If you’re currently working in the UK in a skilled job role, either under a Skilled Worker visa or the previous Tier 2 (General) work visa, and you are facing the possibility of losing your job, you will undoubtedly want to know what visa options are available to you to be able to remain in the UK.
In the guide, we explain the visa implications of losing your job, providing guidance on the steps you may be able to take to retain lawful status after termination of employment.
What will happen to your visa if you lose your job?
If you are currently working in the UK under either a Skilled Worker visa or its predecessor the Tier 2 visa, the validity of that visa will usually be dependent on you remaining employed by the same employer and continuing to work in the same role for which leave was granted.
As such, if your employment is terminated — regardless of whether you are made redundant, dismissed or resign from your job — this is likely to impact the validity of your visa and your permission to remain in the UK.
In most cases, this means that you will need to consider alternative visa options as a matter of urgency, otherwise you risk having to leave the UK.
How long will your visa last if you lose your job?
Losing your job essentially means that you will no longer be meeting the conditions of your visa under the Skilled Worker or Tier 2 route. This is because you must continue to be employed under either one of these routes to maintain lawful status in the UK. As such, even if you were given a visa for a number of years, this period could be significantly curtailed if you are made redundant, dismissed or resign from your sponsored job role.
However, for most overseas workers whose sponsored job role is terminated early, they will not immediately be at risk of being deported. This is because there is a 60-day period following cessation of employment to apply for a new visa or make arrangements to leave. This means that you will have 60 days, or until expiry of your visa, whichever is the shorter, to explore your options before you will be classed as overstaying and in the UK illegally.
If you lose your job, regardless of the reason for this, your employer – as a licensed sponsor – is required to report this to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) within 10 working days. Specifically, they must inform UKVI that they have stopped sponsoring you and that your contract of employment has ended earlier than the date shown on your Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).
You should receive a letter from UKVI soon after, explaining your curtailment of leave. The 60-day period will then begin from receipt of this letter. In limited cases, UKVI have the power to curtail leave with immediate effect, although this is unlikely to apply where, for example, you have been laid off through no fault of your own.
Can you stay on the same visa if you lose your job?
If you lose your job as an overseas worker, either under a Skilled Worker visa or the Tier 2 (General) work visa, you may be able to remain in the UK on the same visa type, provided you can secure a qualifying new job role with a different employer licensed to sponsor skilled workers. Importantly, if you are an existing Tier 2 (General) worker, you can still apply for a change of employment under the Skilled Worker route.
However, under the Skilled Worker rules, if you change your job and your new job is with a different employer, even if that job meets the requisite skill and salary requirements for the same category of visa, you will still need to apply to UKVI to update your grant of leave. You will also need to provide a fresh CoS from your prospective employer to prove that your job meets the relevant requirements under the Skilled Worker route, together with other evidence, such as proof of your knowledge of English and proof of financial means to support yourself if you have been in the UK for less than one year when you apply.
You can work out any notice period in your current job while your new application is being assessed by UKVI, as long as you apply before your existing leave expires. However, you must not start your new job until your application has been approved. You must also not travel outside of the UK until you get a decision, otherwise risk your application being withdrawn. You will usually get a decision within 8 weeks of your visa application date.
Can you switch to a different visa if you lose your job?
If you are unable to secure alternative employment in a qualifying sponsored job role, you may need to consider switching to a different visa. There are a number of work visa options for those with the qualifications and experience to fill vital skills gaps in the UK’s domestic labour market. These include, among others:
- The High Potential Individual (HPI) visa: a HPI visa will give you permission to stay in the UK for at least 2 years, or 3 years if you have a PhD or other doctoral qualification. To apply, you must have been awarded a qualification by an eligible university within the last 5 years. As an unsponsored route, you do not need a job offer to apply, where leave under the HPI route will give you the flexibility to work in most jobs, look for work and even work for yourself. Although you cannot extend an HPI visa, you may be able to switch to a different visa prior to its expiry, including re-applying for a Skilled Worker visa.
- The Scale-Up Worker visa: this visa will allow you to undertake an eligible job role paying a minimum salary for a fast-growing UK business. As an initially sponsored route, an employer must be an eligible scale-up business and licensed to sponsor this category of worker, although your sponsorship will only last for 6 months. If successful, you will be granted a Scale-Up visa for a period of 2 years, giving you the flexibility to leave your sponsored job role after just 6 months to work in an unsponsored role for someone else, as long as any new job role continues to meet the minimum earnings requirement.
