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

Those individuals who have claimed asylum in the UK can apply for permission to work if they have been waiting 12 months for a decision, and they are not considered responsible for the delay. We write about this in more detail in our other blog here.

If permission is granted, the asylum seeker will be allowed to take up jobs on the shortage occupation list only. Although, the courts have emphasised that there is, in principle, discretion to allow other types of work. You may read more here.

However, can asylum seeker apply for skilled worker visa when in the UK? We answer this question at the end of this article.

History how policy to allow work for asylum seekers evolved over the past 20 years

Until mid-2002, asylum seekers could apply for permission to work if they had been waiting six months for an initial decision on their asylum claim. The Labour Government removed that concession, saying it was necessary to distinguish asylum from economic migration.

A right to apply for permission to work after 12 months was introduced in 2005 to comply with EU law. The Coalition Government restricted work rights to the shortage occupation list in 2010.

A review of the policy announced under the Theresa May Government in 2018 and concluded under the Johnson Government in 2021, decided that there should be no change.

Countries with more relaxed rules on asylum seekers working

UK policy is more restrictive than many comparable countries due to a combination of the 12-month waiting period for eligibility to work and the shortage occupation list rule.

EU law requires member states to grant asylum seekers access to their labour market after they have been waiting for nine months for a decision on their claim. Member states can apply more favourable provisions and/or grant access to the labour market subject to conditions.

Canada allows asylum seekers to work immediately and in the USA asylum seekers are eligible to work after six months. 

Can asylum seeker change to skilled worker work visa in the UK

The answer is a ‘no’. Asylum seekers are not permitted to switch to skilled worker work visa in the UK. This has been confirmed by the Home Office. Therefore, full right to work is available to asylum seeker once the asylum is granted.

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