You’ve left extending your visa until the last minute and are now in danger of missing the deadline. Does this matter and is there anything you can do about it?The answer to the first question is a resounding yes. Fortunately, in some cases, the answer to the second question can also be yes — there is a way of buying a little breathing space for migrants in danger of running out of time.This post explains the concept of an application date in immigration law, how to calculate it, and why making an application online can help beat the deadline.Why is the date of an application for leave to remain important?Knowing the legal date that an immigration application has been made on is important for a number of reasons.The most obvious one affects those who are applying to renew their leave. People in this situation must submit their application before the expiry of their current leave to avoid becoming overstayers, and therefore losing the right to work, the right to rent, and, these days, potentially their bank account or driving licence. If, on the other hand, they submit a valid application before the expiry of their leave, the terms and conditions of that leave will continue until a decision is made on the application (section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971).The date of application is also important to those who want to rely on paragraph 39E of the Immigration Rules. This allows for a period of overstaying to be overlooked when:(1) the application was made within 14 days of the applicant’s leave expiring and the Secretary of State considers that there was a good reason beyond the control of the applicant or their representative, provided in or with the application, why the application could not be made in-time; or(2) the application was made:(a) following the refusal of a previous application for leave which was made in-time or to which sub-paragraph (1) applied; and(b) within 14 days of:(i) the refusal of the previous application for leave; or(ii) the expiry of any leave extended by section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971; or(iii) the expiry of the time-limit for making an in-time application for administrative review or appeal (where applicable); or(iv) any administrative review or appeal being concluded, withdrawn or abandoned or lapsing.For some types of applications, the date of application is also relevant in assessing whether the documents submitted in support of the application are up to date. For example, under Appendices FM and FM-SE of the Immigration Rules, which apply to partners of British citizens or those settled in the UK, bank statements and other financial documents must end no earlier than 28 days before the date of the application.Another reason relates to the specified forms that must be used for postal applications to be valid. Application forms are regularly updated and, generally speaking, an application will only be valid if the form submitted is the one published on the gov.uk website at the date of the application. (There is an exception, found at paragraph 34(1)(c) of the Immigration Rules, which allows applicants to rely on a previous version of the form as long as “it is no more than 21 days out of date”.)How to calculate the application date for a leave to remain applicationThe answer is found at paragraph 34G of the Immigration Rules. The date of an application for leave to remain submitted from inside the UK depends on how the application is made:(i) where the application form is sent by post by Royal Mail, the date of posting as shown on the tracking information provided by Royal Mail or, if not tracked, by the postmark date on the envelope; or(ii) where the application is made on a paper application form and is submitted in person, the date on which it is received at a Home Office premium service centre; or(iii) where the paper application form is sent by courier, or other postal services provider, the date on which it is delivered to the Home Office; or(iv) where the application is made via the online application process, the date on which the online application is submitted whether or not a subsequent appointment is made at a Home Office premium service centre.Where the application is made online, one must also send a printed and signed application to the Home Office as well, generally to arrive within 15 working days (although the timing will be confirmed after the application is submitted) of submission of the online application. If using the premium service centre — to get a decision on the day — applicants must attend within 45 business days of submission of the online application.More information on which application types can be submitted at a premium service centre can be found here.ExampleDavid currently has leave to remain as a spouse, which is due to expire shortly. He completes the paper application form FLR(M) and sends it by Special Delivery on 22 May 2018. The date of application is 22 May 2018, as it is the date of posting as shown on the tracking information provided by Royal Mail.If David completes the paper application form FLR(M) and attends an appointment at the premium service centre on 22 May 2018, the date of application will be 22 May 2018, when he attends his appointment with the paper application form.If David completes the paper application form FLR(M) and sends it by courier on 22 May 2018, and the application is delivered on 23 May 2018, the date of application will be 23 May 2018, when it is received by the Home Office.Finally, if David submitted his application form online on 21 May 2018, that would be the date of the application, whether David then decides to book an appointment to submit his application at the premium service centre, or to send the form by post.The advantages of applying onlineAn increasing number of applications for leave to remain in the UK can be submitted online (but not when applying with a fee waiver), including:• form FLR(FP)• form FLR(M)• form Tier 5 (Temporary Worker)• an application to extend stay in the UK as Tier 1 or 5 dependant• an application to extend stay as a student• an application to extend Tier 2 leave• form SET(AF)• form SET(M)• form SET(O)Readers of the previous passage may wonder why anyone would bother applying online if the application still has to be printed and posted at the end. In fact applying online can have a number of advantages (besides avoiding illegibility for bad handwriting!), including because it gives the applicant more control over the date of the application.Perhaps the point is best explained by way of example.Tick tock: David is about to become an overstayerIt is 20 May 2018. David’s leave as a spouse is due to expire on 23 May 2018. David has a trip planned on 10 June. In addition, David must submit original bank statements to show that he meets the financial requirement, but they are only due to reach him on 24 May.To ensure that David can travel on 10 June, David must ensure that he has his passport by then. If submitting the application by post, David will need to send in his original passport, and there is no guarantee (in fact, it is unlikely) that the application will be decided and the passport returned before 10 June. David decides that he will use the premium service centre.David is looking for appointments at every premium service centre in the UK but the earliest appointment he finds is on 2 June. This is over a week after the expiry of his leave. If David attended that appointment with a paper application form, he would be an overstayer and his application would likely be refused on the basis that he does not have valid leave at the date of the application (unless an exception applied – see section EX of Appendix FM).The trick for David is to submit his application online, for example on 22 May, and book an appointment for 2 June. This will allow David:To ensure that he has submitted an application before the expiry of his leave, as the date of the application is 22 May, when he submitted the application online, so that he does not become an overstayerTo gain some time to finalise the paperwork, including receiving his bank statementsTo travel on 10 June (assuming his application is granted and he receives his Biometric Residence Permit by then)A real-world example illustrates the consequences of getting this sequence wrong.Time’s up: Luke becomes an overstayer“My troubles began towards the end of last year when I applied for indefinite leave to remain in the UK. I am from Singapore. I was five months away from qualifying as a GP and had studied medicine at Manchester University, starting as a doctor in the NHS in 2012.I booked an appointment and paid for it before my visa ran out. I thought that was fine. In reality, the application is made when you attend the appointment, by which time my visa had been invalid for 18 days. I was refused residency for that reason, and since then it’s been a battle to reverse the decision.”Of course, the best advice remains to prepare and submit an application well in advance! But for those who let time get away from them for whatever reason, applying online can buy some breathing space — especially these days when applicants struggle to find slots for appointments at the premium service centre.