Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer Visa

Do you need to bring a member of staff from one of your overseas offices to the UK for a temporary assignment?

We can help with the Tier 2 ICT visa licence.

Applying for a Tier 2 intra-company transfer visa

The Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) visa is designed to allow employers to transfer employees from an overseas business to work within their UK operations. 
 
To be able to transfer workers – including EU, EEA and Swiss citizens coming to the UK – from 1 January 2021, employers will need a licence to sponsor visa applicants under the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) route. 

What is a Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer?

The ICT sponsor licence is the permission needed for multinational organisations to temporarily transfer existing overseas workers to the UK subsidiary or branch of that business under Tier 2 of the UK’s points-based system. This must be either for training purposes or to fill a specific vacancy that cannot be filled by a settled worker.

The worker must be employed overseas, be transferring to a UK entity which is linked to the sending business by common ownership or control, and be sponsored by the UK entity as a Tier 2 (ICT) worker meeting the minimum skills and salary thresholds.

The ICT visa is not a route to UK settlement, although ICT visa holders may be permitted to switch to the skilled worker route (which is also a sponsored visa) while still in the UK, subject to meeting the qualifying requirements.

Under the new rules taking effect for 2021, the tier 2 ICT cooling-off period, as it applies to intra-company transfers, will be adjusted to provide more flexible provision for shorter-term assignments. As such, the rule requiring a migrant whose leave has expired to wait 12 months before applying again will be replaced with the simpler requirement that an intra-company transferee cannot remain the UK for more than five years in any six-year period within that route, except where they qualify to be granted up to nine years on the basis of their salary. 

Types of Intra-Company Visas

Once an employer has a valid ICT sponsor licence in place, the overseas worker can be transferred to the UK subsidiary or branch under the following categories:

  • Long-term Staff This visa is for transfers of more than 12 months into a role that can’t be filled by a UK recruit. If the employee will be earning more than £73,900, the 12-month qualifying period will not apply. 
  • Graduate Trainee This visa is for transfers into graduate trainee programmes for specialist roles. Graduates need at least 3 months’ experience with the employer overseas to be eligible.

When is an Intra-Company Transfer licence needed?

From 1 January 2021 the freedom of movement between the UK and EU will come to an end and the UK will introduce a new points-based immigration system. As such, all EU, EEA and Swiss nationals (EEA nationals), with the exception of Irish citizens, will become subject to the same UK immigration rules and controls as non-EEA nationals.

EEA nationals and their family members who are living in the UK by 31 December 2020 should apply for settled status (or pre-settled if they do not yet meet the five-year residence requirement) under the EU Settlement Scheme by 30 June 2021. This will allow them to continue to live and work in the UK lawfully and without restriction.

In contrast, all new arrivals looking to live and work in the UK following the end of the Brexit transition period will need to apply for permission in advance. This means that overseas migrant workers who are looking to work in the UK, even for the same employer, will need to obtain a visa. Equally, as the prospective UK employer of existing overseas migrant workers, you will need to have in place a valid sponsor licence to facilitate this process.

Tier 2 ICT eligibility requirements

To be eligible for an ICT sponsor licence under Tier 2 of the points-based system you must meet certain criteria. You must provide verifiable documentary evidence to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to demonstrate the organisation is genuine and operating lawfully in the UK. You must also demonstrate that you are ‘suitable’ under specific criteria. In assessing suitability, UKVI will look at whether:

Genuine employment is being offered that meets the required skills threshold of RQF6 or above, equivalent to graduate level, and pay a salary of at least £41,500 or the going rate for the job, whichever is the higher (or a minimum of £23,000 for Intra-Company Graduate Trainees).

The sponsorship compliance duties can be met through adequate HR systems and recruitment practices in place to do so. UKVI may judge this by visiting your place of business either before or after your ICT sponsor licence is granted.

The appointed key personnel are honest, dependable and reliable. Here, UKVI will look at the history and background of the organisation’s key personnel, as named on the application. This will include any history of immigration violations or any unspent criminal convictions for a relevant offence.

The key personnel are the people that will manage the sponsorship process, some of whom will operate the sponsor management system (SMS), and discharge your duties as a licensed sponsor. As such, prior to applying for your licence you will need to appoint:

  • An authorising officer – a senior and competent person responsible for the actions of staff and representatives who use the SMS
  • A key contact – your main point of contact with UKVI
  • A level 1 user – responsible for all day-to-day management of your licence using the SMS.

