Guide to the Tier 2 General Visa for Skilled Workers


Tier 2 of the points based system is the primary immigration route for skilled migrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland wanting to undertake work in the UK. With the route, the Tier 2 General visa enables skilled non-EEA migrant workers to accept an offer of a job that cannot be filled by a suitably qualified or skilled UK ‘settled’ worker or to fill government recognised shortage occupations.

Tier 2 General eligibility criteria

To be eligible, the non-EEA migrant will need to satisfy all of the following criteria:

  • Have an offer of a genuine job from a UK Tier 2 General licensed sponsor that meets the requisite skill/salary level and will not displace a suitably qualified or skilled settled worker.
  • Have a valid certificate of sponsorship from their Tier 2 General licensed sponsor in the UK.
  • Be able to provide proof of his/her knowledge of English.
  • Be able to provide proof of personal savings, or a maintenance guarantee from their licensed sponsor, so that s/he can support themselves on arrival in the UK.

Under Tier 2 General employers are required to advertise any job offered to a non-EEA migrant worker if it does not appear on what’s known as the shortage occupation list. This is known as the resident labour market test. These adverts are designed to ensure that there are no suitable workers already living permanently in the UK and that the vacancy offered is genuine.

The Tier 2 General sponsor must have met the resident labour market test requirements before assigning a certificate of sponsorship. Further, the certificate of sponsorship must confirm that this test has been completed.

Tier 2 General visa application process

To obtain a Tier 2 General visa an application must be submitted online via the government web portal within three months from the date the certificate of sponsorship was assigned. Each certificate has a unique reference number that is needed prior to application.

The applicant will also be required to send various supporting documents, including a current passport or other travel document to prove they can travel.

The Home Office will assess the application on the basis of how many points have been accumulated under the points based system. Under Tier 2 General, applicants must gain a minimum of 70 points. This is calculated as follows:

  • 30 points for having been assigned a certificate of sponsorship
  • 20 points for earning the appropriate salary
  • 10 points for meeting the English language requirement
  • 10 points for meeting the maintenance requirement.

The Home Office will also consider any general grounds for refusal, for example, any relevant criminal history or previous immigration violations.

Tier 2 General visa application costs

The costs involved in applying for a Tier 2 General visa depends on the type of visa. If an application is made to switch to a Tier 2 General visa from within the UK the costs can be higher.

If a standard application is made for three years the cost is typically £610 (£555 for citizens of Turkey or Macedonia). This is the same for applications for shortage occupation roles.

For applications made for more than three years the cost is £1,220 (or £1,165 for citizens of Turkey or Macedonia). For shortage occupation roles for a period of more than three years the cost is £928 (or £873 for citizens of Turkey or Macedonia).

The applicant will also have to pay a healthcare surcharge, as well as a fee to have their biometric information taken, ie; fingerprints and photo.

Tier 2 General visa conditions

Having been granted a Tier 2 General visa, the migrant worker must continue to meet any conditions of leave.

In particular, the visa-holder cannot take employment in the UK, except working for the sponsor in the job recorded on their certificate of sponsorship, unless it is supplementary employment or voluntary work.

In the event of a change of employment, an application must be made in which the applicant meets all the points requirements and has a new certificate of sponsorship.

The visa-holder will have no recourse to public funds and, in some cases, will be required to register with the police.

What is a Tier 2 sponsorship licence?

A Tier 2 General sponsorship licence is the permission granted to a UK employer to sponsor skilled non-EEA migrants to fill jobs that cannot otherwise be filled by the domestic labour market. When applying for a Tier 2 General visa, any offer of a job to work in the UK must be from a licensed sponsor.

A Tier 2 General sponsor must only assign a certificate of sponsorship to a prospective migrant worker if s/he is appropriately qualified or registered to do the job on offer.

A published record of organisations licensed to sponsor non-EEA migrant workers under Tier 2 and 5 of the points based system can be found online entitled the ‘Home Office Register of Sponsors Licensed Under the Points-Based System’. The list currently shows over 30,000 sponsors registered. This list is updated either daily or every few days.

To be eligible for a Tier 2 General sponsorship licence, the UK employer will need to satisfy all of the following criteria:

  • Be able to provide proof that the organisation is genuine and operating lawfully in the UK with reference to verifiable documentary evidence.
  • Have appointed key personnel on the Tier 2 General application that are honest, dependable and reliable, without any history of immigration violations or any unspent criminal convictions for a relevant offence.
  • Be able to provide proof that the organisation has human resource systems in place to meet the Tier 2 General sponsorship duties and obligations, for example, reporting any migrant activities.
  • Be able to offer genuine employment that meets the Tier 2 General skill level and salary level.

To obtain a Tier 2 General sponsorship licence an application must again be submitted online via the government web portal, together with the necessary documentation in support within five days of the initial application.

The nature of the documentation required to demonstrate that an organisation is genuine and operating lawfully will vary on a case-by-case basis but, typically, a minimum of four supporting documents will be required including, for example, evidence that the organisation has a current corporate bank account in the UK with a bank registered by the Financial Conduct Authority.

The costs involved in applying for a Tier 2 General sponsorship licence will vary depending on the size of the organisation in question.

The fee for medium or large sponsors is currently £1,476, and £536 for small or charitable sponsors. An organisation will usually be classed as a small business if the annual turnover is £10.2 million or less and there are 50 employees or fewer.

For employers wanting to renew a licence prior to its expiry, typically after four years, the cost will be exactly the same as if applying for the first time. The employer is also liable to pay a fee of £199 for every certificate of sponsorship issued, as well as what’s known as an Immigration Skills Charge.

Having been granted a Tier 2 General sponsorship licence, an employer must continue to meet any duties and obligations associated with sponsoring a migrant worker. These include the following:

  • keeping up-to-date records of all foreign workers
  • tracking and recording employee attendance
  • reporting certain employee activities, such as non-attendance or non-compliance
  • cooperating with the Home Office, such as during site visits
  • complying with the law, such as carrying out right to work checks on employees to ensure that they are entitled to be in the UK and undertake the work in question.

Access will be given to what’s known as the Sponsor Management System (SMS) run by the Home Office, an online tool that allows employers to administer their day-to-day sponsor activities, such as assigning certificates of sponsorship. It will also allow the employer to report any changes in the circumstances of an individual worker.

In the event that the employer fails to comply with these sponsorship duties, for example, failing to carry out right to work checks on any non-EEA workers, this could result in their licence rating being downgraded from “A” to “B”, or even suspended or revoked.

In circumstances where the Tier 2 General sponsorship licence rating is downgraded, the employer will be required to pay for a sponsor action plan at a cost of £1,476.

Should I seek legal advice about Tier 2 General visas?

Applying for a Tier 2 General visa or sponsorship licence can be a legal minefield. It is therefore always best to seek legal advice to ensure that any application is completed correctly first time round, in this way avoiding any unnecessary delay or wasted expense.

An expert in Tier 2 General applications can also ensure that you provide the right documentation in support to help maximise your chances of gaining approval from the Home Office.

For advice on the Tier 2 visa route or a Uk sponsorship licence, contact us.



Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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