020).

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    Another possibility for the Immigration Officer's decision is that you entered from the EU, and if you stayed after Jan 31 2020 you would be exiting from the UK, which ceased to be a part of the EU on that date. i can imagine all sorts of issues that might cause,. – Adam Chalcraft Feb 11 at 7:44
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    @AdamChalcraft such as? I can't think of a single one. What if she had left at 23:30 GMT on 31 Jan? She would have left from the UK after it had left the EU, but she would have been in compliance with the terms of her leave to enter. – phoog Feb 12 at 0:29
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Jessica, from the stamps in your passport the word "leave" here means permission. That means permission to enter into the UK up to the date stamped/written on your passport, ie Jan 2020.

Also, just because HK has a 6-month visa entry to the UK doesn't mean you can be in the UK for the 6 months period. That is just the maximum time allowed for an HK passport. The immigration officer reserves the discretion to give you whatever length of time to be in the UK, anywhere from 3 days to 180 days. Just like the visitor/tourist visa to the US which is valid for 10 years, it doesn't mean you can stay in the US for 10 years as a tourist.

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Unfortunately, "leave" has more than one meaning in English. It can mean "go away", or it can mean "get permission".

No, you were not "required to leave". "Required to leave" means you were told to go away. You were not. Even on Jan 31st. even though by law you had to leave, you left voluntarily. If the police came to your hotel room on Feb. 1st and said "you must go to the airport and leave right now", that would be "required to leave". (They wouldn't do that on Jan 31st because you had permission to stay there).

When you were given "leave to enter" that was the other meaning of "leave": You were given permission to enter the country and stay until Jan 31st. So you are fine. If in the future someone asks you "were you ever required to leave the UK" you can say "No".

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  • I reversed the order of the first two paragraphs because the most important point is in the one that was originally second, and, overlooking it, I downvoted the answer. Then I wanted to remove my downvote, but it had been more than five minutes. – phoog Feb 10 at 13:18
  • dude, when you have the classic problem "can't reverse a downvote", what everyone does is just edit the answer, and, add some spaces on the end. then you can reverse the downvote, as you say. (you can't go changing the answer! :) ) – Fattie Feb 10 at 18:18
  • @Fattie but the answer to the actual question was buried in the second paragraph. Putting it first makes it clearer. – phoog Feb 10 at 19:46
  • obviously and evidently, a number of people wholly disagree with you on the meaning of the question - dude even I wouldn't edit answers like that :) cheers ... – Fattie Feb 10 at 22:38
  • "leave" can't mean "get permission" but it can mean "permission". – user253751 Feb 11 at 10:57
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According to this the annotation in the passport means exactly what it means: your leave to enter (govspeak for permission to cross UK border and stay for specified period) expired on 31.01.2020, contrary to what other answers do imply.

IO has freedom to determine the period for which you're allowed to enter - AND STAY in - the UK to anything between 3 and 180 days.

So in your case you were told by immigration officer and it's supported by stamp in your passport that you can stay until 31.01.2020 as per above link:

9.The time limit and any conditions attached will be made known to the person concerned either:

(i) by written notice given to him or endorsed by the Immigration Officer in his passport or travel document;

Which means that answer to your question on the visa application is "No".

However, if you did not leave by that day you are overstaying in the UK and you most probably will be served with documents "Requiring you to leave" and your application most likely will fail if you proceed with the application.

Your options are: The ’14 Day With Good Reason’ Rule

Under the current rules, for late applications made on or after 24th November 2016, the Home Office will disregard a period of overstaying provided you apply for a new visa, or renewal of your existing visa, within 14 days of your previous visa expiring and that you can evidence ‘good reason’ for having overstayed your visa permission (Immigration Act 1971).

or

It is a criminal offence under section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971 to overstay your visa without reasonable cause.

If your visa has expired, you have 30 days to leave the UK voluntarily at your own expense before you face a ban on re-entry. Alternatively, you may seek to rely on the 14 day rule.

