Tier 2 of the points based system enables licensed UK employers to sponsor skilled nationals from outside the resident workforce to fill particular jobs that cannot be filled by settled workers.
It is the primary immigration route for workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland wanting to undertake work in the UK.
The following guide provides an overview of the Home Office Tier 2 policy guidance, including the different categories under which a skilled worker can apply for a visa, as well as the eligibility criteria.
Tier 2 policy guidance: the different categories
Under Tier 2 of the points-based system there are four different categories for skilled nationals wanting to work in the UK:
- General – this category is for non-EEA workers who have been offered a skilled job by a UK employer that cannot be filled by a suitable settled worker. This includes workers coming to the UK to fill shortage occupations, ie; where there are not enough skilled workers in the domestic labour market to meet demand.
- Intra-Company Transfer – this category is for existing employees of an international company who are being transferred to a UK branch or office of the same organisation, either as a graduate trainee or to fill a specific vacancy that cannot be filled by a suitable settled worker.
- Sportsperson: this category is for elite athletes and coaches who are internationally established, and whose employment will make a significant contribution to the development of their sport at the highest level in the UK.
- Minister of Religion: this category is for religious workers wanting to undertake employment or a role within a faith community in the UK.
Tier 2 policy guidance: the certificate of sponsorship
All migrants you wish to sponsor under Tier 2 must have been granted entry clearance before coming to the UK.
To be eligible for a Tier 2 visa, the individual must have an offer of a suitable skilled job, as well as a certificate of sponsorship from a UK licensed sponsor.
The certificate of sponsorship is required to show, amongst other things, that the migrant worker is being sponsored to undertake a genuine role and is sufficiently qualified to undertake the role for which the certificate was assigned.
A prospective employer should only assign a certificate of sponsorship having first verified that the candidate has the right credentials and experience for the role in question. Moreover, any offer of a job must not mean that this individual will be displacing a suitable UK-based worker.
In cases where the job does not appear on the shortage occupation list, as a prospective employer you will be required to openly advertise your vacancy before offering the job to someone outside the resident workforce. This is known as the resident labour market test.
The assigned certificate of sponsorship will either need to confirm that the resident labour market test has been undertaken, or that an exemption applies. You may also be required to verify your recruitment process and justify your selection of any migrant worker over and above any other candidate.
Tier 2 policy guidance: the eligibility criteria
To qualify for a Tier 2 visa the Home Office will look at how many points a migrant worker has scored under the points-based system. For most Tier 2 categories s/he must score the following minimum points:
- 50 points for Attributes
- 10 points for English language skills
- 10 points for Maintenance (funds)
Below we look briefly at how these points can be acquired. However, please note that by accumulating 70 points, this does guarantee that any prospective employee will be granted a Tier 2 visa.
The Home Office will also consider the general grounds for refusal, such as any relevant criminal history or previous immigration violations.
To be awarded 50 points for attributes, your prospective employee will need to provide a valid certificate of sponsorship showing that s/he has an offer of a job from a UK licensed employer, and that the job meets the appropriate skill level.
In most cases, you will also need to show that the job meets the appropriate minimum salary level and, where relevant, that the resident labour market test has been satisfied.
Typically, the minimum skill level is level 6 of the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), or alternatively, where the job is a creative sector occupation, it must be skilled to RQF level 4.
The minimum salary requirement for a Tier 2 skilled job is at least £30,000 per annum, or the appropriate rate for the job in question, whichever is higher. Please note that the minimum salary level for graduate trainees or new entrants will be less.
English language skills
To be awarded 10 points for English language skills, your prospective employee will need to prove his/her knowledge of English.
This will require proof of an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised as being equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, or by passing an English language test at the appropriate level.
Please note that nationals of English speaking countries, such as the USA, are exempt from this requirement. The English language skills requirement is also not required for intra-company transferees.
To be awarded 10 points for maintenance (funds), your prospective employee will need to provide proof that s/he has held a minimum of £945 in their bank account for a consecutive period of 90 days ending no more than 31 days before the date of their visa application.
This requirement is to satisfy the Home Office of their ability to support themselves on arrival in the UK. For applicants who are unable to prove sufficient funds, as their licensed sponsor you will need to guarantee that you will maintain and accommodate the individual up to the end of their first month of employment in the UK.
Tier 2 policy guidance: the application process
You will need to assign a certificate of sponsorship to any prospective employee prior to them submitting their application for a Tier 2 visa. The certificate contains a unique reference number that will need to be included in their application.
Any application must be made within 3 months from the date that the certificate of sponsorship was assigned, and no more than 3 months before the start date of the new job.
You must ensure that any relevant information is included in the certificate, for example, that the job meets the minimum salary requirements and, where relevant, that the resident labour market test has been met. The certificate will also need to show any guarantee of financial support.
Do you have a question about Tier 2 visa sponsorship for your business?
When assigning a certificate of sponsorship to a prospective employee strict procedures must be met. The rules can be complex and any mistakes can result in the Home Office refusing the grant of a Tier 2 visa.
Without entry clearance you will lose out on your selected candidate, as s/he will not be able to come to the UK to work for you. Equally, that candidate will lose out on the prospect of a fantastic job opportunity.
It is therefore always best to seek expert legal advice from a specialist in immigration law, not only to provide support to you as a licensed sponsor, but also to support any prospective employees seeking entry clearance to work for you in the UK.
If you are looking to apply for a Tier 2 visa sponsorship licence to hire non-EEA workers, it will be important to understand the full obligations this will place on you, looking at both cost and administration.
Applying for a sponsor licence is only the first hurdle for employers in accessing the global talent market. If you are successful in your application, there is no room for complacency as your HR processes must kick-in and support ongoing compliance with your duties as sponsor licence holder.
DavidsonMorris are specialist UK immigration solicitors, working with UK employers to advise on all aspects of the Tier 2 visa sponsorship licence. It may be that there are other immigration options available to support your recruitment needs. We can assess your needs and make recommendations based on current routes.
If the Tier 2 sponsorship licence is the best way forward, we can guide you through the application process, helping to compile a comprehensive application, and support with the ongoing management and compliance with your sponsor duties. For advice with your Tier 2 visa sponsor licence, contact us.