 

Specific rules apply as to who can be appointed key personnel. Some roles for example must be held by an employee or office holder of the organisation, others can be held by external agents. In addition, some roles can be filled by the same person or different people. They must also be permanently based in the UK while they hold a key personnel position and meet the relevant requirements on criminal convictions.
You can appoint optional level 2 users once you have been granted a licence, although they will only be granted restricted access to the SMS with fewer permissions than a level 1 user.

Apply for a Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer visa licence

If you are an employer planning to sponsor EEA nationals after 1 January 2021, and are already approved to sponsor Intra-Company Transfers and Intra-Company Graduate Trainees under Tier 2 of the points-based system, you will be automatically granted a new licence in that category with an expiry date consistent with your existing licence.

If, on the other hand, you do not currently have Home Office approval, you will need to apply for a sponsor license as soon as possible. As such, if you regularly hire EEA nationals from other parts of your business overseas, you are strongly advised to apply now.

When applying for an ICT sponsor licence, you will need to follow these five steps:

  1. Check your business is eligible to apply for a sponsor licence.
  2. Choose which tiers, category and subcategories you wish to be licensed under, where you can choose as many as you need, provided you are eligible for them.
  3. Decide who will manage the ongoing sponsorship process within your business.
  4. Apply online and pay the appropriate fee
  5. Print out the submission sheet at the end of the application, to be signed and dated by the authorising officer, and post this to UKVI with the correct supporting documents.

 

UKVI will review your ICT sponsor licence application and documentation in support. In most cases, the applicant will need to provide at least four documents, as prescribed under Appendix A, to demonstrate that you a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK.

In addition to these mandatory documents, there are specific requirements for the Tier 2 ICT sponsor licence subcategory, including documents to show a direct link by common ownership or control with the overseas entities from which you will bring migrants to the UK.

All your supporting documents, which must be originals or certified copies, will need to be sent to UKVI within 5 working days of the online form being completed. If you do not send the correct documents to validate your application, your ICT sponsor licence could be refused.

If any documents are missing from your application, or if UKVI requires any more documents or information, you will be contacted via email. You will then be given 5 working days to send the documents or information requested. UKVI may also visit your business to make sure you are trustworthy and capable of carrying out your sponsorship duties.

The application fee for a sponsor licence will depend on the size of your business. For a small business applying for a Tier 2 ICT sponsor licence, the fee is currently set at £536 (although the fees may be subject to change). For a medium or large business, the fee is £1,476. Smaller businesses are classed by having an annual turnover of £10.2 million or less, or 50 employees or fewer.

Having submitted your licence application, the standard processing time is usually around 8 weeks. However, applicants can now pay an additional £500 for fast-tracked processing and a decision within ten working days.

If the licence application is successful, you will be approved to sponsor a migrant under the ICT route. Your ICT sponsor licence will be valid for 4 years unless revoked or surrendered.

Hiring Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer visa workers

Having been granted an ICT sponsor licence, you will be given an A licence rating. An A-rated licence will let you start assigning certificates of sponsorship to prospective migrant workers, subject to having intra-company transfers that are suitable for sponsorship.

The Certificate of Sponsorship is an electronic record with a unique reference number that will provide the recipient with the proof they need in support of their visa application. This will guarantee that the job is an intra-company transfer, the applicant has been employed for the relevant period prior to their move and that they will be paid at or above the appropriate rate. The fee for issuing a Tier 2 certificate of sponsorship of £199 per migrant worker.
 

You will also be liable to pay an Immigration Skills Charge for each skilled migrant worker you employ under the Long-term staff subcategory. You will need to pay the charge when you assign a certificate of sponsorship, currently set at £1,000 per skilled worker for the first 12 months, with an additional £500 charge for each subsequent 6-month period. For a small business this is reduced to £364 and £182 respectively.

You must only assign certificates of sponsorship to workers when the job is suitable for sponsorship, and check that any transfers have the necessary skills, qualifications or professional accreditations to do their jobs. You must also ensure that you discharge all your other duties as a licensed sponsor, including:

  • Keeping copies of relevant documents for each sponsored employee, such as passport and right to work information, and ensuring their contact details are up-to-date
    Tracking and recording employees’ attendance, informing UKVI if your sponsored workers are not complying with the conditions of their visa, for example, if they stop coming to work
  • Reporting any significant changes in your own circumstances, for example, if you substantially change the nature of your business or are involved in a merger or take-over
  • Informing UKVI of any change to your details, like your address or allocated sponsorship management roles within your business.

