This information is correct at the time of print, and was updated by Wright Hassall.
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Immigration & Residency
Obtaining your visa is really just the beginning...
You may be very familiar with reading articles and websites which set out the details of the UK’s Points Based System and how to go about obtaining a visa to work in the UK. However, over our many years of experience in assisting expats to relocate to the UK, we have come to understand that obtaining the visa to facilitate the move into the UK is really only half the story. Indeed, in some ways, the second chapter is almost more important than the first, since it relates to the expat and their family members settling down to life in the UK, ensuring that they meet the conditions of their visa at all times, whilst being able to get on with every day life such as getting a doctor's appointment if one of the family falls ill.
In the next few paragraphs, we set out some of the key information that it is crucial for every expat to know, as well as highlighting some of the more frequently asked questions by new expats to the UK.
Does my Tier 2 visa allow me to travel/work in Europe?
No. Unfortunately your visa is specific to the UK and only allows you and any accompanying family members to work/reside here. Travel into Europe will depend on your nationality, the purpose of your trip and your destination. US and Australian nationals can travel freely into Europe as tourists or business visitors for example, but will need work permission if travelling to another European destination to work. Other nationalities, such as Indian nationals, will require a visa (known as a Schengen visa) even to travel into Europe as tourists.
I have a Tier 2 visa; can I take up supplementary employment?
Yes, you can do other work in addition to your main job (for which your certificate of sponsorship was assigned). You do not need to inform the Home Office of this additional work (known as 'supplementary employment') if:
• It is in the same profession and at the same professional level as the work for which your certificate of sponsorship was assigned; and
• You do this work for no more than 20 hours per week; and
• Outside your normal working hours of your main job.
If you want to do any other type of paid additional work (known as 'secondary employment'), the work must be with a licensed sponsor. That sponsor must assign a new certificate of sponsorship to you, and you must make a new application to the Home Office. Your new application must meet all the Tier 2 criteria, so your sponsor may need to carry out a resident labour market test.
You cannot apply for secondary employment until you have started work with your first sponsor, and you cannot start work with your second sponsor until the Home Office have approved your application for secondary employment.
You can also do voluntary work in any sector, in addition to your job stated on your certificate of sponsorship, although please note that you must not be paid for your voluntary work, except for reasonable expenses.
What do I need to do if my sponsor changes my job or working hours?
Certain changes related to your employment in the UK must be reported to the Home Office and in some circumstances their permission will be required. For example if:
• There is a change to your core duties which means that your job is now in a different Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code; or
• There is a change to your core duties which means that your job is no longer on the shortage occupation list (if your certificate of sponsorship was assigned on the basis that your job was on the shortage occupation list); or
• Your salary reduces from the level indicated on your current certificate of sponsorship or work permit (unless this is caused by a temporary company-wide reduction in working hours and salaries, or by maternity or adoption leave).
You do not need to apply to the Home Office if your job changes in other ways (for example, because you change to a new job with the same employer in the same SOC code, your pay increases due to annual increments, or you move to a new job under TUPE arrangements following a takeover, merger or de-merger).
Can I change employer in the UK?
If you leave your current sponsor and wish to be sponsored to remain in the UK by a new sponsor, then that new sponsor will be required to issue you with a new certificate of sponsorship. If you are not currently a Tier 2 (General) visa holder then it is only possible to switch in-country in certain circumstances, for example if you are a Tier 2 ICT – Established staff visa holder switching into Tier 2 (General). You can also switch in-country to Tier 2 (General) if you are a Tier 2 (ICT) visa holder under the rules that were in place prior to 6th April 2010.
I have a Tier 2 Dependant visa – can I work in the UK?
Yes. Tier 2 Dependants are permitted to take up employment in the UK as well as setting themselves up in business or being self-employed. Additional permission is not required in order to take up work. The only exception to this is that Tier 2 Dependants cannot work in the UK as a doctor or dentist in training.
Is it OK to travel in and out on my Tier 2 visa?
Yes. Tier 2 and Tier 2 dependant visas are automatically issued with a multiple entry facility, which means that you can travel in and out of the UK as often as you need to during the validity of the visa – however, please be aware that absences from the UK may have an effect on acquiring permanent residence and British nationality.
Please also note that you should avoid being out of the UK when your visa expires, since this could potentially then lead to you having to complete a 12 month exclusion period (known as the ‘cooling-off period’) outside of the UK before being permitted to re-enter the UK in the Tier 2 category.
EXTENDING YOUR STAY
My Tier 2 visa is expiring; can I renew it in the UK?
Yes. Your visa should be extended in-country in order to maintain your continuous leave (which you will need if you are looking to seek permanent residence) and also to avoid being subject to a 12 month ‘cooling off’ period which can apply in certain circumstances if your visa expires whilst outside of the UK.
