Tier 2 work visa holders often enquire on how a period of unpaid leave, for a sabbatical or similar reason, will impact on their future Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) applications.
The UK Home Office is very clear in its guidance on this matter. A period of unpaid leave will most likely cause issues, both for their sponsorship at the time, and for the later ILR application.
If a Tier 2 employee is receiving a reduction in salary as a result of being absent from work without pay for 30 days or more, during any calendar year, the employer cannot continue to sponsor the employee. The UK employer needs to inform the UK Home Office of such absences. The above, of course, excludes periods for specific purposes such as maternity leave.
In cases where a Tier 2 employee thus wants to take a longer period of leave, for example, a sabbatical, the employer will have to stop the sponsorship and inform the UK Home Office accordingly.
A sabbatical will thus not only affect the qualifying period for ILR but can result in the loss of sponsorship altogether.
BIC thus recommend that clients refrain from taking sabbaticals while on a Tier 2 visa.
Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)
Clients, who are on a Tier 2 work visa in the UK, should take note of the travel restrictions imposed on them, in their qualifying period for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Currently, the UK Home Office allows up to 180 days travel per year leading up to Indefinite Leave to Remain for most applicants holding 5-year visas, though evidence must be provided as part of the ILR application to demonstrate that these travels were taken in line with the applicant’s visa obligations in the UK. It should also be noted, however, that if applicants make use of the full 180 days per annum, they may exceed the amount of days permitted to obtain British citizenship.
When applying for British citizenship, applicants must be able to demonstrate that they have not been absent from the United Kingdom for more than 450 days in the five-year period preceding their British citizenship application.
In addition to the above, they may also not have been absent for more than 90 days in the 12 month period preceding the date of application.
There are some instances in which it is possible for citizenship applications to succeed even when the above-stated travel restrictions are exceeded. However, BIC still recommends that clients do not to travel more than 450 days in the years leading up to ILR as to not affect your eligibility for British citizenship.
For more advice in your unique circumstances, or to hear whether you may be able to obtain your British citizenship despite having travelled excessively, please contact your BIC consultant.
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