Intracompany transferees will need to apply to remain in the UK beyond the initial period of their ICT visa.
The following guide examines the rules relating to ICT visa extensions, including the eligibility requirements that must be met, to the application process, timescales and costs.
What does an ICT visa extension allow?
An ICT extension will allow the worker to remain in the UK to work in the same or similar employment for the same employer as when they were granted their previous permission.
It is also possible to re-apply for entry clearance under the ICT route if the worker returns to their home country for a short period of time but are then re-assigned by their employer to the UK.
The previous ‘cooling-off rules’ as they applied to intra-company transfers under the old Tier 2 (ICT) route have been adjusted to provide more flexibility for shorter-term assignments. There was previously a cooling-off requirement which prevented a person re-entering the UK on the ICT route for 12 months after departing. This cooling-off provision no longer applies.
How long does an ICT extension last?
The rule requiring an ICT visa holder whose leave has expired to wait 12 months before applying again has been replaced with the simpler requirement that the ICT worker must not hold cumulative permission under this route totalling more than the relevant maximum period.
Intra-company transferees can extend their ICT visa or apply for another up to the maximum total stay under this route, or for 14 days after the end date of the job detailed in their Certificate of Sponsorship, whichever is the shorter.
When applying for an ICT extension or re-applying for entry clearance, any time spent in the UK as an ICT visa holder will be included in the total stay.
The maximum total stay for an ICT extension will not only depend on how long the employer will continuing to sponsor for, but also on the level of earnings.
If the individual was transferred to a UK subsidiary or branch of their overseas employer under either the previous or existing ICT route and they earn less than £73,900, they will be permitted to stay in the UK for a period of up to 5 years, inclusive of any time already spent. If they earn over £73,000, they will be permitted to stay in the UK for a maximum period of 9 years.
Under the new rules this means that the maximum total stay allowed under an ICT visa is:
- 5 years within any 6-year period if paid less than £73,900 a year
- 9 years within any 10-year period if paid £73,900 a year or more.
ICT extension eligibility requirements
A worker can apply for an ICT extension from within the UK provided they have not spent the maximum time permitted under this route and only if they meet the eligibility requirements under the rules. This means, in addition to having not met the maximum total stay:
- They must have existing permission to enter or stay in the UK on an ICT visa.
- They must have the same or a similar job to the one when they were previously granted permission to enter or stay in the UK.
- Their job must be in the same occupation code as under their previous grant of leave.
- The job must meet the salary requirements of the ICT route.
- They must have been assigned a new Certificate of Sponsorship.
- They must still be working for the same employer who issued the Certificate of Sponsorship.
- That employer must continue to hold a valid licence to sponsor ICT visa applications.
If the job changes to a different occupation code, even if they are working for the same employer, the worker will need to make a ‘change of employment‘ application rather than an ‘extension of permission to stay’ application.
If the visa has expired and they are re-applying for entry clearance under the ICT route from outside the UK, the worker must satisfy all the requirements under the route as they did when previously granted permission.
When should an application be made for an ICT extension?
The ICT extension application must be made prior to expiry of the existing visa.
The worker should be assigned a new Certificate of Sponsorship by their employer in support of the application.
The start date on the Certificate should be the day after their current permission expires. The worker must not apply for permission more than 3 months before that date.
Provided they apply before their permission expires, the worker can continue working in the role or occupation code for which they were last sponsored while the application is being processed.
If the worker changes job role but stays with the same employer before their visa expires, and the new job remains within the same occupation code as when they were previously granted permission, the worker will not need to make an ICT extension application at this stage. Further, their employer will not yet need to assign a new Certificate of Sponsorship, although they must notify the Home Office of the change via their sponsorship management system.
If, on the other hand, the worker changes their job role and this job falls within a different occupation code, they must make a change of employment application straight away and be issued a new Certificate of Sponsorship. Even if their existing permission is not due to expire for some time, this will still be the case. The application must also be approved before they can start work in their new job role, even where this is with the same employer.
What is the application process for an ICT extension?
The ICT visa extension is made online on the .gov website. The worker will need to complete an online application form and use their unique reference number (Certificate of Sponsorship). They will also need to provide supporting documents, and pay the relevant fee and charges.
