Tag Archives: Tier 1 Highly Skilled Migrant

Tier 1 Visas for High Value Individuals

How to extend your visa and get Permanent Residence

If you have a Highly Skilled Tier 1 (General) visa – well done.  You got in before the programme was closed to new entrants.

If you want to establish a UK base for the long term, it is essential that you ensure that you qualify to extend your visa.  Most people will need to extend twice; once after 2-3 years to get a second Tier 1 visa, and then again after a total of 5 years in the UK to get UK Permanent Residence (technically called Indefinite Leave to Remain or ILR).

At both the Tier 1 extension, and later UK Permanent Residence application, you will need to show that in the year before applying you continued to meet the Tier 1 criteria – ie that you have earned enough to get the required points.

Gaining points for your earnings can be more complicated for contractors.  With PAYE salary & bonus earnings, it is clear cut, but UKBA have more than once changed their treatment  of other types of earnings such as dividends paid by a personal service company, and Allowances paid to employees.

The treatment of expenses can make the difference between success and failure, especially for those on expat packages which including significant accommodation, schooling, and car allowances.  Such allowances may be included in your earnings in some circumstances but by default most tax-optimised allowance structures will not.  

Pension contributions can be structured so that they are part of your qualifying earnings, but the default treatment eg where an employer makes pension contributions on your behalf to a company scheme, is that they will not be included.  

By working with experts who understand both visas and contracting, you can ensure that your tax planning decisions are taken in the light of your needs to prove earnings for any visa extension applications, and so ensure the smoothest possible path along the usual steps of Tier 1 extension, then permanent Residence (ILR) and finally, if you so desire,  eventual UK nationality and passport.

Particularly for contractors, it is best to contact us and put things in place long in advance of making an application, and ideally in advance of the 12 month qualifying period during which your earnings will be assessed.  The ideal time to talk to us is two or more years in advance of making the application.  This can allow for the restructuring of allowances / expenses in ways that do not result in permanent tax losses, and for insurance against gaps in your contracting.

If, we have not been able to put in place advance insurance, and for example due to a career disaster, you are going to fall short of the required earnings during your qualifying period, then all is not necessarily lost.  You may well be able to ensure UK continuity by getting an employer-sponsored Tier 2 visa.  This gives you far less freedom than Tier 1,  but can be preferable to leaving the UK, particularly of after your career blip things are now looking positive.

Our partners offer solutions that work particularly well if you are a contractor,  but even if you are not, contact us and we can look at the options.  Our OISC registered partners can help you with visa extension applications, and can help an employer obtain a Tier 2 sponsorship licence and then sponsor you directly of that is needed.

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