Staying in the UK and your visa

Guidance on your visa and staying in the UK once your skilled worker visa is coming to an end, applying for settlement and how long you can leave the UK for.

Location: UK
Audience: International doctors All doctors
Updated: Thursday 2 May 2024
Globe with map pins illustration

Being settled in the UK refers to settlement or indefinite leave to remain, which is an immigration status.

Once you have this status, you are no longer subject to the immigration rules so if you are from outside the UK or EEA, you will no longer require a visa to come into, stay or work in the UK.

However, should you leave the UK for more than two years, you are at risk of losing your status.

A person who has indefinite leave to remain can stay in the UK, without any time limit on his or her stay and can take up employment or study, without restriction.

Having indefinite leave to remain is not the same as having British citizenship.


Applying to settle in the UK

If you are on a skilled worker (previously tier 2) visa, you will be eligible to apply for settlement in the UK after five years if:

  • you have been lawfully and continuously resident in the UK for five years - time spent on a student or visitor visa will not count towards your five years - you cannot have had more than 180 days absence from the UK during the five year period
  • you pass the test for knowledge of language and life in the UK
  • you do not have any unspent criminal convictions
  • your employer certifies that you still have a job under your skilled worker visa.

Check GOV.UK guidance on living permanently in the UK and apply for settlement.

You can also apply to settle in the UK if you have legally lived here for 10 years. Check GOV.UK guidance on long residence for more information on eligibility and to apply.


Leaving the UK

If you choose not to apply for settlement after five years, you will need to leave the UK. You can return on a skilled worker visa after 12 months away, known as a cooling off period.

You can study on a tier 4 visa during this time.

The 12 months is calculated from:

  • the time your skilled worker sponsor notifies UK visas and immigration that you have left the UK
  • the time you can prove you have left the UK.

Leaving the UK for a short amount of time

Don't forget, your visa is attached to your job. If you leave your job, or take unpaid leave for more than one month, you will lose your permission to stay in the UK.

The Home Office will give you 60 days to find a new job.

This does not apply if you are absent from work because of sick, maternity, paternity or adoption leave.

To protect yourself, you could consider taking holiday once you start training with your new employer. You could even asked for unpaid leave if your employer agrees, as long as you don't go for longer than a month.

You could also take up a locum post with the same employer, if for example, you are filling the gap between core and specialty training.

world illustration
BMA immigration advice service


If you have an immigration query, we can refer you to our dedicated immigration advice service, where you can get free, basic advice on your initial enquiry. 

Contact us

Your family members and dependents

You may be able to bring family members who are not UK or EEA nationals to join you permanently in the UK if you are:

  • a British citizen or
  • are settled in the UK or
  • have asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK.

A family member is:

  • your partner
  • your child under 18
  • your child over 18 if they are currently in the UK as a dependent.

Find more information from GOV.UK on bringing your family members to the UK.

laptop illustration
Sign up to our newsletter

For news, opinion and updates for international doctors, sign up to receive our newsletter straight to your inbox.

Sign up to our newsletter