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I was issued a UK Student visa in 2009, but due to unfortunate circumstances I overstayed in the UK for about 2 years. In the year 2014, I left the UK voluntarily. There was no exit stamp on the passport, and I came out clean.

Now I want to apply for a UK visit visa. I am wondering if they still can access my exit record, if I don't disclose my travel history.

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    You don't have an exit stamp because the UK doesn't have exit stamps. Departures are recorded electronically. "I don't disclose my travel history" They'll certainly ask about it, which means the only way for you to not disclose it is for you to lie on your application. – Chris H Aug 24 at 12:22
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    If you do lie, and get caught, you are risking a 10 year ban for deception. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 24 at 12:53
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The UK does not check passports on exit (so it's normal you don't have a stamp), but that doesn't mean they don't record exits. However, they started doing so for ferry/tunnel/train departures only in 2015. I believe they had the information for air departures before that, so it may depend how you left the UK.

And since 2014 is a lot less than "10 years ago", if they had the info at the time, they most likely still have it.

Also, they most probably have other means to determine that you were still in the UK past the validity of your visa.

The advice is always the same: DO NOT LIE. The chances you will get caught are high, and the consequences may be a lot worse than your current situation.

I strongly recommend you speak to a UK immigration lawyer.

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  • yes, you are right to not lie under any circumstance. I don't think so they have the information for air departures before 2014, they have started the program in 2015. Technically, you don't have to disclose the information prior to 10 years, as in application form they ask have you ever been issue visa in the past 10 years. – annoynmous Aug 24 at 12:31
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    @annoynmous API data for outbound air passengers was collected since 2004, though it was incomplete. Before the extension of API to all modes of transport in 2015, they already collected data for 95% of flights. – jcaron Aug 24 at 12:41
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    @annoynmous Also there is a question about visas issued in the last 10 years, but I believe there is also a question about travel to the UK and other countries outside your country of residence in the last 10 years, which would most definitely cover the time spend in the UK on your previous visa. – jcaron Aug 24 at 12:45
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    Make sense. Do you know any immigration lawyer? – annoynmous Aug 24 at 12:47
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    See travel.stackexchange.com/questions/89170/… for instance – jcaron Aug 24 at 12:50
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Other answers have written about whether the UK authorities know you overstayed. While valid points have been made, these do not go to the core of the issue.

Always tell the truth on any visa application form. If you are asked whether you ever overstayed, say yes. You will then be given an opportunity to explain the circumstances. In your question, you say "due to unfortunate circumstances". Explain the circumstances.

If you have ever broken immigration rules before, this in itself is not a barrier to getting a new visa. Your application will be assessed on its merits right now. The officers will look at your circumstances right now. If you can demonstrate that you meet the rules now, and that the situation you were in in 2014 does not apply any more, then your current application won't be refused "just to punish you for overstaying before".

On the other hand, if you lie on your application then not only will it be refused; but you will be legally banned for 10 years, and even after that ban period expires, the chances of any officer believing you in future are slim to non-existent.

  • We don't punish people for mistakes in the past.
  • We do punish people for deliberately lying to officers.

Source: former Immigration Officer

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    If I could upvote this answer several times, I would. Transparency, as I've told others who want to apply for a U.K. visa, is paramount. – Eliza Aug 29 at 12:03
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    Great answer however We don't punish people for mistakes in the past. Really? Lol we’re not novices here. That’s patently false. UK immigration authorities routinely punish travelers for past mistakes, particularly those from poorer countries. – user 56513 Aug 30 at 8:03
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    @user56513 - No, actually. If someone previously broke immigration law and there was no good reason, their life circumstances are still the same, then we will indeed use that as a good indicator that the person holds immigration law in contempt, and is very likely to break it again. It’s not about “punishment”. But if there was a good reason; they regret having done so; and they can now show their circumstances have changed - then they won’t get refused just because they previously overstayed. – Chris Melville Aug 30 at 8:57
  • Additional: this distinguishes the situation from an actual ban, which will indeed result in an automatic, mandatory refusal regardless of any new circumstances. A ban is put in place, not due to simply previous overstaying: but because the applicant LIED directly to the authorities. Deception is the absolute worst thing someone can do. – Chris Melville Aug 30 at 9:01
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    @JosephP. That’s a little different. That comes into play if the person is still in the country, then gets caught - and asked to leave. The effective ban is 1 year if they do leave voluntarily at their own expense; 5 years if they leave voluntarily at public expense; and 10 years if they refuse to go, and have to be arrested, detained, and forcibly removed. However I’m tailoring advice to the OP, who already left the country several years ago: therefore would already have effectively served a 1-year period. – Chris Melville Aug 30 at 10:37
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You should assume the Home Office has your exit dates. By 2014, most outbound routes were covered for API data. This data is retained for 10 years. The question you should be asking is whether or not the decision maker has access to this information.