Extension applications can be submitted in-country for you and any accompanying dependants provided that your sponsor wishes to continue to sponsor you, you have not reached the maximum period of time spent in your visa category, and you meet all other criteria.
Applications can be submitted at the earliest, 3 months in advance of your visa expiry date, either via post or through the fast-track service offered at one of the Home Office’s Premium Service Centres. Applications via post take on average 4 weeks to process, during which time your passport will be held by the Home Office. Applications submitted via fast-track are usually processed within 24-48 hours, but will require you to attend the appointment in person. Provided that your extension application is submitted prior to the expiry of your current visa you will continue to be able to live and work in the UK legally until the Home Office makes a decision on your application.
Does my visa lead to permanent residence in the UK?
This depends on the type of visa that you hold and when you first arrived in the UK in this category. Under the current immigration rules, only the Tier 2 (General) category potentially leads to permanent residence (indefinite leave to remain) in the UK after having completed a total of 5 years in this category.
In order to qualify for permanent residence in this category you will also need to show that you are earning at least a minimum of £35,000 per annum (or as dictated by the standard occupational code, whichever is the higher), that you have passed the Life In The UK test and that you have met the requirements relating to English language and absences from the UK.
The current Tier 2 Intra-company transfer category does not lead to permanent residence in the UK. The maximum period of time that can be spent in the UK in this category is 5 years in most instances. However, legislation that took effect from 13 December 2012 allows senior ICT’s earning £155,300 or more to be able to spend a maximum period of 9 years in the UK.
Legacy ICT routes (those in existence prior to April 2010) did allow for migrants under this category to apply for permanent residence after 5 years in the UK.
Can I get a British passport at some point in the future?
Under the current immigration rules, only migrants who are in a category that leads to permanent residence are potentially able to apply for British citizenship since it is a requirement that you have held permanent residence for a minimum of 12 months before applying for citizenship. For Tier 2 migrants, this means only Tier 2 (General) migrants can progress to citizenship, or Tier 2 ICT migrants who arrived in the UK in a legacy category prior to the change in the immigration rules back in April 2010.
In order to qualify for citizenship there are certain requirements to be met with regards to the period of residence in the UK and the number of days absence from the UK (a total of 450 days over the 5 year qualifying period and a total of 90 days in the final 12 months leading up to the application). The Home Office may exercise discretion in certain circumstances where absences over and above these limits are due to business travel on behalf of a UK employer or for an exceptional compassionate reason.
N.B. Children 18 or over will be required to submit applications for citizenship in their own right.
It is also advisable to enquire whether your country of nationality will allow you to hold dual citizenship, as in some circumstances this is not the case and the acquisition of British citizenship could be deemed to automatically rescind your current nationality.
Can I sponsor other family members to come to the UK?
For Tier 2 visa holders a dependant is classified as:
• Your husband, wife or civil partner; or
• Your unmarried or same-sex partner; or
• Your child aged under 18 years old.
Other family members, such as siblings, parents etc., cannot qualify as your dependants under this visa category. At most, you may be able to act as a sponsor for them if they wish to visit the UK and they are a visa national, but they will also be required to meet all the other criteria pertaining to the rules relating to visitors.
My child has turned 18 since we arrived as Tier 2 migrants. Can he/she continue to be a dependant?
Yes. Children who travelled to the UK with you as your dependant, or joined you at a later date prior to turning 18 can continue to be treated in line as your dependant beyond the age of 18. This applies provided that they continue to remain part of the family unit and are dependent upon you for financial support. They can also be included in any future application for permanent residence provided that they continue to form part of the family unit and have always been granted leave to remain in line with yours.
My dependant child has now married; can they continue to be a dependant on my visa?
No. If a child who was previously treated as your dependant has since married and formed a family unit of their own, they will no longer be entitled to be treated as your dependant. If they wish to continue to reside in the UK they will need to seek leave to remain in another category in their own right.
Will any children born here be automatically British?
No. If both the child’s parents are Tier 2 migrants when the child is born, then the child will not automatically become a British citizen. In these circumstances it will be necessary to obtain a passport for the child and then apply to the Home Office for the child to be granted leave to remain in the UK as your dependant.
However, if one or both parents hold permanent residence at the time of the child’s birth in the UK, then the child will automatically acquire British citizenship. In these circumstances, if you wish your child to hold a British passport you can apply to the Identity and Passport Service along with the child’s full birth certificate. However, please note that although the UK allows its citizens to hold dual nationality, not all countries do, and so it will be important to confirm this with the authorities in the relevant jurisdiction if it is your intention for your child to be a dual national.
My relationship has broken down, am I entitled to remain in the UK?