As a side note: I believe someone gave you wrong information when you left with your BF to Amsterdam - UK is not part of the Schengen Treaty so freedom of movement is for EU citizens only (and only until the end of 2020).

I would treat it as a learning experience...

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  • What wrong information do you imagine OP got when she left to Amsterdam? Also, as things currently stand, the UK is expected to withdraw from the free movement regime at the end of 2020, not 2021. – phoog Feb 10 at 19:45
  • @phoog - thanks for correction on transition period. As for advice - OP is non-EEA citizen and while it is possible to enter UK without visa on HK passport, free movement is for EEA citizens only, so I assume someone told OP that since UK is in EU until 31.01.2020, OP can freely travel to and from EEA country. Which is not the case for UK only (IIRC). Would be if UK was in the Schengen Treaty, which it is not. She could do that no problem from France to Netherlands and back, UK is not so simple. – AcePL Feb 10 at 20:27
  • I see no indication that anyone told her that, nor that she thought that there was any special right to travel between the UK and the Netherlands. She just wanted to leave the UK for a short while and return. The question would be the same if you substituted "Belgrade" or even "Marrakesh" for "Amsterdam." Also, the situation with the UK and the EU is similar with respect to other non-Schengen EU countries (Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania, and Cyprus). As to the length of the transition period, it could change. The UK government has said they don't want to extend it, but it is extendable. – phoog Feb 10 at 20:42
  • @phoog - as evidenced by OP's troubles, the point is relevant. and which is: unlike UK or EU citizens until 31.01.2020, OP is not free to move between EU countries at will. OP would have that right if he had a valid visit visa. Since arrival was by way of requesting leave to enter on the border, in accordance with visa-free travel agreement between UK and HK, leaving UK for Amsterdam was leaving CTA and thus leave to entry expired. And while you're generally correct in your comment, what we're talking about here is re-entry, and not return... – AcePL Feb 10 at 21:24
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    @eagle275 - EU rules and schengen rules run parallel for EU citizens and schengen area is different than eu area (as phoog pointed out above). OP is not EU citizen, so your example is kind of moot?. Also, what is not correct? Please clarify what you're talking about specifically. – AcePL Feb 11 at 16:57
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"Leave" is a noun (and says what that stamp is)

The word "leave" exists as a noun, or a thing. Other examples of things are "visa", "waiver", "membership", "citizenship" or "permission". Consider

the soldier was AWOL (Away Without Official Leave)

Meaning the soldier did not have the necessary permission to wander outside the post. The "leave" is the permission.

Jean Valjean had a yellow ticket of leave

Which are parole papers, saying Valjean had state permission to have departed the prison and be openly in society. The "leave" is the parole, taking the form of a yellow ticket which an officer will recognize as legitimate.

Leave to enter

Is the (thing that gives you) permission to be inside the UK in the described conditions.

The first stamp

The first group of stamps is a thing, your leave, which grants you permission to enter the UK for six months from 31 Oct 2019.

The second stamp

The second stamp group is a thing, your leave, granting you permission to enter the UK and stay until January 31, 2020. This cancels your earlier leave. (Notice how I use it as a noun).

The reason your leave was shortened is because of your relationship with your boyfriend, which raises a material doubt as to your intentions. Having already been in the UK for 3 months, it seems as if you might be trying to live in the UK via multiple visits, and so they want to break that cycle to stop you from doing that.

And also, frankly, to cause a number of nice consequences (for them) that reflect whether you actually comply with immigration rules. If you depart before January 31, that speaks well toward your willingness to obey immigration laws, and increases their trust in you going forward. So it makes sense to let you keep using visa waivers. However, if you overstay the Jan 31 date, that tells them you disrespect immigration laws... And because you overstayed, that cancels your eligibility for a visa waiver, and you must now apply for a proper visa to enter the UK again.

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