Help for Migrants to Go Home ‘Voluntarily’
You must go back to your home country if your ‘leave to remain’ expires to avoid staying ‘illegally’ in the United Kingdom.
Migrants who qualify may get:
- Information about their options available for returning home.
- Help obtaining travel documents (e.g. getting a passport).
- Money for travel tickets (people who can’t pay themselves).
As a migrant, you may still qualify for assistance even if you have started making arrangements to return to your home country.
Note: If you qualify, reintegration support (up to £3,000) may be available to help you find a place to live, a job, or to help you start a business in your home country.
Voluntary and Assisted Returns
As a rule, migrants will meet the eligibility criteria and get help to leave the United Kingdom, if they (any):
- Are in the United Kingdom illegally (or have overstayed a visa or permission to stay).
- Have made a claim for asylum to stay in the United Kingdom.
- Have withdrawn (or want to withdraw) an application to stay in the United Kingdom.
- Are considered as being a victim of modern slavery (e.g. confirmed officially in writing by UK Visas and Immigration).
Note: You may still qualify if you or your family are from the European Union, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, or Liechtenstein and you were living in the United Kingdom before the 1st of January 2021.
AVR: Assisted Voluntary Return
The assisted voluntary return scheme also provides financial help and support to leave. But, you need to qualify to apply for the AVR scheme.
As a general rule, eligibility for assisted return (ARs) means:
- You have applied for asylum in the UK and you are waiting for the decision after screening.
- They refused your asylum application and you have appealed. The same applies to those who are already appealing against the decision.
- They refused your asylum application and also refused any appeals you made.
- You did not withdraw an asylum application before.
- You are travelling in a family group and at least one of the group is under eighteen (18) years old.
- You are an unaccompanied person under 18 years of age.
- A UK Visas and Immigration letter confirms you as a victim of human trafficking.
- A medical condition (or some other reason) shows you need more help with the return to your home country.
- They gave you temporary ‘discretionary‘ leave to remain in the UK. This would usually be outside UK Immigration Rules for cases where the leave has expired.
You will not qualify voluntary return, if (any):
- The Home Office detained you or the police force is investigating you.
- You received a prison sentence of twelve (12) months or longer.
- You received a deportation order because you got convicted of an immigration offence.
- You have (any):
- A Service Providers from Switzerland visa (e.g. you work for a company based in Switzerland and your employer needs you to work on a contract in the UK).
- A Frontier Worker permit.
- An S2 Healthcare Visitor visa.
- Applied for (or have settled or pre-settled status) under the EU settlement scheme.
- They already granted you indefinite leave to remain, refugee status, or humanitarian protection.
Getting Help with a Voluntary Return
Individuals who make their own plans to return to their own country may also get extra help. Call the voluntary returns service to check what help you can get.
How to Get Financial Support?
Up to £3,000 of financial support is available from the voluntary returns service (VRS). You can use the one off payment to help you once you have left the United Kingdom.
To qualify, at least one of the following circumstances must apply to your situation:
- You will be returning to a ‘developing country’ (defined by the OECD – Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).
- The Home Office refused your claim for asylum in the United Kingdom.
- UK Visas and Immigration confirmed (by letter) that you are a victim of modern slavery.
- You are part of a family group travelling together and it includes someone under the age of eighteen (18).
- You are travelling alone and under eighteen (18) years old.
- You are a care leaver and under the age of twenty one (21).
- You are sleeping rough.
- You need special assistance to carry out your return (e.g. you have a medical condition).
Call the Home Office voluntary return contact number to find out how long it may take for them to arrange your return home.
Note: In some cases they provide financial help with the cost of a flight. Thus, it is best not to book your flight before contacting the VRS team. If you booked a flight to leave the UK in the next seven (7) days you will not be able to apply.
They may need some documentation and further information from you, including:
- Your nationality, Home Office reference (if you have it), your full name, and date of birth.
- Your current address and telephone number.
- Details of any valid travel document that you hold. This can include a passport or an emergency travel document.
- Whether you have any dependants with you who are under eighteen (18) years old.
As a rule, the Home Office will hold your passport or travel document. But, they will return it at the airport when you depart the United Kingdom.
How to Apply for the Assisted Return Programme
Anyone who is eligible for assisted return (AR) can apply to get:
- A one-off payment up to £3,000. The money is to help you find somewhere to live, get a job, or start your own business in your home country.
- Apply by downloading the ‘assisted voluntary return application form‘ from the GOV.UK website. Fill in the voluntary return form and then send it to the Home Office (the appropriate address is on the document).
Note: You can get help applying for travel documents and assistance to book your flight. But, they can force you to return to your own country. It can happen if you withdraw your application or fail to follow the application process.
Final Part in the Voluntary Returns Service
Once the Home Office receives your application they will contact you within three (3) days. In some cases they may ask you to provide further information to support it. They can cancel your application if you fail to provide any requested information. There is no appeal process for rejected applications.
Note: There are further steps to take for those who apply for asylum in the United Kingdom. In this case you must cancel your application. You will need to sign a ‘declaration of withdrawal’ at the time of leaving.