Can an asylum seeker in the UK switch to a skilled worker work visa?

People who have applied asylum in the UK and have been waiting for a decision for 12 months can apply for permission to work (PTW). 

If permission to work is given, the asylum seeker will only be able to work jobs that are on a list of jobs that are in shortage occupation. Even so, the courts have made it clear that there is, in theory, room for other kinds of work. 

But, while in the UK, can an asylum seeker ask for a skilled worker visa?  

History of how the rules about letting asylum seekers work have changed over the past 20 years

Before the middle of 2002, asylum seekers who had been waiting six months for a first ruling on their claim could ask for permission to work. The Labour Government took away this benefit, saying it was important to make a difference between refugee and economic migration.

In 2005, EU law was changed so that people could ask for permission to work after 12 months. In 2010, the Coalition Government limited the number of people who could work on the shortage industry list.

A study of the policy, which was announced under the Theresa May Government in 2018 and finished under the Johnson Government in 2021, found that nothing should change.

Due to the 12-month waiting time before being able to work and the shortage occupation list rule, UK policy is stricter than that of many similar countries.

EU law says that after nine months of waiting for a decision on their claim, asylum seekers should be able to work in their member state. Member states can make better rules and/or make it harder to get on the job market, depending on what they want to do.

In Canada, people seeking refuge can work right away, but in the US, they have to wait six months before they can work.

Employers should consult Home Office guidance before employing a foreign national who is not settled in the UK to establish whether that person is allowed to work here and whether there are any restrictions or conditions on the type of employment the person is legally entitled to undertake.

Can an asylum seeker in the UK switch to a skilled worker work visa?

The answer is ‘no’. In the UK, people who are looking for asylum cannot switch to a skilled worker work visa. The Home Office has said this is true. So, once asylum is given, the person seeking asylum has the full right to work.

Having said this, I personally believe that it is possible to include the argument that the Asylum Seeker, who for example is caring for a vulnerable British citizen, brings “value to the community” and an astute lawyer can advance this argument to the Home Office or before a Judge in court, in addition to other reasons why the person applying for asylum is unwilling to return to his/her country of origin.

Contact me

If you want to instruct me, my name is Atty Lindoven Magsino, BSc, MBA, GDL, LLM, Solicitor at MBM Solicitors located at 83A First Floor, South Road, Southall, UB1 1SQ, England, United Kingdom. Telephone: 02035002141. Fax 02085710811. Mobile: 07446 888 377. Email: don@mbmsolicitors.com or attydonmagsino@gmail.com

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