Tier 2 Visa

With a Tier 2 visa, individuals can come to the UK temporarily to work in skilled roles.

We can help with this complex application.

Tier 2 visa

The Tier 2 (General) visa is for individuals with a job offer in the UK, and who are coming to fill a gap in the labour force that cannot be filled by someone already in the country.

Because the Tier 2 (General) visa can lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain, the category also makes provision for the spouses, partners and any dependent children to immigrate to the UK at the same time as the main Tier 2 applicant.

Given the global nature of competition for talent and skilled workers, it is important that skilled migrants looking to work in the UK are supported in achieving the relevant immigration status.

For skilled workers, with so much at stake, it is important to seek legal advice to understand the migration options available and that the Tier 2 is the correct route. 

What is the Tier 2 visa?

A Tier 2 visa provides the primary immigration route for skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland to come to the UK to work for an approved licensed employer. Tier 2 of the UK’s points-based system can be broken down into the following four subcategories:

  • Tier 2 (General): this will allow foreign skilled workers to accept a job offer that cannot be filled by a suitably qualified or skilled settled worker
  • Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer): this will allow existing employees of an international company or organisation to transfer to a UK branch
  • Tier 2 (Sportsperson): this will allow elite athletes and coaches who are internationally established to be based in the UK
  • Tier 2 (Minister of Religion): this will allow religious workers to undertake employment within a faith community in the UK.

What are the Tier 2 visa requirements?

The majority of Tier 2 visa applications will be made under the Tier 2 (General) subcategory. This enables skilled non-EEA migrant workers to accept an offer of a job that cannot be filled by a suitably qualified or skilled settled worker, including workers coming to the UK to fill shortage occupations, ie; where there are not enough workers in the domestic labour market to meet demand.

To qualify for a Tier 2 (General) visa, the applicant will need to:

  • Have a genuine offer of a job that will not displace a suitably qualified or skilled settled worker
  • Be offered a job that meets certain skill and salary level requirements
  • Meet the English language requirement
  • Meet the maintenance requirement.

Tier 2 skill & salary level requirement

Any job that is offered to a non-EEA migrant worker must also meet the relevant Tier 2 skill and salary levels, although the required level of skill and salary can vary depending on the nature of the job.

The job will usually need to meet level 6 or above on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF). In a creative sector occupation, or for a job that appears on the list of shortage occupations, the job must be skilled to RQF level 4.

The minimum salary requirement is usually at least £20,800 per annum for new entrants or £30,000 for experienced workers, or the appropriate rate for the job in question, whichever is higher.

Genuine vacancy requirement

In granting a Tier 2 visa the Home Office must be satisfied that the applicant is being sponsored to undertake a genuine vacancy in the UK that will not displace a suitably qualified or skilled settled worker.

This means that, as the prospective employer, you cannot offer a position to a non-EEA migrant worker if a suitable worker from within the domestic labour market will be turned down for the job or made redundant.

Unless the job in question is on the shortage occupation list, ie; where there are not enough workers in the domestic labour market to meet current demand, you will first be required to advertise the job in the UK. This is known as the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT).

Where applicable, you must have met the RLMT requirements before assigning a certificate of sponsorship to any prospective employee. Further, the certificate of sponsorship must confirm that a RLMT has been completed.

Financial maintenance requirement

When applying for a Tier 2 visa the applicant must also satisfy the Home Office of their ability to support themselves on arrival in the UK. This can be done either by way of proof of personal savings or a maintenance guarantee from you as their UK licensed sponsor that you can cover their costs for the first month.

Where you do not confirm the provision of maintenance on the certificate of sponsorship, the applicant will need to show they have had £945 in their bank account for a period of 90 days prior to the date of their application.

English language requirement

When applying for a Tier 2 visa the applicant must satisfy the Home Office of their knowledge of the English language. This can be evidenced either by passing an approved English language test, or by having an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised as being equivalent to at least a UK bachelor’s degree. Nationals of a majority English-speaking country such as the USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, they will be exempt from proving their knowledge of English.

Certificate of sponsorship requirement

Having offered a migrant worker a genuine job to the required skill and salary level, you must assign them a valid certificate of sponsorship. This can only be done if you are a UK licensed sponsor. If you are not yet licensed under Tier 2, you will first need to apply for approval from the Home Office.

Under your duties and obligations as a Tier 2 sponsor you must only assign certificates of sponsorship to migrant workers who are appropriately qualified or registered to do the job shown. The certificate of sponsorship must also confirm that the job is at the required skill and salary level.

How to apply for a Tier 2 visa

The applicant will need to submit an online application within three months of being assigned their certificate of sponsorship. Each certificate has a unique reference number that they will need to apply.

