UK Immigration & Nationality Lawyers

Tier 2 (General) Visa

Tier 2 (General) Visa

Who is it for?

Tier 2 (General) is the route for skilled workers who have a job offer from a UK-based employer. The employer is called “the sponsor” and the job is called a “sponsored job”.

You can find a list of skilled jobs suitable for sponsorship in Table 2 of Appendix J to the Immigration Rules. In addition to this, there is a list of PhD level jobs also suitable for Tier 2 sponsorship. Jobs listed in the shortage occupation list in Appendix K can be sponsored independently of the skills level.

The sponsor, in other words, the employer, has to assign to the worker a “certificate of sponsorship”. To be able to do this, the employer has to have a sponsor licence. There is a list of registered licence holders, but if your prospective employer is not on this list they may consider applying for a licence. This is something we can help with.

The certificate of sponsorship confirms the personal details of the employee, the proposed job title, the relevant skills level, whether the resident labour market test was met and the salary. Relying on this certificate of sponsorship the employee makes an application for entry clearance (in other words, for a visa) or for leave to remain (the same application made within the UK).

Only your employer can issue a certificate of sponsorship, so if you are looking for one the first thing to do is to find a job.

Requirements for a Tier 2 General visa

In addition to the certificate of sponsorship from the prospective employer, you will need to show knowledge of English. This requirement is met for nationals of majority English speaking countries or graduates with a degree from a UK based University. Otherwise, there is a prescribed language test to B1 level. You may also be able to rely on a degree from an overseas university recognized by NARIC where tuition was in English.

In addition, there is a requirement to show sufficient maintenance funds which is £945 held in a bank account for a continuous period of 90 days. However, the employer can certify maintenance when assigning the certificate of sponsorship to the employee. Most employers would willingly accommodate this, and we recommend doing so to avoid any unnecessary complications.

Can any employer be the sponsor?

Before they can issue a certificate of sponsorship, the employer has to have a sponsor licence. If they don’t have one, they need to make an application to the Home Office. The licence is issued for four years and is renewable at the end of the period.

If the employer has no adverse history of dealings with the Home Office, has a genuine business and a genuine need for the services in a suitable position (i.e. a suitable vacancy for a skilled job), we are happy to help them with the application and would expect the licence to be issued within 4 – 8 weeks from the date of the application.

What is the sponsorship process?

When the offer of employment is accepted, the employer assigns to the migrant a certificate of sponsorship.

There are two types of certificates of sponsorship: restricted and unrestricted.

In the long run, it makes little difference for the sponsored worker, but for the employer the associated procedures are different.

It is important to know that the unrestricted certificates of sponsorship can only be assigned to workers who are already in the UK and intend to apply for an extension of their Tier 2 General visa, or for overseas students switching from Tier 4 General to Tier 2 visa inside the UK.

Restricted certificates of sponsorship are for all other sponsored workers.  They can only be used in applications for entry clearance from abroad. This means that if you are already living and working in the UK but want to switch from your current status to Tier 2 General, you will have to leave the country and apply from your country of nationality or habitual residence.

Resident labour market test

The purpose of the resident labour market test is to give first right of refusal to local workers. The employer has to advertise the job for at least 28 days and there are very strict rules about how the advertising has to be carried out, what information has to be included, where the adverts can be placed and what evidence the employer is required to keep.

Tier 4 students are exempt from the resident labour market test, but the rule does not apply universally. Also, resident labour market test is considered met if the job is on the shortage occupation list.

What is the minimum salary for a Tier 2 job?

Generally, the minimum pay requirement for a sponsored job is £30,000 per year. However, each occupation has its own prescribed minimum salary. These occupation-specific thresholds are assigned to SOC codes and can be found in Appendix J of the Immigration Rules. Where the occupation-specific minimum salary is higher than £30,000, the higher figure applies.

An exception applies to the so-called “new entrants”. This is mainly upon completion of studies in the UK (although this does not apply in every possible scenario) or where the employee is a young person under the age of 26 at the time of making the visa application.

The minimum pay for a new entrant is £20,800 or as prescribed in Appendix J for the specific occupation, whatever is the higher. A new entrant can only be sponsored for up to three years. After that, the experienced worker rate will apply.

How long is Tier 2 General visa for?

Tier 2 General visa can be issued for any period of time up to five years. It can be extended for an extra year, making the total length of stay in this category, not more than six years.

If the Tier 2 migrant leaves the UK – either on completion of employment or due to the end of their visa period – they are not allowed to reapply for a Tier 2 visa for 12 months. This is called a cooling-off period.

The cooling-off period applies if the migrant was sponsored for any period longer than three months. Short periods of sponsorship of three months or less do not trigger a cooling-off period.

Requirements for indefinite leave to remain

As a rule, a Tier 2 General migrant who has spent in the UK a continuous period of five years is entitled to apply for indefinite leave to remain.

There may be circumstances restricting this entitlement – such as absences from the UK in excess of the permitted 180 days in any 12 months. Absences may be a problem even if they were for the purposes of the sponsored employment. Another reason may be related to the good character requirement – even minor driving offences or offences leading to warnings or court fines are taken into account in the character assessment and may delay the entitlement to indefinite leave to remain.

In this situation, the sponsored employee may extend leave to remain as long as the total duration of stay in the Tier 2 General category does not exceed six years.

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