If you have temporary permission to stay in the UK as the partner (spouse/civil partner/unmarried partner/same-sex partner) of a migrant who also has temporary permission to stay here, you must leave the UK unless you qualify for a visa in another category in your own right. This is because you will no longer be meeting the requirements of your permission to stay.
RIGHTS & RESPONSIBILITES
Can I get treatment on the National Health Service (NHS)?
In most instances, yes. Department of Health regulations state that certain treatment is free regardless of your immigration status. This includes emergency treatment in an Accident and Emergency Department, emergency treatment at a walk-in centre (England and Wales only), family planning services, treatment for certain communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and certain compulsory psychiatric treatment.
In addition, certain groups are exempt from charges for hospital treatment on the NHS including people working for a UK based employer and students on courses lasting over 6 months. This will include your family members such as your spouse, civil partner and dependent children, but only if they are lawfully living in the UK. In many cases, they must also be living with you throughout your stay to qualify. You may not be able to receive the full range of hospital treatment, because you must be a permanent resident or have lived here for a year to qualify for it. This applies even if you are a British citizen or have lived or worked here in the past. Note that there is an Immigration Health Surcharge of £200 per annum for all Tier 2 General migrants and their dependents (including Australian and New Zealand nationals as of 6 April 2016). This charge is payable when you pay for your visa.
Can I claim benefits?
No. As a general rule, as a Tier 2 migrant you should not claim benefits or public funds. It is likely that your visa endorsement will state ‘no recourse to public funds’. Public funds include:
• Income-based jobseeker's allowance
• Income support
• Child tax credit
• Working tax credit
• A social fund payment
• Child benefit
• Housing benefit
• Council tax benefit
• State pension credit
• Attendance allowance
• Severe disablement allowance
• Carer's allowance
• Disability living allowance
• An allocation of local authority housing
• Local authority homelessness assistance
• Health in pregnancy grant; and
• Income-related employment and support allowance.
Please be aware that confusion often arises in respect of child benefit, particularly where a child is born here in the UK, as the hospital will often provide you with information about claiming child benefit. However, please note that you are not entitled to claim it.
There are exceptions for some benefits that are based on National Insurance Contributions (such as maternity allowance). If you are in any doubt however, you should contact the department or agency that issues the benefit which will usually be the Department for Work and Pensions or HM Revenue & Customs.
Can I vote?
No. Electoral registration is linked to citizenship and British, Irish, EU and qualifying Commonwealth citizens are eligible to register to vote. If you are not a citizen of any of the above you are not be eligible to register to vote.
I have been found guilty of a driving offence in the UK, will this affect my visa?
Potentially, depending on the nature and severity of the penalty/conviction. When extending leave to remain in the UK or applying for permanent residence or citizenship you will be required to disclose any criminal convictions, civil judgements and/or cautions against you either in the UK or any other country and the Home Office will take these into account when considering whether to extend your visa or not. This includes road traffic offences, but not fixed penalty notices (such as speeding or parking tickets) unless they were part of a sentence of the court.
Can my children enrol in a state school?
Yes. Dependants of Tier 2 migrants are eligible to receive schooling at a state school, which is provided free of charge. In the UK it is actually compulsory for children to have full-time education between the ages of 5 and 16. A child will therefore usually start education in the term after their 4th birthday, and must continue it until June of the year of their 16th birthday. If you have any dependants of compulsory school age, you must therefore ensure they receive full-time education whilst in the UK.
Dependants of migrants can also attend university providing they meet the academic entry criteria. Fees must usually be paid, but loans are available to students.
Can I get a mortgage?
Yes, it is possible but there are certain hurdles to overcome, the first of which is getting a mortgage application approved without a British credit history. Other issues include being able to persuade the mortgage lender to issue you with a 25 year mortgage if you only currently hold a two or three year visa. Often your chances will increase if you wait a year as you can then evidence a year’s salary. Working for a blue chip company and earning a high salary will also improve your chances. It will also be essential to open a UK bank account before you can apply for a mortgage.
Can I hold shares in my sponsor’s business/company?
Yes, but you must usually not own more than 10 per cent of your sponsor's shares if you are a Tier 2 General migrant.
I have had to register with the police; is this an on-going requirement?
Only certain nationalities are required to register with the police on arrival in the UK and if you are required to do so it will state this clearly on your visa endorsement. Registration must be completed within 7 days of arrival and the police station will make a record of certain details including your personal details, passport details, UK visa details, UK address, UK employer etc.
If any of these details change whilst you are in the UK you will be required to up-date the same police station. Failure to do so will cause problems with extending your visa and/or applying for permanent residence.
This information is correct at the time of print, and was updated by Wright Hassall.
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