What is a Tier 2 visa?
Tier 2 immigration category is a route for highly skilled workers sponsored by their employer. In the past, this type of visa was called Work Permit. It is still sometimes referred to under this name.
There are four sub-categories of Tier 2 visa:
- Tier 2 (General) for highly skilled migrants with a job offer in the UK;
- Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) – for senior employees of multi-national companies who are being transferred to a UK-based affiliate or branch of the employer;
- Tier 2 Sportsperson;
- Tier 2 Minister of Religion.
Average processing time for a Tier 2 visa is 8 weeks. It is possible to expedite it to 10 business days or even 24 hours by paying an extra fee.
It is very important that the application is prepared correctly because the certificate of sponsorship can only be used once. Any irregularity or mistake in the application process may result in a refusal of the application.
Switching into a Tier 2 visa
Holders of Tier 1 visas in various categories and graduates with a valid Tier 4 visa can switch into Tier 2 visa in-country.
Recent graduates with a valid Tier 4 visa have the advantage of being exempt from the resident labour market test.
Holders of a Tier 2 visa who are changing employer need a new visa.
Also, if your job with the sponsor changes significantly, you may need to apply for a new visa to reflect this.
Dependants of Tier 2 migrants
Tier 2 migrants are entitled to bring their spouse or unmarried partner and children to the UK. No other dependants are allowed. Dependants of Tier 2 migrants can work in the UK without any restrictions. However, they cannot switch in-country to any other category and have no independent right to remain in the UK if the main visa-holder leaves the country.
Indefinite leave to remain
With the exception of Tier 2 ICT migrants, Tier 2 visa holders are entitled to indefinite leave to remain in the UK after five years of residence. The five years can include time spent in the UK with a Tier 1 visa, except for Post-Study Work, highly skilled migrant programme, or Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa granted under the immigration rules before 6 April 2010.
As a general rule, Tier 2 migrants cannot extend their leave to remain as Tier 2 visa-holders beyond six years. There are exceptions for high earners in Tier 2 General and Tier 2 ICT categories.
As there is no time limit on the overall duration of stay in a combination of different immigration options, indefinite leave to remain on the basis of long residence is a possible solution for those who cannot benefit from ILR after five years of residence in a qualifying category.
MAC recommendations on the future of UK immigration
Migration Advisory Committee has recommended some changes to the existing Tier 2 route. It is expected that in 2021 this immigration category will become open to medium-skilled workers. The recommendations include abolition of a cap on Tier 2 migration, lowering the minimum salary thresholds and abolition of the resident labour market test. This will make the sponsorship process more manageable for employers.