SKILLED WORKER INDEFINITE LEAVE TO REMAIN
If you have had your Skilled Worker visa for five years and have continuously lived in the UK during this time, you may be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). ILR means that you will be free from immigration restrictions in the UK and is a step towards Naturalisation as a British Citizen. Once you have lived in the UK for 12 months with ILR, you should then become eligible to naturalise as a British citizen. If you are married to a British Citizen and obtain ILR after 5 years’ residence as a Skilled Worker, you may be eligible to apply for Naturalisation without having to wait 12 months.
It is important to understand the full requirements for ILR in order to make the application correctly
What are the requirements to apply for ILR as a Skilled Worker?
There are a number of requirements that need to be fulfilled.
The specific requirements for Skilled Worker Visa holders to apply for ILR are set out in Appendix Skilled Worker. These fall under three categories – eligibility requirements, suitability requirements and validity requirements.
This includes meeting the qualifying period, continuous residence requirements, passing the Life in the UK test and meeting the required salary threshold for your sponsored role.
To qualify, you will need to have lived continuously in the UK for five years. The five years do not need to be solely under a Skilled Worker Visa. The time can be made up of the following:
- Tier 2 (General) or Skilled Worker
- T2 Minister of Religion
- T2/International Sportsperson
- Global talent
- Representative of an overseas business
- Tier 1 (excluding Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur)
However, your most recent permission must be with a Skilled Worker Visa or a Tier 2 (General) visa.
Rules relating to the continuous residence element, are set out in Appendix Continuous Residence. This details how continuous residence is defined by the Home Office. Absences from the UK can break continuous residence and Appendix Continuous Residence outlines how these are calculated and what is included as an absence. Typically, you can be absent from the UK for no more than 180 days in any 12-month period without breaking the continuous residence requirement. Whether your visa application was granted before 11th January 2018, will determine how this is calculated.
If you are outside the UK for more than 180 days, you will need to show that your absence falls under one of the specified exceptions. These can include compelling personal circumstances such as:
- life-threatening illnesses
- death of a family member
Sufficient understanding of the English language and life in the UK is also an important prerequisite. Appendix KOLL outlines how you must demonstrate this requirement.
If you are aged 64 or under at the date of application, you must fulfil the Knowledge of Life in the UK (KOL) requirement. You do not need to supply additional evidence of English, since your English language skillset will have been completed in your initial application. To fulfil the KOL requirement, you must pass the Life in the UK test where you will be given a digital reference number. Your test must be taken with an approved provider and tests need to be booked at least three days in advance with one of the 30 UK test centres.
The final condition under the eligibility requirements is the minimum salary threshold. Your current employer, who sponsors your most recent permission, must still be an approved skilled worker sponsor on the day your ILR application is decided upon. Alongside this, your employer must confirm that your role will be needed going forward and that your salary meets the minimum threshold which must be at least the general salary requirement of £25,600 per year, £10.10 per hour or the ‘going rate’ for your job (whichever is higher).
If your role, where your most recent permission was granted, falls under a shortage occupation, your salary must be at least £20,480 or the going rate. This lower general salary threshold also applies if your role falls under certain healthcare and teaching occupations as specified in Table 2 of Appendix Skilled Occupations as well as where the five-year qualifying period includes time as a Tier 2 (General) worker in specified occupations. These include:
- Some natural and social science professionals
- Research and development managers
- Higher education teaching professionals
There are a number of validity requirements you also need to meet for an ILR application to be successful. These include:
- You must pay the specified fee
- You must have provided biometrics
- You must have provided a valid passport or other travel document to establish your identity and nationality
- You must be in the UK on the date of application
If any of the above are not met, the application will be classed as invalid.
Your application can still be denied unless you also meet the suitability requirements. This could be if you fall under the Home Office’s general grounds for refusal, for example:
- You have false or incomplete information in your application
- You have a criminal record either in the UK or abroad
- You are in breach of the UK’s Immigration Rules such as overstaying
How do I make an ILR application from a Skilled Worker visa?
Once you have verified that you meet the requirements, your application can be made no earlier than 28 days prior to reaching the end of your 5-year qualifying period. Applications need to be online using the www.gov.uk website’s specified form – Settle in the UK in various immigration categories: Form SET (O).
When you complete you ILR application, you will be required to enrol biometric data, which will later be used to issue you with a Biometric Residence Permit.
There is online guidance on how to complete your application and the evidence you need to provide. Applications decisions can take up to six months or longer if your application is complex.
The cost for the application is £2,404 per applicant and you will be able to add your partner and children as long as they meet the eligibility requirements. A priority service is available at an extra change of £500; here you will get a decision within five working days or next working day if you choose the super priority service at a cost of £800 extra.
There is also an additional charge for the Life in the UK test; this costs £50.
Can I extend my Skilled Worker visa?
The Skilled worker route has no time limit. Therefore, if you are not able to successfully complete an ILR application, you should be able to extend your visa to remain in the UK as long as your employer is an approved sponsor, and your role is eligible. You can keep extending your Skilled Worker visa if required as long as you continue to qualify.
Once you’ve completed your 5-year qualifying period, applying for ILR has the significant benefits. Most importantly, you will be free from immigration restrictions, and no longer need to apply for extensions of your Skilled Worker visa. You can also work freely for any employer in the UK, with ILR. Before attempting to apply for ILR, it is important to ensure you meet all of the requirements including eligibility, suitability, or validity. For this, you should consider working with a specialist immigration law firm particularly if your application is more complex.
A Y & J Solicitors is a specialist immigration law firm, with extensive experience in assisting Skilled Workers to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. We have an in-depth understanding of immigration law and are professional and results focused. For assistance with your sponsorship or any other UK immigration law concerns, please contact us on +44 20 7404 7933 or at [email protected] today. We’re here to help!