ICT extension supporting documents
As part of the ICT extension application, the worker will be required to provide documents to prove their identity and nationality, as well as proof that they meet the requirements of the ICT route. This could include:
- Evidence of employment status
- Proof of salary level such as wage slips and recent bank statements
- Evidence that the role meets the ICT requirements for skill such as job description
- Newly assigned Certificate of Sponsorship
How much does an ICT extension application cost?
The standard application fee for an ICT extension ranges from £704 to £1,408, depending on the circumstances.
If applying to extend an ICT visa (up to 3 years) the fee is £704. If applying for an ICT visa (more than 3 years), the fee is £1,408.
The worker will also have to pay an additional healthcare surcharge for each year of their stay to allow them to continue to access the NHS. The annual rate is £624, unless they are exempt.
How long does an ICT extension application take?
Once the worker’s ICT visa extension application and biometric details have been submitted, they will usually get a decision within 8 weeks.
The applicant will usually be contacted if the application will take longer, for example, because they need to attend an interview.
ICT workers should not travel outside of the UK until they receive a decision on their extension application. The application will be considered withdrawn if they leave the UK during processing.
Can an ICT visa holder apply for ILR?
The ICT visa does not offer a direct route to UK settlement.
However, they may be permitted to switch from the ICT route to the Skilled Worker route, which can lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain after five years.
Switching from an ICT to a Skilled Worker visa
Under the previous Tier 2 (ICT) rules, visa holders were unable to switch into the Tier 2 (General) category without leaving the UK, and were then subject to a 12 month cooling off period. This is no longer the case, provided the worker meets the qualifying criteria and their employer is licensed to sponsor workers under the Skilled Worker route.
ICT workers can apply to switch from an ICT to Skilled Worker visa up to 3 months prior to the date they are due to start work in a skilled role. They must also ensure their application to switch is made prior to expiry of their existing permission.
Once the worker has held permission for a qualifying period of 5 years under the Skilled Worker route, they can then apply to settle in the UK, although any time spent as an ICT visa holder will not count towards the 5-year residence requirement. If the application for ILR is successful, they will be permitted to remain in the UK indefinitely.
The Skilled Worker visa is for migrant workers wanting to work in the UK in a specific skilled job role. Applicants must have a job offer confirmed from a UK licensed sponsor. This must be in an eligible skilled occupation and meet the applicable minimum salary threshold.
To be eligible for a visa under the Skilled Worker route, the worker will need to accrue a total of 70 points. This will be made up of the following 50 mandatory points and 20 ‘tradeable’ points:
- 20 mandatory points: where they have a genuine offer of a job from an approved UK sponsor, evidenced by a valid Certificate of Sponsorship.
- 20 mandatory points: where their job offer is at the required skill level of RQF3 or equivalent and above within an eligible occupation code. They will not necessarily need to hold a formal qualification, where points are awarded for the skill level of the job in question.
- 10 mandatory points: where they can prove they speak English at level B1 (intermediate). This is not a requirement under the ICT route, so unless they have an academic degree taught in English or are a national of a majority English speaking country, they may need to pass a secure English language test with an approved provider.
- 20 ‘tradeable’ points: where the job offer meets the applicable minimum salary threshold, ie; the higher of either the general salary threshold of £25,600 or the specific salary requirement for the occupation, known as the ‘going rate’.
In cases where the prospective new job role pays less than the minimum salary requirement, the worker can trade specific characteristics against a lower salary to accrue the remaining 20 points. This can be achieved, for example, where the worker holds a PHD qualification relevant to the job or where they have a job offer in a specific shortage occupation.
As immigration law specialists, DavidsonMorris are experienced advisers to sponsor licence holders on meeting their compliance duties when employing sponsored workers. We support throughout the visa sponsorship process, from initial recruitment and visa applications to supporting with retaining key migrant workers through visa extension and indefinite leave to remain applications. If you have a query about the ICT visa, contact us for advice.
ICT visa extension FAQs
Can I extend my ICT visa?
You can extend your ICT visa up to the maximum total stay under this route, either 5 or 9 years depending on your earnings, or for the period of time given on your Certificate of Sponsorship, whichever is shorter.
Can I extend my ICT visa from overseas?
You must be in the UK to extend your ICT visa, although you can apply again under this route where you’ve returned to your home country but are re-assigned to the UK by the same employer.
How do I extend my visa?
To extend your ICT visa you will need a fresh certificate of sponsorship from your existing employer. Using its unique reference number, you will then need to submit an online application, and pay the relevant fee and charges.
Last updated: 26 February 2021