If you are employed in the UK under the Tier 2 (General) visa, your permission to remain and work in the UK will be time-limited. The Tier 2 visa is initially granted for up to 3 years. If you intend to remain in the UK after visa expiry, you will need to apply for further leave to remain, by way of a Tier 2 visa extension, which can be for a period of up to 2 years.
Similarly, if you are changing employers while remaining under Tier 2, you will also need to make an application on the basis of your new sponsor.
Being in the UK on a Tier 2 visa does not in itself guarantee your extension will be granted. You remain subject to the eligibility criteria under the visa category – that is, you are employed in a qualifying role for a sponsoring employer at the required salary level – which you will have to evidence in your extension application.
Your employer will also need to continue to meet its duties as a licensed sponsor – extension applications for a Tier 2 visa are known to trigger a Home Office review of the employer’s immigration compliance. Breaches of employer sponsor licence duties can result in enforcement action, impacting the employer’s permission to hire non-EEA nationals and potentially curtailing your visa.
When should you apply?
You are permitted to submit your extension application up to 60 days before your current visa is due to expire.
In any case, you need to secure further leave to remain before your current leaves expires. You otherwise risk overstaying, which can detrimentally impact future immigration applications.
How to apply for a Tier 2 visa extension
For the extension, your employer (sponsor) will need to assign you a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). Use this reference number to make your application to the Home Office for further leave to remain within 3 months of the date that the CoS was issued, or before your existing visa expires – whichever is sooner.
If applying online, the application will not be submitted until you pay the visa application fee and the NHS Immigration Health surcharge.
Importantly, your extension application can be only be made from within the UK. You will need to submit your biometric information to confirm your identity.
Change of Employment applications
If you are changing employer, your new employer will need to issue you a new Certificate of Sponsorship before you can apply make your new application.
If you are changing roles but staying employed by the same sponsor, you may also need to make a change of employment application where:
- Your core duties changes to the extent that a different Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code will apply; or
- Under TUPE (or similar) protection you change jobs and the new job is in the same SOC code, but your new salary is less than the appropriate rate for the new job as shown in the relevant code of practice; or
- There is a change to your core duties which means you change jobs from a job which is currently on the shortage occupation list to a job which is not on the shortage occupation list; or
- Your pay reduces from the level indicated on your current Certificate of Sponsorship, other than changes due to company-wide reductions defined as acceptable in the Sponsor Guidance, or reductions due to maternity, paternity, adoption leave, and/or a period of sick leave that lasted for one month or longer; or
- Changes to your core duties which means your job changes within the same SOC code provided your pay remains above the acceptable rate for the new job.
Tier 2 visa extension documents
Extensive documents will need to be compiled and submitted in original format as part of your extension application. These include:
- Current, valid passport or travel document, with blank pages for visa to be issued
- Current visa or leave to remain/Biometric Residence
- National Insurance number
- Expired passports as proof of immigration history
- Proof of knowledge of the English language
- Certificate of Sponsorship (reference number);
- Proof of personal savings where your sponsor is not supporting you
Tier 2 visa extension processing time
Processing times is generally around eight weeks, but this will depend on Home Office caseload and how you make your application – postal applications for example usually take longer than online.
A priority service is available at a premium, reducing processing times to ten days.
Tier 2 visa extension minimum salary requirements
When applying to extend you will need to continue to meet the salary threshold under the visa.
Tier 2 visa extension and criminal record
In your application you will need to include details of any criminal convictions or other penalties, both spent and unspent, in the UK or anywhere in the world. This includes some driving offences.
Convictions may impact on your application. Take advice on your circumstances to ensure you are declaring as required.
How much does it cost to extend a Tier 2 visa?
You will need to pay the Tier 2 visa extension fee at the time of your application.
Tier 2 to Indefinite Leave to Remain (UK Settlement)
The maximum period of stay for Tier 2 (General) visas issued on or after 6 April 2011 is the lesser of 5 years and 14 days, or the time given on your certificate of sponsorship plus 1 month. Those who first obtained a Tier 2 visa before 6 April 2011, will be able to continue to extend their Tier 2 visa with no limit to the number of extensions provided there is continued eligibility.
You may become eligible to apply to settle in the UK on completion of your tier 2 visa extension period. UK Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) becomes available to Tier 2 (General) visa holders after five years spent lawfully in the UK on that visa.. ILR is not automatic. You have to make an application to the Home Office to be granted status. You will need to assess eligibility and apply under the separate ILR process to remain in the UK after Tier 2 expiry.
Do you need advice with a Tier 2 visa extension?
DavidsonMorris are specialists in UK immigration, working closely with employers and employees to meet their visa needs. If you are approaching your Tier 2 (General) visa expiry and want to secure your lawful status, speak to our Tier 2 experts for help and guidance with the Home Office application process.