One of the key benefits of the Tier 2 visa is that it can lead to settlement in the UK under Indefinite Leave to Remain.
With ILR status, individuals can remain in the UK lawfully without having to meet the ongoing conditions and restrictions of the Tier 2 points-based visa, such as sponsorship by a qualifying employer.
Attaining Tier 2 ILR requires the applicant to prove they meet the Home Office requirements for ILR. This entails making an application to the Home Office and compiling extensive supporting documentation. Avoiding issues and errors with the application will be critical to avoid a delayed or refused application.
Whether you are a Tier 2 visa holder looking to make an application for ILR, or an employer wanting to support Tier 2 employees through the process, we look at some of the key areas to be aware of when making a Tier 2 ILR application to the Home Office.
What are the Tier 2 to ILR requirements?
You will become eligible to apply for ILR if you have been in the UK for five years while holding a Tier 2 (General) Visa and you meet the other ILR requirements:
- You are earning the minimum salary threshold or above.
- You have been living and working in the UK for the duration of the qualifying period of five-years.
- You are still employed by a registered Tier 2 sponsor able to legally employ migrant workers.
- You pass the English language requirement and Life in the UK test.
- You have no unspent convictions.
The minimum salary thresholds for applying for ILR from Tier 2 are currently set as follows:
- If applying for ILR before 6 April 2021: £36,200
- If applying for ILR before 6 April 2022: £36,900
- If applying for ILR on or after 6 April 2022: £37,900
If you were granted a Tier 2 (General) visa on or after 6 April 2011, you are limited to a maximum stay in the UK of six years, inclusive of any visa extensions. After this period, you will need to either apply for and secure ILR or leave the UK.
With ILR, you can remain in the UK indefinitely, without restrictions of the Tier 2 visa, you will no longer need to have an employer with a sponsorship licence or to work in a position where there is a UK skills shortage.
ILR qualifying period
One of the ILR requirements is that you have been living in the UK lawfully for five continuous years.
While you will need to be in the UK on a valid Tier 2 visa to apply for ILR, it is possible that the five qualifying years are made from consecutive periods of leave preceding your current Tier 2 visa, which could include:
- Tier 2 (General) Visa
- Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) Visa
- Tier 2 (Sportsperson) Visa
- Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) Visa in some instances
- Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa / Global Talent Visa
- Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa
- Tier 1 (Investor) Migrant
- Tier 1 (General) Migrant
- Work Permit Holder
- Highly Skilled Migrant
- Representative of an Overseas Business
Tier 2 ILR continuous residence & absence
To be eligible for ILR, you must evidence that you meet the 180-day absence rule. The rules in this area changed in 2018, and different calculations apply to periods of leave or entry granted before or after 11th January 2018.
If your leave was issued prior to 11th January 2018, you cannot have been absent from the UK for more than 180 days during the five consecutive 12 month periods.
For entry and leave granted after 11th January 2018, the 180-day rule applies on a rolling basis to any 12 month period during the qualifying period.
The rules for dependent family members of Tier 2 workers also changed in 2018. Absences from the UK during periods of leave granted before 11 January 2018 are not taken into account for continuous residence, but for periods of leave granted after 11 January 2018, PBS dependants are subject to the same rules as the primary visa holder and their absences cannot exceed 180 days in any 12 month period.
In instances of excessive absences that exceed the ILR threshold, depending in the reasons for the absences, it may be possible to seek Home Office discretion as part of your application.
English language & Life in the UK test
One of the requirements of ILR is that applicants satisfy the knowledge of language and life in the UK (KoLL). This includes passing the Life in the UK test. This is a computer-based assessment taken at an approved test centre where you will be asked a series of multiple choice questions relating to British politics, history and culture.
You will need to score 75% to pass. Applicants are advised to prepare in advance.
In addition, you will also have to show that you meet the required standard for English either by:
- having a speaking and listening qualification in English at B1 level or above of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR);
- having a degree that was taught or researched in English; or
- being a national of a majority English-speaking country.
