Can Skilled Workers Apply for Settlement (ILR) in the UK?

This guidance relates to UK Skilled Worker Visa Settlement aka Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) Requirements. The Skilled Worker Visa UK has replaced the Tier 2 General (aka work permit) in 2020. However, unlike Tier 2 General, this new route for skilled workers can lead to permanent settlement (ILR) in the UK. Please note, migrants on Tier 2 (General) workers can apply for settlement under the Skilled Worker route.

1. Overview 2. Validity 3. Suitability 4. Eligibility 5. Guidance Notes

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1. Overview

UK Skilled Worker Visa to Settlement (ILR) Requirements

In terms of Appendix Skilled Worker, a migrant need to meet the following validity, suitability, and eligibility requirements for Settlement (ILR):

  • Validity Requirements for Skilled Worker Visa UK to ILR (Settlement): The Paragraphs SW 19.1. to SW 19.4 of Appendix Skilled Worker outline the minimum criteria which an applicant needs to fulfill for the further considerations. For instance, the applicant has used the correct form and supplied their identity documents. Applications which do not meet validity requirements are rejected as invalid.
  • Suitability Requirements for Skilled Worker Visa UK to ILR (Settlement): The Paragraphs SW 20.1. to SW 20.2 of Appendix Skilled Worker relates to the suitability of the applicant for Settlement (ILR) in the UK, not specifically whether they qualify as a Skilled Worker. Applicants must not fall for refusal on general grounds or be in breach of immigration laws. Applications which do not meet these requirements are refused.
  • Eligibility Requirements for Skilled Worker Visa to ILR (Settlement): The Paragraphs SW 21.1. to SW 24.4 of Appendix Skilled Worker relates to the specific eligibility criteria. Applications which do not meet these requirements are refused.
Skilled Worker Visa UK to Settlement ILR

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2. Validity

UK Skilled Worker Visa to Settlement (ILR) Requirements

Before considering suitability and eligibility requirements, the Immigration Officer/Home Office check the validity of the application under the paragraphs SW 19.1. to SW 19.4 of Appendix Skilled Worker Visa, which relate to Application Form SET (O), Application Fees, Biometrics, and Identity Documents.

2.1 Application Form SET(O)

A migrant applying for settlement as a Skilled Worker needs to apply online on the gov.uk website on SET(O).

2.2 Application Fees

The UK Skilled Worker visa applicants need to pay the relevant application fees.

The standard ILR fees for settlement under the Skilled Worker Visa UK are £2,389. The ILR Processing Time for Skilled Worker Settlement applications is 6-months. However, migrants can use the super-priority (premium) ILR service to fast-track settlement applications. Accordingly, the Home Office Fees for the same day (24 hours) processing of indefinite leave to remain (ILR) for Skilled Worker Visa settlement applications are £3,189/- i.e. application fees £2,389/- plus the cost of super-priority visa service £800.

2.3 Biometrics and Identity Documents

At the time of ILR application for settlement under the Skilled Worker route, migrants in the UK need to provide their biometrics. These biometrics details are verified against a valid passport or other travel document of the applicants,

2.4 Immigration Status

On the date of the application, the migrant need to be in the UK as a Skilled Worker.

Validity Requirements for Settlement as a Skilled Worker

SW 19.1. A person applying for settlement as a Skilled Worker must apply online on the gov.uk website on the specified form, “Settle in the UK in various immigration categories: form SET(O)”.
SW 19.2. An application for settlement as a Skilled Worker must meet all the following requirements:
(a) any fee must have been paid; and
(b) the applicant must have provided any required biometrics; and
(c) the applicant must have provided a passport or other travel document which satisfactorily establishes their identity and nationality; and
(d) the applicant must be in the UK on the date of application.
SW 19.3. The applicant must have, or have last been granted, permission as a Skilled Worker.
SW 19.4. An application which does not meet the validity requirements for settlement as a Skilled Worker is invalid and may be rejected and not considered

Immigration Rules Appendix Skilled Worker

3. Suitability

UK Skilled Worker Visa to Settlement (ILR) Requirements

For settlement applications, the migrant in the UK need to meet the suitability requirements under Paragraphs SW20.1 and SW 20.2 of Appendix Skilled Worker. Therefore, in terms of paragraph SW20.1 the Skilled Worker Visa applicant must not fall for refusal under Part 9: grounds for refusal. Moreover, as per paragraph SW20.2 a migrant applying for settlement must not be:

  • in breach of immigration laws, except that where paragraph 39E applies, that period of overstaying will be disregarded; or
  • on immigration bail

Suitability Requirements for Settlement as a Skilled Worker

SW20.1. The applicant must not fall for refusal under Part 9: grounds for refusal
SW20.2. The applicant must not be:
(a) in breach of immigration laws, except that where paragraph 39E applies, that period of overstaying will be disregarded; or
(b) on immigration bail.

Immigration Rules Appendix Skilled Worker

4. Eligibility

UK Skilled Worker Visa to Settlement (ILR) Requirements

In terms of Appendix Skilled Worker, eligibility requirements for settlement as a Skilled Worker relates to Qualifying Period, Knowledge of Life in the UK, Salary and Sponsorship.

4.1 Qualifying Period

The migrant need to spend a continuous period of 5 years in the UK, consisting of time with permission in any of, or any combination of, the following routes:

  • Skilled Worker
  • Tier 2 (General)
  • Global Talent
  • Innovator
  • T2 Minister of Religion / Tier 2 (Minister of Religion)
  • T2 Sportsperson / Tier 2 (Sportsperson)
  • Representative of an Overseas Business
  • Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)
  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
  • High Value migrants such as Tier 1 (Investor)
  • Tier 1 (General)

The most recent permission must have been in either the Skilled Worker or Tier 2 (General) route. An applicant does not need to have switched from Tier 2 (General) to Skilled Worker before applying for settlement as a Skilled Worker, as the definition of Skilled Worker in the Immigration Rules includes those with permission in the Tier 2 (General) route.