If your student visa was curtailed at anytime, you should assume you have been marked as having been “removed.” This is because the Home Office runs a program whereby they search for students whose leaves have been curtailed against API data to find students who have not left. Students who leave after their leave by date are deemed to have been removed.

If you properly finished your course, and did not have your leave curtailed, chances are the Home Office still doesn’t “know” about your overstay yet even though they have the data.

However, the ECO may request a search of the outbound travel records to determine the date of your departure. This could be done, for example, if the ECO can’t collaborate travel dates from your passport. Again, records more than five years old are restricted so even if the ECO requested this data, chances are he might not know. Since April 2015, overstayers (leaving after that date) should automatically be tagged as such in the ISA system for all decision makers to see. That system still has limitations.

The chances of a visitor visa after a 2 year overstay in the last 10 years are close to zero. If they find out you lie, the chances will be even less.

To sum up: the Home Office had no systems in place to automatically detect overstays in 2014. The only way they would know is if there has been human intervention at some point (this could be a new application where they manually checked your travel records). Since your outbound record is still in their database, it would be risky to ask for a SAR. This is because, if they were to discover your overstay, your record will be permanently marked. The safest route is waiting until 2024 when your outbound record is deleted and then making a SAR to know what data they hold.

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  • Thank you for your brief explanation. I do agree with you on the probability of getting a visitor visa. However, I left the UK in 2014, Since I renewed my passport, they won't be able to collaborate travel dates from my current passport. I would like to ask if i Request personal information held in the borders, immigration and citizenship system, to see what records they have on my travel history. Would that be helpful in any manner? – annoynmous Aug 25 at 8:13
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    @annoynmous i recommend not requesting personal information until your outbound record is deleted from their systems. Please see the edit in the answer for my reasoning. – uberqe Aug 25 at 8:48
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    @annoynmous not submitting your old passport may raise suspicions which could give them reason to search the API database manually. – uberqe Aug 25 at 8:56
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    @annoynmous Immigration records are bound to people (basic personal data, biometrics), not passports. You can't hide anything by using a different passport than before. They WILL know you had a student visa and WILL try to figure out when you left. – TooTea Aug 25 at 10:49
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    @Joseph P Publicly available information (see the reports by the independent inspector of the Home Office and the Home Office's own reports on Exit Checks) and Freedom of Information requests. Some of the requests and responses can be found at www.whatdotheyknow.com. You can also make your own requests and all UK organizations, including the Home Office, are bound by law to provide a response. – uberqe Oct 11 at 17:42
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The premise of your question suggests that you are thinking of 'forgetting' to mention the period of overstaying on your Visa Application form. My advice is not to forget.

Be under no illusion, your chance of getting a visa after such a significant period of overstaying in recent years is low. But if you omit that information from your application, your chance of getting a visa in the next decade will be compromised too.

Amongst other reasons, visitor visas are required for those countries whose citizens pose a risk of failing to comply with the conditions of stay. In your case those concerns seem to hold true. If you overstayed before, then maybe you'll do so again.

Exit stamps in passports stopped a long time ago, but whether you have already been identified as an overstayer depends on your method and routing of departing from the UK. Checks are made, so assume they know.

Instead of concealing the fact and risking a lengthy ban, be honest and explain what happened in your visa application. If the "unfortunate circumstances" that necessitated you overstaying for 2 years were genuinely unfortunate and you instead weren't just working illegally to earn some extra money then you might be lucky.

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