In the United Kingdom, migrants who have been given a chance to work and authorised by UKVI are likely to use a Tier 2 Visa, which is now called the Skilled Worker Visa. People under this Visa route are employees who have come to the UK for the purposes of employment.
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A Skilled Worker Visa (formerly called the Tier 2 Visa) allows you to enter and live in the United Kingdom for employment and, of course, with a job offer from a licensed employer who must sponsor you as the applicant. To make an application for the Skilled Worker Visa, you must have a job confirmation offer provided by a Home-Office approved sponsor.
However, there is a certain concern that bothers nearly every Tier 2 or Skilled Worker Visa holder, and this is whether they can be outside the country, and for how long, and whether the decision to stay outside the country for a period will affect their future stay in the UK.
Well, this article seeks to shed more light on that area of concern to help the Visa holders avoid UK absences that might have an adverse effect on their plan to settle in the country in future.
How long can I stay outside the United Kingdom on Tier 2 Visa?
A UK Tier 2 Visa / Skilled Worker Visa holder is allowed to live and work in the UK for up to 5 years. During this period, you might want to visit another country for some reason, be it work-related or just for a casual visit. Fortunately, the Visa allows you to make such international travel as long as you meet other immigration requirements. Better still, your stay outside the United Kingdom on a Tier 2 General Visa or Skilled Worker Visa is never limited as long as your current Visa status indicates that you are still under employment and your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) is also intact.
Besides, your period of absence should be approved by your employer, and the information submitted to the Home Office for reference when you’ll be returning to the country. Your employer is obliged to notify the Home Office of your authorised absence. Otherwise, failure to get approval from your employer will affect your ability to return to the UK after your off-country stay, as the UK immigration officers are likely to deny you entry upon learning that your absence was not approved by your employer.
So, you can stay outside the UK for as long as you want, provided you have the permission of your employer. A problem will only arise if you have the intention to get settled in the UK after the expiry of your work Visa because you will have to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain just before the expiry of the Visa after five years of your stay in the country on the Visa.
In most cases, employees under the Tier 2 General Visa or Skilled Worker Visa categories will want to extend their Visa towards the end of the five years of their legal stay in the UK. This is where the application for indefinite leave to remain comes in handy. The indefinite leave to remain should be applied 28 days before the end of the five years in the UK as long as you are a qualified resident and you are ready to proceed with your employment.
Can Taking A Prolonged Stay Outside the UK Affect Eligibility to Indefinite Leave to Remain?
Yes, it can. For you to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, you should not have gone outside the country for more than 180 days within any year of your five-year stay in the country on the Tier 2 or skilled worker Visas. Therefore, if you intend to be outside the country for more than 540 days in the course of five years, you need to reconsider your plan if you want your future indefinite leave to remain application to be successful.
The Home Office keeps a record of the number of days you stay outside the UK over the validity period of your worker or skilled worker Visa. That’s why your employer is required to report to the immigration department any time you leave the country. When returning, the immigration officers will note your return date to establish how long you’ve been outside the country.
The immigration department keeps a record of all your absences (whether authorised or not) for each of the five years for future reference. So, when you are applying for indefinite leave to remain, the Home Office will assess your absence record to determine your eligibility.
What If My Employer Refuses to Approve My Request To Leave the UK for Extended Time On A Tier 2 or Skilled Worker Visa Visa?
As earlier mentioned, if you are in the UK on a Tier 2 or Skilled Worker Visa, you need the permission of your employer to take a break outside the country. In case you have not resumed work, or you are leaving the country probably for holidays, your employer should give that information to the Home Office so that also they can be informed of your Visa condition.
If the conditions have changed, for instance, the employer has terminated your work contract, the immigration department might end up cancelling your Tier 2 General or Skilled Worker Visa. As such, you’ll be denied the right to come back and continue to live in the UK once you leave. That’s why UKVI officers have to seek insights from your employer concerning your absence from the country and Visa conditions.
If you are in the UK on this particular visa route, you will rely on your sponsor (employer) to maintain your ability to stay in the UK. So, it is very important to comply with the immigration rules alongside the rules of the company you work for to avoid having your Visa cancelled. In our experience as immigration lawyers London, it is a rare occurrence that an employer would turn down a leave application without good enough reasons. However, having extended absences can affect their business activities and staff levels.
You should negotiate with your employer regarding the leave of absence you would like to take and not make any travel plans until it’s been approved. Often employers are happy to discuss such topics with their employees, and you will find that they are quite flexible.
If your sponsor does not agree for you to take a longer break than usual, then you can also discuss this with your companies HR department if it has one. Most likely, there will be a very good reason for the refusal. If this is the case, you can speak more with your company to try and find a compromise. Whatever the case, do not take it upon yourself to leave the UK longer than permitted. If you do this, you will risk of losing your right to stay in the UK in the future.
If you have any problems travelling outside the United Kingdom on a Tier 2 General or Skilled Worker Visa, you can use our UK immigration solicitors for expert guidance to help you understand the possible consequences of your off-UK travels and stay durations outside the country.
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Armen Andonian is the CEO of Solicitors Marketing, a London-based legal marketing agency. He is a legal content marketing expert who writes on UK individual immigration, business immigration, family law, finance, employment law and intellectual property. He has a passion for researching and communicating complex legal concepts and ideas in a clear and engaging manner and has developed a reputation as a highly skilled and versatile author on UK law-related issues. He has written for numerous publications, both online and offline, and his work has been featured in a variety of high-profile media outlets.