Before you can apply for a Tier 2 visa to work in the UK, you first have to secure sponsorship from a qualifying UK employer.
The employer must hold a valid sponsorship licence, permitting the organisation to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship in order for you, as a prospective employee, to apply to the Home Office for a Tier 2 visa.
The Home Office maintains a Tier 2 sponsor licence list identifying all UK employers with a sponsorship licence and the required permission to employ workers under Tier 2 and/or 5 of the UK’s points-based visa system.
Using the Tier 2 sponsor licence list to find a sponsor
The Tier 2 sponsor list, or ‘register’, provides details of great use to workers looking to find suitable sponsorship in the UK.
As well as company details and address, it includes the category of workers each company is licensed to employ. This could be either:
- Tier 2 – skilled workers with long-term job offers. Tier 2 is for skilled workers to be employed long-term or permanently. This category is further divided into:
- General – the role must meet the job suitability requirements (see below)
- Intra-Company Transfer – for multinational companies which need to transfer employees to the UK
- Minister of Religion – for people coming to work for a religious organisation (for up to 3 years)
- Sportsperson – for elite sportspeople and coaches who will be based in the UK
- Tier 5 – skilled temporary workers. Tier 5 is for skilled workers to be employed on a temporary basis. It comprises:
- Creative and Sporting – to work as a sportsperson (up to 1 year), entertainer or artist (up to 2 years)
- Charity Worker – for unpaid workers (up to 1 year)
- Religious Worker – for those doing preaching, pastoral and non-pastoral work (2 years)
- Government Authorised Exchange – work experience (1 year), research projects or training, for example practical medical or scientific training (2 years) to enable a short-term exchange of knowledge
- International Agreement – where the worker is coming to do a job which is covered by international law, for example employees of overseas governments
What does the company’s sponsorship rating mean?
When a company’s sponsorship licence is approved, they are issued an A-rated licence. They are then permitted to issue Certificates of Sponsorship and hire eligible Tier 2 and/or Tier 5 workers.
The sponsorship rating can be downgraded to a ‘B’ as a penalty if the Home Office finds the company has breached its sponsor licence compliance duties.
B rated companies are not permitted to issue new Certificates of Sponsorship until they are upgraded back to an A rating by the Home Office. Upgrades are only given where the company can show they have corrected and improved the issues which resulted in the downgrade.
As such, you will not be able to take up new employment and sponsorship by a company with a B rated licence – unless and until they can achieve an upgrade back to the A rating.
Applying for a Tier 2 visa
To apply for a Tier 2 visa, you will need to meet the visa criteria and follow the correct application steps. The most effective way to secure a Tier 2 visa is to work closely with your prospective employer/sponsor, particularly if they already hire PBS workers and have processes in place to support you.
The Tier 2 visa makes provision for your spouses, partner and any dependent children to come to the UK at the same time as you, which you should discuss at the outset with your sponsor.
You must have a confirmed offer of employment from a licensed UK employer, present on the Tier 2 sponsor licence list, and you have to score 70 points under the points based system:
- Valid Certificate of Sponsorship – 30 points
- Appropriate salary for the role, above the minimum threshold – 20 points
- Meet English language requirement – 10 points
- Satisfy maintenance funds requirement – 10 points
The Certificate of Sponsorship must be valid and issued to you by your prospective employer. CoS are non-transferrable – either between candidates or employers.
The English language requirement is met if you:
- Are a citizen of a majority English speaking country
- Hold a degree which is equivalent to a UK Bachelor’s degree or higher, which was taught or researched in English
- Have passed a recognised English language test with at least a B1 score Council of Europe’s common European framework for language and learning.
- Have previously met the English Language requirement during a grant of leave in the UK
For the maintenance funds, most sponsors will guarantee their prospective employees’ maintenance for the first month of employment in the UK on the Certificate of Sponsorship. Only A rated companies on the Tier 2 sponsor list are permitted to do this.
Without sponsor guarantee, the applicant must evidence access to their own funds.
In addition to the employer qualifying as a sponsor under the immigration rules, the role on offer must also satisfy requirements to be suitable under Tier 2. The role must attract a minimum salary and meet a suitable skill level. This requires the employer to apply the relevant SOC code.
The current Tier 2 visa route is pending reform following publication of the UK Government’s White Paper on immigration with proposals for an overhaul of the UK immigration system post-Brexit. The current visa cap on Tier 2 visas for example is set to be removed, and skill requirement broadened to include medium skilled workers. The Resident Labour Market Test is also expected to be abolished.
Details are yet to be released, we will keep you updated of changes and announcements as they happen.
The end of EU freedom of movement may see UK employers having to apply for a sponsorship licence to hire any non-UK resident worker. This could result in a surge of companies being added to the Tier 2 sponsor licence list.