I was a developer who got shunted into infrastructure / administration by my employer. I have done Java development, among other languages, but not that recently (a few years back.) That employer recently laid me off.
Short of out and out lying (which people have told me to do, BTW), how do I get back in the door? How does anyone get a new job in a technology that's new (or in my case slightly old) for them?
If you have been out of touch, I would say that's an advantage (as compared to a complete fresher). Employer's would be (correctly) concerned with time taken by new employees to bring themselves up to speed. In your case, this time should be short.
I would suggest, brushing up with what's changed since you went out of touch. Then maybe port some old code you have worked with to incorporate the new changes. That way you will be able to focus totally only on the new things.
I would not agree about lying. You will be exposed real soon, after which (to go to realistic extremes) you might even get yourself blacklisted. More importantly it is not a good thing to do. I would suggest be upfront with your prospective employer. Tell them about your situation and how you have been trying to get your knowledge updated and I think you should be good to go.
Best of luck with your job hunt
Passion counts for a lot. Here's how I've gotten to where I'm at over the past 30 years. This is just to give you ideas.
For my first job, I worked for free for six months just to get the experience. When a position opened up, they gave it to me because I had proven myself.
Twice, I've taken significant downgrades in pay to get a job with another company because I knew, in the long run, it was a step up.
I remember another job that I got because they required a code sample, and I didn't have one. Nor could I get a copy of something I had done because I had already left my job. I offered to sit down for a couple hours and pop out a batch report program, based on a design spec they had available. No, I didn't finish the program in two hours, but it gave them something to look at and judge my coding skills. It also impressed them that I would take that kind of initiative. They hired me almost immediately.
There is ALWAYS a door open to the ambitious, enthusiastic, and willing to humble themselves enough to take a step down in order to take an eventual step up.
Finally, and I don't mean to insult you, but you should really ask for a heart-to-heart conversation with the person who moved you from development to administration. I have seen this happen before, and it's usually because the person is not a very good developer, but is well liked and so they wanted to find a place within the company for them. I guess what I'm saying is you need to gain an honest objective perspective on your developer abilities. If for no other reason than to find out what level you're truly at and what you should shoot for when looking to get back into it all.
If after doing so, you objectively judge that you truly have what it takes to be a developer, then I would look for an entry level position in a company where they have ongoing needs for developers of all levels. Just be frank, and tell them you are looking to get back into development and are willing to come in as an entry level person for a few months with the condition that they do a re-evaluation of your level after that period and place accordingly within the company.
It's a small gamble for the company to make and they'll be impressed. What companies are looking to avoid is risk (hiring a dud at a high salary and turns out to be a non performer). You need to mitigate that risk so they see they are risking nothing or little.