The English language test must be taken at a Home Office-approved centre to be valid.
ILR supporting documents
All supporting documents must be in original form. Photocopies will not be accepted. They must be written in English or Welsh, or otherwise a certified translation is to be provided along with the original document.
The documentation you submit should evidence your eligibility and corroborate the information you provide within your application form. In general, these could include:
- Proof of identity: valid, current passport or travel document; current BRP; two passport sized photographs.
- Continuous residence: council tax statements, utility bills, mortgage statements, tenancy agreements.
- Life in the UK pass notification.
- English language test certificate.
- Finances and work: most recent original Bank/Building Society statement from within one calendar month before the date of application; bank statements for the last 3-6 months showing salary; payslips and P60 for last 3-6 months; contract of employment; letter from current employer confirming that you are still needed to work in your role, you are paid at the correct salary and that you have taken paid annual leave.
Other forms of evidence may be required specific to your circumstances and eligibility, for example if you have been issued with a Police Registration Certificate and need to register with the police, this should be submitted as part of your application, or if you have been married, divorced or changed your name by deed poll.
How soon before Tier 2 leave expires can you apply for ILR?
You may be able to apply for ILR earlier than you think. It is generally thought you can apply 28 days prior to the date you entered the UK, but this is not always the case. If you entered the UK within 3 months of your visa being issued, you might be eligible to apply 28 days prior the issue date on the visa. It is recommended to take advice on your circumstances to ensure the correct timing of the application, as you will be refused ILR if you submit your application more than 28 days before the completion of your five-year qualifying period.
The same consideration applies if you entered the UK after the start of your visa’s validity date. You must have completed the full qualifying period before you can make the ILR application. In some cases, if you arrived weeks after the visa start date, you may have to apply for a visa extension to take to you to the full qualifying period of residence.
Is it possible to switch from Tier 2 ICT to ILR?
For Tier 2 ICT Visas granted after April 6 2010, you are not able to switch from the Tier 2 ICT to ILR. However, under the UK’s new points-based immigration system, ICT visa holders are now permitted to switch to the Skilled Worker visa. Once on the Skilled Worker route, you can become eligible to apply for ILR.
How to switch from Tier 2 to ILR
How long does it take to get British citizenship after ILR?
Before you can apply to naturalise, you need to have held ILR status for at least one year, unless you are married to a UK settled person. If you are the spouse of a UK citizen or a person with UK settled status, you can apply to naturalise as a British citizen after 3 years of holding ILR.
Can ILR status be lost?
ILR can be lost after 2 years’ absence from the UK. Should you wish to return to the UK after an extended absence of more than 2 years, take advice on your immigration options such as the Returning resident visa.
Do you have a question about Tier 2 ILR?
DavidsonMorris are specialist UK immigration solicitors, advising on all aspects of ILR. We work with employers looking to retain sponsored workers by supporting them through the ILR application process and enable them to remain lawfully in the UK, and also with visa holders applying to settle in the UK. For specialist advice, contact us.
Tier 2 to ILR FAQs
Tier 2 to ILR: How to apply?
You apply to adjust your status from Tier 2 to ILR using form Set (O). You will also need to gather and submit relevant supporting documentation to evidence your eligibility.
When can I apply to switch from Tier 2 to ILR?
To adjust your Tier 2 Visa to ILR, you must have spent at least 5 continuous years in the UK. This qualifying period usually starts from the date of the approval of your entry clearance. Applications for ILR should be made before your current Tier 2 leave expires.
How much do I need to earn for Tier 2 to ILR?
For Tier 2 to ILR application made before April 2020, the minimum threshold required is of £35,800. You should still be in a position of employment with a registered sponsor and earn the minimum required salary at the time of your application.
How can DavidsonMorris help?
DavidsonMorris’ experienced UK immigration lawyers are on hand to advise and guide Tier 2 visa holders through the ILR application process.
Last updated: 2nd December 2020