If you are a national of a country outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, you will in most cases need to have a visa to work lawfully in the UK. The Tier 2 visa is the main immigration option for foreign nationals to work Britain. The Tier 2 visa requirements are however strict on applicants, who must evidence through the application process that they satisfy the eligibility criteria.
Which Tier 2 visa?
There are four categories under the Tier 2 route:
- Tier 2 (General) – to enable you to fill jobs that cannot be filled by a suitably qualified or skilled settled worker, including shortage occupations, ie; where there are not enough skilled workers in the domestic labour market to meet current demand.
- Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer (ICT)) – to enable you to transfer to a UK branch of a multi-national organisation through your existing employer. There are two sub-categories under the Tier 2 (ICT) visa, the graduate trainee and for long-term staff.
- Tier 2 (Sportsperson) – to enable you, as an internationally established elite athlete or qualified coach, to be based in the UK.
- Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) – to enable you, as a religious worker, to undertake employment within a faith community in the UK.
Tier 2 sponsorship
In order to apply for a Tier 2 visa, you will first need the offer of a suitable job at a salary level above the minimum threshold from a UK licensed sponsor, or in the case of a Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visa, you will need to be endorsed by your sport’s governing body.
Your UK sponsor will need to assign you a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) confirming that you have the offer of a job that qualifies for a Tier 2 visa.
The CoS is not a physical document, but rather an electronic record containing a unique reference number that you will need to complete your online visa application with the Home Office.
What are the eligibility criteria for a Tier 2 visa?
To be eligible for a Tier 2 visa you must score a minimum number of points under the points based system, although this can vary depending on the nature of the category under which you are applying.
By way of example, under the Tier 2 (General) category, an applicant must score a minimum of 50 points for attributes. These comprise of having an offer of a suitable job that, where required, passes the resident labour market test (RLMT), as well as being paid the appropriate salary for the job role in question.
The RLMT requires the employer to advertise the role domestically to show that no suitable settled worker is available to fill the job. Your UK sponsor will usually need to complete a RLMT unless the job to be filled appears on the UK’s Shortage Occupation List.
To qualify for a Tier 2 (General) visa you will also need to satisfy two additional Tier 2 visa requirements, namely by scoring 10 points for the English language requirement and 10 points under the maintenance requirement.
What is the English language requirement for a Tier 2 visa?
Under the English language requirement, where required, you can prove your knowledge of English in the following ways:
- By passing an approved English language test with at least CEFR level B1 in reading, writing, speaking and listening, or
- By having an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised by UK NARIC as being equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD. UK NARIC is the designated national agency for the recognition and comparison of international qualifications and skills.
You will be exempt from the English language requirement if you are a national from a majority English-speaking country, for example, Australia or America.
What is the maintenance requirement for a Tier 2 visa?
Under the maintenance requirement, you will need to prove that you have had the sum of £945 in your bank account for 90 days before submitting your application for a Tier 2 visa. This is to demonstrate that you are able to support yourself financially upon your arrival in the UK.
Alternatively, your UK sponsor may be willing to offer a guarantee that they will cover your costs for the first month, if needed, although they will need to confirm this on your certificate of sponsorship.
How long does a Tier 2 visa last?
The Tier 2 visa will allow you to enter the UK on a temporary albeit long-term basis, whereby the duration of the visa will depend on the category under which you apply.
Under a Tier 2 (General) visa you can come to the UK for a maximum of 5 years and 14 days, or the time given on your certificate of sponsorship plus 1 month, whichever is shorter. You can then apply to extend this visa for up to another 5 years, as long as your total stay is not more than 6 years.
Under a Tier 2 (ICT) visa you can come to the UK for up to the maximum stay allowed for your visa type, or the time given on your certificate of sponsorship, whichever is shorter. The maximum stay for each type is as follows:
- Long-term staff, if you earn more than £120,000 a year: 9 years
- Long-term staff, if you earn less than £120,000 a year: 5 years, 1 month
- Graduate trainee: 12 months.
Under a Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visa you can come to the UK for up to 3 years. You can also apply to extend this visa for up to another 3 years to a maximum stay of 6 years.
Finally, under a Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) visa you can come to the UK for a maximum of up to 3 years and 1 month, or the time given on your certificate of sponsorship plus 1 month, whichever is shorter. You can also apply to extend your stay.
What is the cost of applying for a Tier 2 visa?
The cost of applying for a Tier 2 visa can vary depending on the category of visa, the length of visa you are applying for, as well as whether you are applying from outside or within the UK.
By way of example, the current fees (as at 2019) when applying from outside the UK are as follows:
- Tier 2 (General), (ICT), (Sportsperson) & (Minister of Religion), where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued for 3 years or less – £610
- Tier 2 (ICT) for graduate trainees – £482
- Tier 2 (General), (ICT), where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued for more than 3 years – £1220
- Tier 2 (General) shortage occupation, where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued for 3 years or less – £464
- Tier 2 (General) shortage occupation, where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued for more than three years – £928.
The fees are slightly reduced where you are a citizen of Turkey or Macedonia.
Will I have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge?
Whether you need to pay the Immigration Heath Surcharge (IHS) depends on the immigration status you are applying for. For visa applications made outside the UK, you will be liable to pay if you are a non-EEA national of a country and you are applying for a Tier 2 visa to work in the UK for more than 6 months, but you are not applying to remain in the UK permanently.
For immigration applications made from within the UK, you will need to pay if you are a non-EEA national and you are making an immigration application for any length of time, including applications for 6 months or less, but you are not applying to remain in the UK permanently.
The IHS is currently set at £400 per year for Tier 2 visa applicants. This must be paid in full when the visa application is being submitted, in addition to your visa application fee. However, having paid the surcharge you will be entitled to receive free health services under the National Health Service.
Do you have a question about a Tier 2 visa?
Applying for a Tier 2 General visa requires careful handling. You will need to ensure you have secured qualifying employment with a qualifying sponsor, and that you meet the wider Tier 2 visa requirements.
An expert in Tier 2 General applications can also ensure that you provide the right documentation in support to help maximise your chances of gaining approval from the Home Office.
For advice on you meeting the Tier 2 visa requirements and making an application to the Home Office, contact us.