With Tier 2 General Extensions, a lot will be at stake.
An extension of Tier 2 leave enables visa holders (and their dependants) to continue their life in the UK. For employers of Tier 2 workers, an approved extension means retaining key personnel with key skills after the initial onerous and resource-intensive recruitment process.
Nothing can be taken for granted when applying for a Tier 2 General extension. The burden of proof is on the applicant to evidence to the Home Office their continued eligibility under the route. The rules and requirements in this area frequently change, and timing will also be a critical factor to avoid impacting lawful immigration status. It is also important to remember that the 12-month Tier 2 cooling off period applies at the end of Tier 2 leave where further to leave to remain has not been secured.
Tier 2 General extension eligibility
To be eligible for a Tier 2 General extension, applicants must already have permission to enter or stay on a Tier 2 visa and still be present within the UK. The following eligibility criteria apply:
- The applicant has the same job as when they were issued previous permission to enter or stay in the UK
- They are working for the employer who assigned their original Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)
- They have been assigned a new CoS for their continued employment for the same employer and job before making an extension application
- Their salary is at or above the appropriate rate ie at least the same, or higher, than that shown on the CoS for the previous grant of leave. Where the initial visa was granted on or after 24 November 2016, the applicable minimum salary threshold is £30,000
- They meet the points requirements
Tier 2 general extension applicants will not have to prove they meet either the English language requirement where they have already provided evidence of this, or the financial maintenance requirement.
Skills requirements may also apply unless the applicant will continue to work in the same job for the same sponsor, or SOC reclassification has rendered the role outwith the prevailing skills levels, or they are applying to continue to work in a job which was on the Shortage Occupation List at the time of their previous grant of leave.
Where skills requirements do apply, the role must be on the Shortage Occupation List, at or above Regulated Qualification Framework (RQF) level 6 or in a listed creative sector occupation.
When is an extension not allowed?
The rules do not allow Tier 2 general extension applications if the individual is:
- Applying from outside the UK
- Switching from another category
- Changing Tier 2 employment
It is also not permissible to have leave to remain extended beyond 6 continuous years under a Tier 2 visa.
What is the process for extending a Tier 2 General visa?
To apply to extend your Tier 2 General visa, you will first need to have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from your employer (sponsor). The extension application has to be made within 3 months of the CoS date of issue, or before your existing visa expires – whichever is sooner.
You then need to complete an online application form and submit relevant documentation to evidence your eligibility.
The application will not be submitted until you pay the extension application fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge. The fee to extend your Tier 2 visa can range from between £464 to £1408, depending on the length of time your CoS has been issued for. This will be either 3 years or less, or more than 3 years.
The application also requires you to submit your biometric details, for which there is a further charge.
When can you apply to extend?
Tier 2 general visa holders cannot apply to extend their leave more than 3 months before the start date on their new CoS – which is the day after their current leave expires.
Tier 2 workers can continue working while the extension application is being processed, provided the application was submitted before the previous period of leave ended.
What is the super priority service when extending a Tier 2 General visa?
Applications for a Tier 2 General extension can take around 8 weeks to process. The specific timing will depend on a number of factors, including caseload, time of year and the complexity and quality of the application itself.
Tier 2 priority services expedite extension application processing for a fee, in addition to the main application charge:
- £500 priority service for a decision within five working days
- £800 to get a decision by close of the next working day under the super priority service
Challenges of Tier 2 General extensions
Application processing can be slow and frustrating for applicants. Further delays can arise where there are issues with the documentation that has been submitted.
Wider circumstances can also affect extension applications.
For example, if where the applicant has visa dependants; if they have had previous immigration applications denied; if they have a criminal record; or are awaiting a decision on another outstanding application with the Home Office. If there are any concerns about anything which may have bearing on eligibility to extend a Tier 2 general visa, taking professional advice will ensure all options are considered and minimise the risk of delays or issues during processing when the clock is ticking on the applicant’s lawful leave.
Do you have a question about Tier 2 visa extensions?
Whether you are a sponsor or a Tier 2 visa holder, DavidsonMorris can assist with your Tier 2 general extension application.
We understand the need for companies to avoid workforce and operational disruption, and for Tier 2 workers to minimise the hassle and stress that comes with extension applications and dealing with the Home Office.
We specialise in UK visa applications and can advise on eligibility, provide guidance on supporting documentation and support through the application process. We have particular expertise where circumstances are more complex, such as pressing leadtimes or where there are previous immigration or compliance issues relating to either the sponsor or the worker.
The rules for Tier 2 (General) visa extension applications are complex, and it will be critical to work within the Tier 2 visa extension processing time and build and submit the application before the current period of leave expires.
For advice on the Tier 2 visa extension, or any aspect of UK business immigration, talent mobility, international recruitment and work visas, contact us.