 

Your licence may be downgraded, suspended or even withdrawn if you do not meet your responsibilities as a sponsor. However, subject to satisfactorily meeting these duties, you will be able to sponsor Intra-Company Transfers and Intra-Company Graduate Trainees from both Europe and all over the world to benefit your UK operations.

What are the eligibility requirements to apply for a Tier 2 (Intra-Company) visa?

The requirements for each type of visa varies, below is an outline of how you can determine if the option is suitable for the person you wish to bring to the UK.

Long-Term

  • Must have been employed in a full time capacity by the overseas company for at least 12 months.
  • Salary on offer in the UK must be at least £41,500, unless the salary stated for the Code of Practice is higher, then you will need to pay the higher threshold. 
  • For assignments over 12 months.

 

Graduate Trainee

  • Must be a recent graduate with at least 3 months’ experience with the employer overseas.
  • Salary on offer in the UK must be at least £23,000, unless the salary stated for the Code of Practice is higher, then you will need to pay the higher threshold.

 

Note that Tier 2 ICT visas are exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test. 

What is the maximum time you can sponsor someone in the UK on the different types of Intra-Company transfer visas?

  • Long-term Staff earning more than £120,000 a year: 9 years
  • Long-term Staff earning less than £120,000 a year: 5 years, 1 month
  • Graduate Trainee: 12 months

After spending the maximum allowed time in the UK, the person will be subject to the 12-month cooling off period. Limited exemptions to the cooling-off period are potentially available, including:

  • The person is a ‘high-earner’, earning above the prevailing threshold;
  • The Certificate of Sponsorship was assigned for 3 months or less, the person left the UK within the 3 months and you reported this to via the Sponsor Management System.

Can I extend my staff’s visa from within the UK?

It is possible to extend a person who is in the UK on an Intra-Company Transfer, providing the maximum time allowed has not been spent in the UK.

For example, if you bring someone to the UK under the Intra-Company Transfer Short-Term arranged months for 6 months, they can extend for a further a 6 months from within the UK providing they are still required for the role.

If you are unsure about the best route for your business needs, call one of our highly experienced staff at DavidsonMorris Solicitors.

Is switching from Tier 2 ICT to Tier 2 (General) visa permitted?

It is important that the business selects the correct type of visa for the person they wish to bring to the UK for an assignment as there are limitations to what Tier 2 (ICT) holders can do once in the UK.

Does the Tier 2 Intra-company transfer lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK?

If the employee entered the UK before 6th April 2011, after 10 years of continuously being in the UK lawfully the person may be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to remain, under the Long Residency route, providing they meet all the requirements.

However, if they choose not to apply then they must leave the UK by the expiry date given on the visa and they cannot re-enter the UK for a 12 months from the date they left the UK under any Tier 2 category, this is known as the cooling-off period.

Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer FAQs

What is an ICT sponsorship licence?

An ICT (Intra-Company Transfer) sponsorship licence is a licence issued by the UK Home Office under Tier 2 of the points-based system to an approved UK employer to sponsor existing overseas migrant employees coming to work for them in the UK.

How long does it take to apply for a sponsorship licence?

It will usually take around 8 weeks to process a sponsorship licence application This will run from the date that your application is received. If you are looking to transfer an employee from a part of your business overseas to work for you in the UK, you will also need to factor in the time it will take them to apply for their Tier 2 visa, typically around 3 weeks. Premium processing is now available for an additional £500, which provides a decision within 10 working days.

How long does an ICT visa last?

An ICT visa will last for up to the maximum stay allowed for the visa type held, or the time given on the certificate of sponsorship, whichever is shorter. The maximum stay for long-term staff earning less than £120,000 a year is 5 years and 1 month, or 9 years if they earn over this sum, and for graduate trainees just 12 months. The visa holder can apply to extend their stay in the UK for the maximum time allowed for their visa type.

Need advice?

Contact our experts:

020 7494 0118

or complete the form below

Related insights

DOWNLOAD

In-depth guides with practical, actionable insights into areas of employment & immigration law and human resources & global mobility.

For specialist advice for employers, speak to our experts.