They will also be required to attend an appointment at a visa application centre to enrol their biometric information and to submit various documents in support. The necessary documentation will include:

  • A current passport or other travel document to prove they can travel
  • Expired passports or travel documents to show their travel history
  • Proof of their knowledge of English, where applicable
  • Proof of their personal savings, where applicable
  • Their tuberculosis test results if they are from a listed country
  • A criminal record certificate from any country they have lived in for 12 months or more in the last 10 years, where they will be working in either the education, health or social care sector in the UK

The Home Office will assess their application on the basis of how many points they have accumulated under the points-based system. Under Tier 2 (General) an 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
 

It is important to note that the offer of a genuine job with a valid certificate of sponsorship does not guarantee the successful grant of a Tier 2 visa. The prospective employee must still meet all the other relevant criteria. The Home Office will also consider any general grounds for refusal, including any relevant criminal history or previous immigration violations.

How much does a Tier 2 visa cost?

The Tier 2 visa fees will depend on the subcategory of visa needed and the length of time requested. For a Tier 2 (General) visa the application cost is as follows for out of country applications:

  • Up to 3 years: £610 (or £555 for citizens of Turkey or Macedonia)
  • Up to 3 years for a shortage occupation role: £464 (or £409 for citizens of Turkey or Macedonia)
  • More than 3 years: £1,220 (or £1,165 for citizens of Turkey or Macedonia)
  • More than 3 years for a shortage occupation role: £928 (or £873 for citizens of Turkey or Macedonia)
For in-country applications, the fees are: 
  • £704 for up to 3 years

  • £1,408 for more than 3 years

Shortage occupation roles have the same fee in-country as outside.

The fee is only for Tier 2 General applications, ICT applicants have to pay the standard rate even if in a shortage occupation role.

The Tier 2 visa applicant will also be liable to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge per year for every year of leave granted. This will allow them access the NHS in the UK.

Employers will be responsible for paying a fee of £199 for every certificate of sponsorship assigned to a foreign worker, although certificates are free for citizens of Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey. Each time they sponsor a non-EEA migrant worker, they may also have to pay an Immigration Skills Charge.

Small or charitable sponsors pay £364 for any stated period of employment up to 12 months, plus £182 for each subsequent 6-month period. Medium or large sponsors must pay £1,000 for any stated period of employment up to 12 months, plus £500 for each additional 6 months.

What are the Tier 2 visa requirements for an employer?

Once your new employee has come to the UK under a Tier 2 visa, as their licensed sponsor you have a number of duties and obligations so as to ensure compliance with the immigration rules and prevent abuse of the system. This includes the following:

  • Record-keeping duties: you are under a duty to keep a copy of any document which proves the entitlement of any migrant worker that you employ to work in the UK, as well as up-to-date contact details.
  • Reporting duties: you are under a duty to report certain matters about the migrant workers that you sponsor and to do so within a certain timeframe using the sponsor management system. This includes reporting non-attendance, non-compliance or disappearance.
  • Monitoring duties: you are under a duty to monitor the immigration status of the migrant workers that you sponsor so as to prevent illegal working. This includes only assigning a certificate of sponsorship to migrants who are appropriately qualified and registered for the job in question and conducting right-to-work checks.
  • Co-operation duties: you are under a duty to cooperate with the Home Office, including providing access for any compliance visit at premises under your control and responding to any requests for information. The duty to co-operate also includes a duty to act honestly at all times.
 

Failure to comply with these duties could result in action being taken against you. The penalties range from having your sponsor rating downgraded to revocation of your licence. You could even face a hefty civil penalty or criminal prosecution if migrant workers are found to be working illegally for you.

Tier 2 visas after 1 January 2021

On 31 January 2020 the UK formally left the EU and entered into a transition period until the end of the year. The UK government has indicated that it intends to end free movement for citizens from the EU, EEA and Switzerland as soon as possible, introducing a points-based system similar to that in place for non-EEA migrants.

From 1 January 2021, all foreign nationals coming to the UK will be required to apply for a visa to be able to lawfully work in the UK.

Tier 2 Visa FAQs

What is the minimum salary for a Tier 2 visa?

The minimum salary requirement for a Tier 2 visa can vary depending on the nature of the job. This is usually at least £30,000, or the appropriate rate for the particular job in question, whichever is the higher.

How long is a Tier 2 visa valid for?

A Tier 2 (General) visa is usually valid for a period of up to 5 years and 14 days, or the time given on the certificate of sponsorship plus 1 month, whichever is shorter. It may be possible to extend this time, although a Tier 2 visa holder will not be able to extend their total stay in this category beyond 6 years.

What does Tier 2 visa mean?

A Tier 2 visa refers to the primary immigration route for skilled workers from outside the EEA or Switzerland to come to the UK to work for an approved licensed employer. It is the permission granted by the UK Home Office for a migrant worker to accept the offer of a job in a skilled role.

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