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Your options if you're in the UK illegally

This advice applies to England

If you're living illegally in the UK, you might be able to apply for leave to remain or British citizenship. You’ll be able to legally work, access the NHS and receive benefits if you need them.

You can also get help returning to your home country if you choose to.

You'll need help from an immigration specialist to make the application. Don’t worry - getting advice won’t put you at risk of being reported to the police, it'll be completely confidential.

Get immigration advice

There are lots of ways of becoming a legal resident. An immigration specialist will decide which applies to you.

Your local Citizens Advice can help you find an adviser in your area, and understand your options to live here legally.

You can also call the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants , who will provide free and confidential advice about your options and chance of success.

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
Telephone: 020 7553 7440
Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 10am to1pm
Calls cost up to 12p per minute from landlines, 3p to 45p from mobiles

Whether you can live in the UK legally will depend on your circumstances.

As an illegal resident your situation is unusual, so you won’t be able to make an application without the help of a specialist legal adviser.

You might be able to apply to stay in the UK if:

  • you're aged between 18 and 24 and have lived here for more than half of your life
  • you’ve been living in the UK for a long time
  • returning to your home country would be dangerous 
  • you’ve got strong relationships in the UK
  • you’ve got children in the UK

If you’ve got children living in the UK illegally, for example if they have not been registered for British citizenship or leave to remain, it’s important to register them as soon as you can.

If you can’t stay in the UK legally

If you can’t live in the UK legally but choose to remain here, life could be difficult. You might:

Choosing to leave the UK

You can go back to your home country voluntarily with help from the government.

Depending on your circumstances, you might be able to get extra help to arrange and pay for your journey. You can call the Voluntary Departures and Assisted Voluntary Returns team to find out what help you can get.

Voluntary Departures and Assisted Voluntary Returns
Telephone: 0300 004 0202
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5.30pm
Calls cost up to 12p per minute from landlines, 3p to 45p from mobiles

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