Can I Combine Time Spent on a Tier 2 General Visa and a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa for the Five Years Continuous Route for ILR?
For many migrant workers coming to the UK, the ultimate aim is to acquire permanent residence (also referred to as indefinite leave to remain – ILR) and citizenship. The benefits of holding ILR status are considerable. Not only can permanent residents stay in the UK, but they are also able to work for any employer (not just a licensed sponsor), study, access the National Health Service (NHS) at no cost and claim benefits if ever required. Depending on which visas you have held while in the UK, you will typically be able to apply for ILR after five years of continuous residence here, but in some cases, this can be as short as two years for investor visa holders. In this article, we will discuss whether it is possible for migrants to combine the time they have spent in the UK on Tier 2 or Skilled Worker visa with time spent on a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa to reach the five years qualifying period for indefinite leave to remain.
Can I Combine Spent On Tier 2 And Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa To Qualify For ILR?
Yes, the immigration rules state that for Tier 2 (General) visa holders, the five-year qualifying time required for ILR can include time spent on any of the following visa types:
- Tier 2 (General) or Skilled Worker
- Tier 2 Minister of Religion
- Tier 2 Sportsperson
- Tier 1, but not Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
- A representative of an Overseas Business
- Global Talent
As such, if you have switched from a Tier 1 visa to a Tier 2 or Skilled Worker visa, the time you have already spent in the UK will not be ‘reset’. While it is possible to combine time in the UK on these visa types, in order to take advantage of the accelerated qualifying periods for Tier 1 investor visa holders, applicants must have spent all of the time on that visa type. As a reminder, investor visa holders can apply for ILR if they invest £10m or more, or three years if they invest £5m or more in the UK.
What Are The Other ILR Eligibility Criteria For Tier 2 (General) Visa Or Skilled Worker Visa Holders?
If you currently hold a Tier 2 (General) work visa or a Skilled Worker visa, once you reach the five-year qualifying period (which may include time spent on a Tier 1 visa), you can apply for ILR if:
- you have a Tier 2 (General) visa or a Skilled Worker visa
- you’ve been living and working in the UK for five years and spent no more than 180 days outside the UK in any 12 months (‘continuous residence’)
- your employer (sponsor) still needs you for your job - they’ll need to provide a document confirming this
- your job meets the salary requirements
Hence, rather than applying for a further extension to your Tier 2 work visa, you will have the option of applying for permanent residency if you meet these criteria. Even though you may be eligible for ILR, however, you still need to be in the job for which you are sponsored with a salary that meets the minimum requirements for a work visa. Under the current Skilled Worker visa rules, this is currently £25,600, but this may be lower depending on the ‘going rate’ for your job.
In addition to the above rules, applicants for ILR also need to pass the Life In the UK Test.
What Are The ILR Eligibility Criteria For Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa Holders?
If you are currently in the UK on Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa, you will be able to apply for ILR if you have created enough jobs or income. If you are applying after holding your entrepreneur visa for three years, you must have created ten new full-time jobs or generated £5 million in income if you set up a new business. For those who took over an existing business, to acquire ILR after three years, you must be able to prove you had a net income from business activity of at least £5 million during that period. If you do not meet these employment or income thresholds, you will likely need to apply for ILR on the basis of five continuous years in the UK. Regardless of whether you are applying under the three or five-year routes to ILR as an entrepreneur visa holder, your continuous qualifying period can only include time spent on an entrepreneur, businessperson, or innovator visa.
What Is Meant By ‘Continuous Period’?
When you apply to the Home Office for ILR, the case officer assessing your application will check that the qualifying time you have spent in the UK is ‘continuous’ (i.e. there are no breaks in your time in the UK). This does not literally mean you must have been in the UK during the whole period. Applicants are allowed to have been outside of the UK for up to 180 days in any 12-month period. If you have spent more than 180 days outside of the UK in any 12-month period, your application for ILR may be refused. That said, the Home Office may exercise discretion in some cases, such as:
- serious illness of the applicant or a close relative
- a conflict
- a natural disaster, for example, volcanic eruption or tsunami
It is possible that COVID-19 would be a strong ground for being outside of the UK for longer than 180 days; for example, if you were unable to return due to local travel restrictions in the country you were visiting, or if you had COVID-19 and were required to self-isolate and unable to travel.
Before submitting your final application for ILR, it is recommended that you double-check your timings to ensure you meet the continuous qualifying period in the UK. It is possible to submit a ‘subject access request ’ to the Home Office for a copy of your immigration history to allow you to check and prove this is the case. For further expert assistance or clarification, you can speak to an experienced immigration solicitor.
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