- The Start-Up visa: this visa is if you are looking to set up an innovative new business in the UK, although your business idea must be endorsed by either a UK higher education provider or a business with a track record of supporting UK-based entrepreneurs. As a Start-Up visa holder, you will be able to work in another job in the UK at the same time as working for your own business, giving you the means to support yourself in the early stages. Like the HPI visa, the Start-Up visa cannot be extended, although you may be able to switch to the Innovator visa to enable you to further build your UK business.
You may also be eligible, for example, for a Partner visa, if you have a UK or UK-settled spouse or cohabiting partner, or even a Student visa, if you have the offer of a place on a course by a licensed student sponsor in the UK and can pay for that course.
Importantly, whichever visa option you choose, you must ensure that you are eligible to apply, and submit the correct documentation in support, to minimise the risk of your application being refused. You must also submit your application prior to expiry of your existing leave to remain. In this way, you will not be at risk of overstaying. This is because you will be permitted to stay in the UK until a decision has been made by UKVI, even if your leave expires whilst an application is pending, provided your application is in time.
Can you apply for indefinite leave to remain if you lose your job?
If you have been living in the UK continuously for a period of 5 years under either a Skilled Worker visa or the old Tier 2 (General) work visa under the previous rules, you may now be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR). Your 5-year continuous residence can be a combination of time spent under Tier 2 (General) and the new Skilled Worker route, although you do not need to have switched from Tier 2 (General) to Skilled Worker before applying for settlement as a Skilled Worker. This is because the definition of Skilled Worker under the Immigration Rules includes those with permission in the Tier 2 (General) route.
However, to be eligible for ILR, also known as settlement, the rules require that you continue to be sponsored by a licensed employer, where the employer must confirm that they require you to work for them and that you will be paid at least the minimum salary for the foreseeable future. Although your sponsor does not need to assign a new sponsorship certificate for the purpose of you making an application for settlement, where an e-mail or letter should usually suffice, this may need to be verified with the sponsor if necessary.
Losing your job can therefore seriously impact your ability to apply to settle in the UK on a permanent basis, where you would need to find alternative employment that meets the requisite requirements under the Skilled Worker rules. You would also need to do so before your existing leave expires so as not to break your lawful continuous residence.
It is worth noting that UKVI caseworkers have the ability to quickly and easily check the status of your sponsorship using an online CoS checking system. As such, UKVI will be fully aware that you have recently lost your job, where your employer is under a duty to inform UKVI if the employment contract of a sponsored worker has been terminated. In these circumstances, your application would not only be refused, but using deception when applying for a visa can negatively impact any future applications. It could also result in your leave being curtailed with immediate effect, as well as deportation and a ban on re-entry.
What will happen if you lose your job and decide to leave the UK?
If you lose your job as a sponsored overseas worker, it is a matter for you as to whether to look for alternative employment or to make arrangements to leave the UK. You may have been reaching the end of your contract of employment in any event or, for various other reasons, feel like the time is right to return home or start the next chapter in your life.
However, you must either make an application to UKVI for further leave to remain or make arrangements to leave the UK within the period required, where any period of overstaying will put you at risk of being deported. This can also affect your ability to apply for a visa at a later date, even if an application is made from outside the UK. Overstaying in the UK may also lead to a ban on re-entry, even if you leave the UK voluntarily at your own expense.
Seeking expert advice as soon as possible from a specialist in immigration law, tailored to your circumstances, can help to maximise your prospects of being able to stay in the UK after losing your job.
Visa termination of employment FAQs
What happens to your visa if you lose your job?
If you are an overseas worker in the UK and you are either made redundant, dismissed or resign from a sponsored job role, your employer is duty bound to report this to the Home Office who can cancel your visa.
What happens to my Tier 2 visa if I quit my job?
If you quit your job, your Tier 2 visa will be cut short. You may have to leave the UK unless you can secure a qualifying new sponsored job offer or you are eligible to apply for a different visa.
Can my employer cancel my Tier 2 visa?
The net effect of any dismissal or redundancy by your existing employer will be to curtail your Tier 2 visa. You will therefore need to apply to update your visa with a new employer or apply for a different visa.
When can I resign from Skilled Worker visa?
If you resign from your sponsored job role whilst living in the UK under a Skilled Worker visa, you will be at risk of having your leave curtailed and being deported. Expert legal advice should always be sought before resigning.
Last updated: 5 March 2023