I Am Currently on A Tier 2 Visa, Are There Quicker Options To ILR?

I Am Currently on A Tier 2 Visa, Are There Quicker Options To ILR?

For thousands of UK migrants each year, reaching the point of indefinite leave to remain (ILR) eligibility represents an important landmark.  Not only does ILR allow the individual to remain permanently, but it also means they are free of immigration control, they are able to seek public funds, and they are no longer required to pay the NHS healthcare surcharge.  Little wonder then that securing ILR is so valuable to those who have come to the UK for a new life for themselves and their family.  If you are on a Tier 2 work visa, in order to reach the point of eligibility for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), you will require five years of continuous residence before you can apply.  But, with careful planning, you may be able to switch into another immigration route which will accelerate the process of reaching ILR.  In this article, we will explain the options to reduce the time to ILR and how you can make the switch.

What are the accelerated routes to achieving ILR?

There are two main immigration routes in the UK which have time to ILR of less than five years, these are the:

These are quite different visa routes; the investor visa relies on the applicant having a large amount of funds to invest in the UK, whereas the innovator is predicated on having a novel and viable business idea.

Can I switch from the tier 2 route to an investor or innovator visa?

Yes, under both routes, the Home Office allows current tier 2 visa holders to switch, on the proviso that they meet the criteria of the respective visas.  In addition, if you hold a tier 2 visa, you will be able to make your application from within the UK (however your visa must be valid at the point of submitting your application). 

What are the ILR qualification periods for the investor and innovator visas?

Innovator visa

Under the innovator visa, holders may be eligible to apply for ILR after only three years; two years less than the tier 2 requirement.  

Investor visa

The ILR qualification period for the investor visa depends on the amount invested.  For investor visas acquired on or after 6th November 2014, the ILR qualification periods are as follows:

Time living in the UK      Cash

2 years                                 £10 million

3 years                                 £5 million

5 years                                 £2 million

For those who received their investor visa on or before 6th November 2014, the ILR qualification period depends on the amount of cash, personal assets, or any loans from the UK regulated financial institution.  If your investor visa was received on or before this date, the Home Office website outlines the respective ILR qualification periods.

How do I switch to the innovator or investor visa route?

Both visas can be applied for online; the innovator visa application can be found here; and the investor visa application here.  In addition to completing the online application, you will also need to submit the necessary evidence.  For the innovator visa, you will also need to secure an endorsement from an endorsing body.  It is the role of the endorsing body to listen to your innovative idea and the details of your business plan to determine if yours is a genuinely innovative and viable business. 

For the investor visa, you will need to provide evidence:

  • Of a UK bank account
  • Of how much money you have and where it's being held
  • Of where the money came if held for less than two years
  • That the money can be transferred to the UK and converted to pounds sterling (if currently held outside of the UK)

If the money is held by your partner, you will also need to provide:

  • a certificate of marriage or civil partnership, or in the case of unmarried or same-sex relationships, proof that you are in a long-term relationship (of at least two years)
  • a written statement from your partner confirming that they will allow you to control the funds in the UK
  • a letter from a legal adviser stating that the declaration is valid

What are the eligibility requirements for accelerated ILR?

Being on the innovator or investor visa routes is no guarantee of being granted early ILR in the future.  Under the innovator route, beyond the general requirements such as knowledge of the English language, and meeting the continuous residence requirement (i.e. you have not been out of the UK for more than 180 days in any year), you will need to prove that your idea has been made sufficient progress and is still endorsed by the official endorsing body.  You will need to provide evidence, including your company registration with Companies House.  Business success will be determined by a number of factors such as the number of jobs and customers, and the amount of revenue being generated.  

Investor visa holders will need to demonstrate that the funds included in the initial application have been placed into UK Government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies.  The Home Office will also want to see that the level of investment has been maintained during the period of your investor visa. 

Can my family stay with me in the UK if I switch visa type?

Yes, both visa types allow dependant family members to live with you in the UK; including your wife/husband and your children (under the age of 18, or over 18 if currently studying in the UK).

Final words

Switching from a tier 2 visa to a tier 1 innovator or investor visa may feel like a daunting process.  If you do have the investment funds, or you have an innovative business idea that you believe you can make into a roaring success, you should consider these routes. Not only are they likely more suitable for your needs, but they may also reduce the amount of time you need to secure ILR to remain and live in the UK.  We wish you every success with whichever option you choose.

Related article: Read also 'Getting British Citizenship by Investment in the UK'

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