Settling in the UK as a Skilled Migrant Worker
An immigration solicitor is a bit like a chess player as the job of an immigration lawyer is all about strategy and the next move. That’s why if anyone makes an individual immigration enquiry it is best to explore their settlement plans so advice can be offered to make sure the requested visa is right for the visa applicant now and, if settlement is the goal, the steps needed to achieve indefinite leave to remain.
With the end of free movement for EU citizens it is more important than ever to look at the reasons why skilled migrant worker job applicants are coming to the UK and ask if the intention to get some work experience in the UK and then go home or if the ambition is to settle in the UK.
For expert immigration law advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.
Applying for indefinite leave to remain as a skilled migrant worker
If you are in the UK as a skilled migrant worker on a Tier 2 (General) visa the likelihood is that you are from a non-EEA country. If you are in the UK on a skilled worker visa you may be a non-EEA national or an EU citizen who didn’t arrive in the UK before the 31 December 2020 and who therefore isn’t eligible to apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme .
Wherever you are from, and whatever your nationality, unless you are an EU national who qualifies for settled status, with the end of free movement for EU citizens the route to settlement in the UK is the same.
If you enter the UK on either a Tier 2 (General) visa or a skilled worker visa then these two work visas can lead to UK settlement. This is achieved by an application for indefinite leave to remain in the UK. As the name implies, you can then stay indefinitely in the UK free of immigration controls but without British citizenship. If you wish to do so, then subject to meeting the eligibility criteria, you can go onto apply for British citizenship.
Skilled migrant workers and the five-year settlement route
Skilled workers can apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK after they have lived in the UK for at least five years. There are some visas that provide for accelerated settlement so if you think five years is too long to wait it is best to get expert immigrationlaw advice on your alternate work visa and business visa options.
Eligibility criteria for indefinite leave to remain as a skilled migrant worker
When you first secure your skilled worker visa it is important to think ahead and to bear in mind the eligibility criteria to apply for indefinite leave to remain. That way you can try and ensure that nothing stops you from making your indefinite leave to remain application as soon as you are able to do so.
The most basic of the eligibility criteria for an application for indefinite leave to remain is five years residence in the UK. That may sound simple but the immigration rules are complicated.
Your application for indefinite leave to remain is likely to be rejected (unless you fall within an exemption) if you fail to apply for settlement before your Tier 2 (General) visa or your skilled worker visa expires. You therefore either need to apply to extend your visa or to apply for indefinite leave to remain (once you meet the five-year residence requirement criteria) before your previous visa expires. However, you can't be too efficient as you can only apply for indefinite leave to remain up to twenty-eight days before your work visa is due to expire.
If you submit an application for indefinite leave to remain and the Home Office don’t decide the settlement application before your visa expires then that is OK because you have a pending application. If the ILR application is refused then you need urgent immigration law advice.
The five-year residence requirement
Some indefinite leave to remain applications are refused because the Home Office does not believe that the ILR applicant meets the complicated residence requirements for a settlement application
To secure ILR you must have spent a ‘continuous’ period of five years in the UK. In this context, continuous does not really mean that as the immigration rules say you must not have left the UK for more than 180 days in any twelve-month period if your work visa was granted on or after the 11 January 2018.
If your visa was secured before the 11 January 2018, then you must not have left the UK for more than 180 days during any consecutive twelve-month period. This twelve-month period ends on the same date of the year as the date of your settlement application.
If you have been out of the UK then there are some trips that may not count toward your 180-day limit. For example, travel disruption due to natural disaster or pandemic or what are referred to as ‘compelling’ personal circumstances, such as, the death of a close family member or the category of research work undertaken by specific groups of skilled worker visa holders, such as biological scientists and biochemists.
Other indefinite leave to remain eligibility criteria
In addition to the five-year continuous and lawful residence requirement there are some other indefinite leave to remain eligibility criteria for skilled worker visa holders, namely:
- An applicant must not meet the general grounds for refusal. For example, because of immigration history or offending behaviour.
- An applicant must not be in breach of immigration laws or on immigration bail.
- The applicant must pass life in the UK test to meet the Knowledge of Life in the UK requirement unless the applicant meets one of a very limited number of exceptions.
- The applicant must earn a salary of at least £25,600 per year and the going rate for the occupation code for their skilled worker visa unless special rules apply, such as if the job is on the shortage occupation list or in a health category . If the special rules apply the minimum salary threshold to apply for indefinite leave to remain, after meeting the residence requirement on a skilled worker visa, is £20,480 per year. It is best to take expert legal advice on whether a salary meets the indefinite leave to remain requirements because of the complexities of meeting the going rate for the job criteria.
- The applicant must be in sponsored employment with an employer with a Home Office sponsor licence with the employer able to confirm that the ILR applicant will work for them and be paid at the required salary threshold for the foreseeable future.
UK immigration solicitors
For expert skilled worker visa assistance and indefinite leave to remain advice on settling in the UK on a work visa call the immigration law team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online. Appointments are available by phone or video call.