Tier 2 Visa Duration: How long can I stay in the UK on a Tier 2?
Many Tier 2 General Visa holders wonder about their options for leaving the UK for extended periods. Whether it is to visit loved ones in another country, or just to take an extended holiday, there are various reasons as to why a Tier 2 General Visa holder would wish to leave the UK for a long period of time, but how does this affect your visa conditions? Well, in this article, we are going to look at your options if you are looking to leave the country for an extended period, and how any break may affect your visa conditions.
How Long Can I Stay Outside The UK On A Tier 2 General Visa?
The rules on absences from the UK are somewhat unclear when it comes to the Tier 2 General Visa. In essence, you could leave for a very long period of time and still return to the UK without issue as long as you remain employed and still have your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). The problem that you would have is if you were looking to settle in the UK at the end of your visa. If you were looking to settle, you would need to gain Indefinite Leave to Remain after being in the UK legally for five years. In order to settle, you need to have not left the UK for more than 180 days in any of the five years (and you cannot have left the UK for more than 540 days in total - this will be checked during your ILR application) during your stay in the UK.
So, if you are looking to settle in the UK, you need to ensure that you do not leave the UK for more than 180 days in any of the five years that you are in the UK. If you are not looking to settle then perhaps this isn't quite so much of an issue, but you will still need to ensure that this period of absence is approved by your employer to ensure that you remain compliant with your visa. Your sponsor is duty-bound to inform the Home Office if you are absent without leave, and this is likely to affect your ability to return to the UK.
So how long can you stay in the UK for on a Tier 2 General Visa?
The Tier 2 General Visa gives you an initial period of stay of up to 5 years and 14 days. Means that will be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK this is the principal aim many migrants that choose to use the Tier 2 General Visa to travel to the UK and is by far the most common route for non-EEA migrants to enter the UK to live and work.
You can also extend this period up to a maximum of 6 years and this should be sufficient for those that are planning to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) should they choose to do so.
Do I Have To Get Approval To Leave The Country For Extended Periods On A Tier 2 General Visa?
Yes, absolutely. Your employer is duty-bound to inform the Home Office if one of their sponsored employees fails to show up for work or takes unapproved leave. This ensures that the Home Office is aware that the Tier 2 General Visa holder has failed to uphold their visa conditions. This, as you can imagine, will likely end up in your visa being cancelled, and your right to stay in the UK removed. For this reason, it is important that your absence is always approved by your sponsor before you take your leave.
We understand that it may be frustrating that your sponsor may not grant your request for leave (especially if it is for a long period of time), but you must ensure that you remain compliant. If you did leave the country without approved absence, it is highly likely that you would not be able to re-enter the country due to your Biometric Residence Permit being cancelled.
Will Extended Breaks Affect My Ability To Remain In The UK?
Yes, potentially. As we covered in an earlier section, in order to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, you will need to ensure that you have not left the UK for more than 180 days in any individual year (and that you have not spent more than 540 days outside of the UK in total over the five years). This is to ensure that you have been normally resident in the UK and not in another country.
If you have spent more than 180 days outside of the UK in a single year then it is unlikely that you will be able to successfully apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. As the maximum length of Tier 2 General Visas is six years (you can have an initial period of up to five years and 14 days and then an extension to take you up to six), any individual stay outside of the UK of more than 180 days is likely to mean you will not be able to satisfy the requirements of Indefinite Leave to Remain after five years. In this instance, you will either have to leave the UK at the end of your visa or find an alternative option such as switching visas.
What Can I Do If My Sponsor Will Not Agree To A Long Break?
As you rely on your sponsor to maintain your ability to stay in the UK, it is vital that you comply with their company rules and regulations. It is rare that any employer will turn down a leave application without good reason, but extended absences can do potential harm to your sponsor's business and leave them short of staff. You should discuss the possibility of taking extended leave as early as possible and not make travel plans until your leave has been agreed. Often employers will be willing to be flexible, but you will need to try and ensure that your leave will cause minimal disruption
If your sponsor does not agree to a long break then you should discuss your options with your company's HR department. Often there will be a very good reason for the refusal, and you should try to work with them to find a compromise (such as a shorter break or a different time of the year). It is vital that you do not decide to just leave, as you will be putting yourself at risk of losing your right to stay in the UK.
How hard is it to extend a Tier 2 General Visa?
In general, as long as you haven't changed employers or job role within the initial visa period then you should have no issues get an extension to your visa. With an extension you should take you up to your five years in the UK so that you can then apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) - if you are experiencing any issues with your extension application then please get in touch and our immigration specialists can help by looking at your case and helping with your application for an extension.
But in general Tier 2 visa extensions are reasonably straightforward and as long as not too many circumstances have changed there should be no reason to panic. If you are concerned then please get in touch and our specialists can help you further with your immigration query.
How hard is it to obtain a Tier 2 General Visa in the first place?
The Tier 2 visa is dependent on several factors, among these are non-negotiable such as a minimum earnings requirement and receiving a certificate of sponsorship (COS) which means that you have a firm offer of employment from a UK based Tier 2 Sponsor Licence holder. It is these non negotiable which are used to ensure eligibility criteria for would-be migrants and it means that you for match the criteria required for applying for a Tier 2 General Visa.
As well as the earnings requirements and job requirements you would also be required to prove that you have a decent level of English language - there are a few ways to prove this and it may not be necessary depending on your country of origin i.e. a commonwealth country as many of these are English speaking natively and will not require proof.
Can I become a British citizen from a Tier 2 General Visa?
Not directly no, but if you spend the appropriate 5 years in the UK and you have had less than 540 days in total outside of the UK and more than 90 days in any one year then you will be eligible to apply to become a naturalised citizen once you have spent 12 months of having Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK. The process of naturalisation can be tough, but is very worth the benefit of becoming a British citizen and no longer having to worry about immigration controls.
Can I have dependents on a Tier 2 Visa?
Yes, you can have a spouse and dependents, but you will need to be able to prove you have adequate accommodation for them and can afford to support their stay in the UK. This proof will be done by needing to have a higher minimum income and a reasonable level of savings in order to support their stay. For more information on Tier 2 Dependant visas, you can speak to our immigration lawyers will be able to point you in the right direction to get the information that you need on the subject.
Can I switch from a Tier 2 General Visa to another Visa route?
It is possible to switch from a Tier 2 General visa to some of the other UK visa routes, these are usually going to depend on whether you fit the eligibility criteria for the one that you are looking for. I.e. if you want to switch to a Tier 1 route such as the Investor route, you would need to fit the eligibility criteria for one of that specific route. If you do fit the appropriate eligibility criteria then you should be able to switch. if you are concerned about any change to your eligibility to stay in the UK long-term then please get in touch as every case is slightly different and we would need to look at your case individually to discuss the options with you.
It is not uncommon for people to switch visas to one that is more suitable, or in the case of the Tier 2 General Visa, switch due to a change in circumstances, such as the loss of a job or their Sponsor Licence holder losing their eligibility to offer Certificates of Sponsorship. If this has affected you then please get in touch and we'll be happy to discuss your options.
Where can I go for more help? If you need help with your Tier 2 General Visa query then please get in touch. Our team of expereinced immigration solicitors can help you with your immigration query and give you the advice that you need. We can also help you when it comes to dealing with your employer, and offer you all the assistance that you need in order to remain compliant. Call today for a free, no-obligation consultation with a member of our expert team.