Absences from the UK must be considered in line with Appendix Continuous Residence.

CR 2.1. To meet the continuous residence requirement the applicant must not have been outside the UK for more than 180 days in any 12-month period (unless CR 2.2. applies).

Appendix Continuous Residence

4.2 Knowledge of life in the UK

The applicant must meet the Knowledge of Life in the UK requirement as set out in Appendix KOL UK. They do not need to meet an English language requirement for settlement, as they will have met this in their previous Skilled Worker application.

2.3 For the purposes of sub-paragraph (1), an applicant demonstrates sufficient knowledge about life in the United Kingdom if:
(a) the applicant has passed the test known as the “Life in the UK test” administered by an educational institution or other person approved for this purpose by the Secretary of State; or

Appendix KOL UK

4.3 Sponsorship and Salary

The eligibility rules (paragraph SW 24.1) require the sponsor to still hold a Skilled Worker licence. The sponsor must confirm they require the applicant to work for them for the foreseeable future, and the applicant will be paid at least the minimum salary in paragraph SW 24.3. The sponsor should not assign a new CoS for this purpose – an e-mail or letter is sufficient, if sponsor can readily verify it.

For skilled worker settlement applications there is no reduction to the £25,600 threshold for relevant PhD qualifications or new entrants. Moreover, there is no reduction to the going rate, for any reason. However, the £10.10 minimum hourly rate does not currently apply to settlement applications. Therefore, for most of the settlement applications under the Skilled Worker route, the minimum salary requirements are at least £25,600 per year and at least the going rate for the job (whichever is higher) with the following exceptions:

Exceptions

This salary must be at least £20,480 per year and at least the going rate for the job (whichever is higher), if any of the following circumstances apply:

  • the applicant was sponsored in their most recent permission for a job in a shortage occupation (this includes cases where their job was removed from Appendix Shortage Occupation List, but they were sponsored to continue working in the same job for the same sponsor)
  • the applicant was sponsored in their most recent permission in a health or education occupation code listed in Table 2 of Appendix Skilled Occupations
  • 5-year qualifying period for settlement includes time in Tier 2 (General), during which the migrant was sponsored in one of the following occupation codes:
    • 2111 Chemical scientists
    • 2112 Biological scientists and biochemists
    • 2113 Physical scientists
    • 2114 Social and humanities scientists
    • 2119 Natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified
    • 2150 Research and development managers
    • 2311 Higher education teaching professionals

The transitional arrangement at paragraph SW 14.5(c), for applicants sponsored in occupation codes 2113, 2119 and 2311, also applies to settlement applications where all the requirements of SW 14.5(c) are met.

Please note, if the salary at settlement is below the salary set out in the CoS for the most recent permission, then the Home Office may consider whether there have been previous breaches of conditions. However, there may be legitimate reasons for a reduction in salary.

For further details please refer to What is the Minimum Salary for Skilled Worker Visa UK?

5. Guidance Notes

UK Skilled Worker Visa to Settlement (ILR) Requirements 2021

For settlement applications, the considerations for salary assessment are the same as that for entry clearance or leave to remain applications. Therefore, the Home Office consider the salary for the first 48 hours a week towards the £20,480 or £25,600 threshold.

The salary may only include the applicant’s sponsored job, and not the earnings from supplementary employment. If the applicant is undertaking secondary employment, they can use the salary linked to either sponsor, but cannot combine salaries from both.

Verification

To verify the salary, the Home may check the applicant’s PAYE records for the past 12 months. Therefore, applicants need to provide the payslips and either a bank/building society statement or building society passbook, covering their most recent month’s pay, with their skilled worker settlement (ILR) application. These documents should be dated no earlier than 31 days before the date of application. The Home Office usually do not check the records for the past 12 months unless it has particular concerns.

If the evidence does not support the minimum salary requirements, then the Home Office may consider requesting further information from the sponsor. Accordingly, the Home Office may assess the credibility of such claims, on the balance of probabilities based on the following factors:

  • the size of any pay increase
  • whether the applicant has already been paid the increase and for how long
  • evidence the applicant has been offered a promotion and/or increased responsibilities
  • evidence the sponsor’s business can support the salary increase

This is not an exhaustive list. Generic explanations, unsupported by evidence, should not be accepted.

Absences from Work

An applicant may currently be absent from work for any of the following reasons:

  • statutory maternity leave, paternity leave or parental leave
  • statutory adoption leave
  • sick leave
  • assisting with a national or international humanitarian or environmental crisis (providing their sponsor agreed to the absence for that purpose)
  • taking part in legally organised industrial action

If the sponsor has stated the applicant is currently absent from work for one of these reasons or has returned from such an absence within the month before the date of application, they may currently be on reduced or nil pay. In such instances, the Home Office may consider applicant’s salary on their return to work, as stated by their sponsor.

Moreover, the Home Office may ask the sponsor to confirm the dates of the absence or absence (if they have not already done so) and check earlier PAYE records if necessary.

Decision

If a migrant satisfies all the suitability and eligibility requirements for settlement as a Skilled Worker, then Home Office will grant ILR. If the Home Office refuses the settlement application under the Skilled Worker route, then there is no right of appeal against the refusal. However, a migrant can file an administrative review against the refusal decision. If the administrative review is not successful, then can file a judicial review to challenge the refusal.