Personal Immigration
Business Immigration

How to Apply For ILR as a Skilled Worker

Below is our Guide to applying for indefinite leave to remain as a Skilled Worker or Tier 2 (General)  Migrant. Tier 2 (General) Migrants are now called Skilled Workers, since 1 December 2020. Therefore, the same Immigration Rules (Appendix Skilled Worker) apply to Tier 2 (General) Migrants as to Skilled Workers granted on or after 1 December 2020. 

Skilled Workers (and their dependents) are on a 5-year route to settlement in the UK. This guide is for Skilled Worker main applicants. We have a separate guide for dependents of Skilled Workers. 

There are validity, suitability and eligibility requirements that you must meet to make an application for ILR as a Skilled Worker.

Validity Requirements for Settlement as a Skilled Worker

How do you apply?

A person applying for settlement as a Skilled Worker must apply online on the website on the specified form, “Settle in the UK in various immigration categories: form SET(O)”.

You can only apply if you were last granted permission as a Tier 2 (General) or Skilled Worker.

What are the application fees?

You must pay the application fee of £2,389. There is no Immigration Health Charge fee to apply for settlement. 

Do you need to apply from inside the UK?

Yes, you must be in the UK on the date of application, and you should not leave the common travel area whilst the application is pending or it will be treated as withdrawn.

You must also provide any required biometrics, which entails attending a UKVCAS centre in the UK to enrol your fingerprints and photograph. 

Additionally, for your application to be valid you must provide a passport or other travel document to prove your identity and nationality.

Suitability Requirements for Settlement as a Skilled Worker

You must not fall for refusal under the general grounds for refusal. This will consider your personal history and immigration history. If there are any concerns, you should seek immigration advice prior to applying.

Additionally, you must not be in breach of immigration laws or on immigration bail. This means that you must apply before your current visa expires. There is only a very limited exception for overstays to apply under paragraph 39E. Please see my previous blog for an answer to the question: What is Paragraph 39E?

Eligibility Requirements for Settlement as a Skilled Worker

You must have spent a continuous period of 5 years in the UK.

The 5-year period can include time spent on any of the following routes:

  • Skilled Worker (including Tier 2 (General)
  • Global talent (previously, Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent))
  • Innovator
  • T2 Minister of Religion (previously, Tier 2 (Minister of Religion))
  • T2 Sportsperson (previously, Tier 2 (Sportsperson))
  •  Representative of an Overseas Business
  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur), Tier 1 (General), or Tier 1 (Investor)

You cannot combine time spent as a Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) Migrant towards the 5 years needed to settle as a Skilled Worker. 

What does continuous residence mean?

It means that you must have spent the whole 5 year period lawfully in the UK, on one of the above routes. You should ensure that you always applied for your extensions in time prior to your previous visa expiring. If you did not, you should seek further advice, as there are only limited circumstances, where continuous residence will not be broken if you did not have permission in the UK. 

You must not have been outside the UK for more than 180 days in any 12-month period spent in a visa granted on, or after, 11 January 2018. 

For visas granted before 11 January 2018, you must not have been outside the UK for more than 180 days during any consecutive 12-month period, ending on the same date of the year as the date of your application for ILR.

The following will not be counted towards the 180 day limit:

  • Assisting with a national or international humanitarian or environmental crisis overseas, where your Sponsor (if you had one) agreed to that absence for that purpose
  • Travel disruption due to natural disaster, military conflict or pandemic
  • Compelling and compassionate personal circumstances, such as the life-threatening illness affecting you, or a close family member, or the death  of a close family member 
  • Research activity taken by a Skilled Worker if their SOC or Occupation code is 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, or 2311 Higher education teaching professionals

Please note that time spent lawfully in the Channel Islands or Isle of Man is treated as time spent in the UK, if your last grant of permission was in the UK. 

If you have excess absences and do not fall within the above exceptions, you will need to consider whether to delay your application until you can meet the 180 day rule. This may mean making an additional extension application before you can meet the requirements for settlement.

Certain other matters will break the continuity of your residence, including convictions with a sentence of imprisonment or detention at an institution; a deportation order, exclusion order or exclusion direction; removal directions.

When is the earliest you can apply?

Up to 28 days before the end of your 5-year qualifying period.

What is the Knowledge of Life in the UK requirement?

This means that unless you are over the age of 65, or have a disability (physical or mental condition) which prevents you from meeting the requirement, you must pass the Life in the UK test at an approved educational institution.

Is there an English language requirement?

No, there is not an English requirement for Skilled Workers to settle.

How much must you earn?

Ordinarily you must earn a salary of at least £25,600 per year and the going rate for your occupation code. 

The only exceptions are if your role is a shortage occupation or a health or education occupation, or if your 5-year qualifying period includes time in occupation codes 2111, 2112, 2113, 2114, 2119, 2150, or 2311. Then special rules apply and you must earn a salary of at least £20,480 per year and the going rate for your occupation code as specified in various places in the Rules.

Previously, under the old Tier 2 (General) Rules, you must have met a salary requirement that increased year on year, for example £35,800 in 2019, £36,200 in 2020, etc. This has been removed since the Rule change on 1 December 2020. Therefore, the only salary requirement is that listed above.

What is the sponsorship requirement?

Your sponsor must confirm that they still require you to work for them for the foreseeable future, and that you paid, and will be paid for the foreseeable future, at least the above salary. Your sponsor must still be approved by the Home Office to sponsor Skilled Workers on the date of decision. Therefore, if your sponsor’s licence is affected whilst your application is pending, you should seek legal advice. 

There is no longer a requirement in the Rules to provide a payslip, bank statement or letter regarding your absences from your employer. However, the application form still asks for these. Therefore, it is prudent to provide these wherever possible.

Challenging a Refusal Decision 

If refused, you can apply for an administrative review of the refusal. However, the merits will depend greatly on the reasons for refusal and you should seek legal advice. If the administrative review is refused, you should seek advice regarding the judicial review process or on making a fresh application as you will have a narrow window of opportunity to do so.

Contact our Business Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance in relation to an application to switch into the Skilled Worker Visa category please contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or via the enquiry form below.

This article was co-written by Zoe Bantleman and Georgina Griggs.


To arrange an initial consultation meeting, call our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or fill out the form below.

    Attach a file if it supports your enquiry. Only .doc or .pdf files.


    Expert advice & representation from immigration barristers that you can rely on.

    Google+ - Five Stars

    Read the 600+ five out of five star Google reviews of our immigration barristers.