To hire under the Tier 2 visa route, UK companies must have a valid sponsorship licence.
A Tier 2 visa sponsorship licence permits the ‘sponsor’ to recruit nationals from countries outside the EU within specific skilled categories of work. The sponsor licence holder is permitted to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to the intended employee, who then uses the CoS to make their individual Tier 2 visa application to the Home Office.
The route is devised to provide employers with greater autonomy when hiring from abroad, but does come at a cost for the employer. Strict rules also apply relating to the recruitment process and requirements of the role to be Tier 2 eligible.
How much does it cost to sponsor a Tier 2 visa?
Hiring Tier 2 workers will carry a number of costs:
- Sponsor licence fee – for larger Tier 2 sponsors, the fee is £1,475. For a small Tier 2 sponsor, the licence is £536
- Tier 2 (General) Visa applications – cost £575
- Issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship – £199 for medium-large employers per Tier 2 worker
- Immigration Skills Charge – £1000 per year (discount for smaller businesses and charities)
The Tier 2 worker will also have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.
What is the minimum salary for the Tier 2 visa?
The minimum salary requirement for a role to be eligible for a Tier 2 (General) visa is usually £30,000, or a lower ‘appropriate rate’ may apply to the role being recruited for, such as midwives and paramedics and secondary school teachers.
Is the role Tier 2 eligible?
Tier 2 roles must demand a sufficient level of skill from the visa holder. To evidence the role is eligible, employers must assign a SOC code to the job being recruited for. This confirms to the Home Office that the role qualifies for a Certificate of Sponsorship to be issued.
Resident Labour Market Test & Shortage Occupation List
Tier 2 roles must be advertised in compliance with the Resident Labour Market Test. This evidences that the role cannot be filled by a UK-resident worker, thereby justifying the requirement to hire from overseas.
Roles that feature on the Shortage Occupation List do not however have to compy with the RLMT. They are also given priority in the event the limit for Tier 2 (General) Visas is reached in any period. This is because the list comprises those roles deemed by Government to be facing a shortage in the supply of suitably skilled workers within the UK.
How does my company become a Tier 2 visa sponsor?
We provide detailed guidance and considerations for employers applying for their first sponsor licence here. The application process itself will involve completing the online form and compiling supporting documents that evidence your eligibility under the licence requirements.
You have to provide your documentation wihtin 5 days of completing the online application.
Following submission of your form and documents, you may be visited by UKVI at your premises. Home Office officials will be looking to verify you have adequate HR systems in place to meet sponsor licence requirements and to assess whether or not to grant the licence.
What the employer’s compliance duties under a Tier 2 visa sponsor licence?
As a sponsor licence holder, you are required to meet the following:
- Keep copies of relevant documents for each employee, including passport and right to work information.
- Verify that migrant workers possess the ‘necessary skills, qualifications or professional accreditations’ to undertake the specific role.
- Assign a COS only where the role in question is suitable for one.
- Check your employees’ immigration status on an ongoing basis.
- Record Tier 2 employees’ attendance.
- Keep Tier 2 employee contact details up-to-date.
- Report changes in circumstances relating to the sponsor licence to UKVI within 20 working days, for example, place of work, role and duties to be undertaken, salary and hours of work, work start and end dates.
- Notify UKVI if any of your sponsored workers are not complying with the conditions of their visa, and report to UKVI if there is a problem, for example if your employee stops coming to work.
These are additional to general immigration compliance ‘right to work‘ checks required under the prevention of illegal working regime.
Failure to meet your licence duties can lead to Home Office penalties, including suspension or revocation of the licence, affecting your company’s permission to continue to lawfully employ Tier 2 workers and jeopardising your Tier 2 workers’ right to remain lawfully in the UK.
Changes ahead to the Tier 2 route
The Government’s White Paper on immigration identitied a number of areas of possible reform for the Tier 2 (General) route. Changes included:
- Abolishing the Tier 2 annual visa cap
- Removal of the Resident Labour Market requirement
- Extension of skill level to include ‘medium’ skilled roles
We will keep you updated of details of any such policy or change to the immigration rules.
Do you have a question about Tier 2 visa sponsorship for your business?
The opportunity to access the global workforce does come at a price for employers.
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 managememt and compliance with your sponsor duties. For advice with your Tier 2 visa sponsor licence, contact us.