As a Tier 5 temporary worker you may now be looking for a more long-term visa option to allow you to continue to live and work in the UK. The following guide provides an overview of the rules relating to switching from Tier 5 to Tier 2 of the UK points based system for existing Tier 5 visa holders.
What you need to know about the Tier 2 visa?
A Tier 2 visa is the primary immigration route for migrant workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland looking to work in the UK within a skilled job role.
The main Tier 2 (General) category is designed for skilled non-EEA workers with the offer of a suitable job from a licensed sponsor to work in the UK. This includes filling roles where there are not enough skilled workers in the domestic labour market to meet current demand.
There are three other subcategories of Tier 2 visa: for intra-company transferees, sports people and religious workers looking to be based in the UK, although the detailed rules relating to these specific groups of worker are outside the scope of this article.
Can I apply to switch from Tier 5 to Tier 2 in the UK?
You can only switch from a Tier 5 visa to a general work visa under Tier 2 if you are already in the UK under certain categories of visa, for example, one of the other specific Tier 2 categories. This does not include those who are currently in the UK under a Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) visa.
If you are a Tier 5 visa holder, in most cases you will need to leave the country to apply for entry clearance as a Tier 2 (General) migrant from outside the UK. If your application is successful, you will be allowed to return to the UK and stay for a period of up to five years.
Tier 2 visa requirements
To be eligible for a Tier 2 (General) visa you must score a minimum of 70 points under the UK points based system. This comprises of:
- 30 points: for being assigned a certificate of sponsorship
- 20 points: for earning the appropriate salary for the job role
- 10 points: for being able to speak English to the required level
- 10 points: for meeting the maintenance requirement
Being assigned a certificate of sponsorship
To be eligible for a certificate of sponsorship you must have the offer of a genuine job in the UK from a Tier 2 licensed sponsor that meets the requisite skill level as required under the rules. You must also be suitably qualified and, where applicable, registered to do the job in question.
Unless the job you have been offered appears on the shortage occupation list or is otherwise exempt, your licensed sponsor will need to show they have satisfied the resident labour market test (RLMT). The RLMT requires employers to advertise the vacancy in the UK to show that no suitable settled workers are available to fill the role.
Earning the appropriate salary for the role
Your UK licensed sponsor will need to confirm on your certificate of sponsorship that you will be paid at or above the appropriate rate for the job you have been offered. These rates are as prescribed by the codes of practice for skilled work under Appendix J of the UK Immigration Rules.
In most cases you will need to be paid a minimum of £30,000 per year, or the appropriate rate for the job you are offered, whichever is higher, although for applicants under the age of 26 there is a new entrant salary rate of £20,800.
Being able to speak English to the required level
If you are applying under the Tier 2 (General) category, you must have a level of English equivalent to level B1 or above of the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework for Language Learning.
You will be awarded the necessary points here if either:
- You have passed an approved English language test at the appropriate level in all four components: reading, writing, speaking and listening
- You hold a degree that was taught or researched in English equivalent to a UK Bachelor’s degree or above as recognised by the National Academic Recognition Information Centre for the UK
- You are a national of a majority English-speaking country
Meeting the maintenance requirement
You will score the necessary points under the maintenance requirement if you can show that you have had the sum of £945 in your bank account for a period of 90 days before you apply for a Tier 2 visa. This is to prove that you will be able to support yourself financially upon your arrival in the UK.
You will not need to prove your personal savings if you have a fully approved A-rated sponsor who can guarantee on your certificate of sponsorship that they will maintain and accommodate you up to the end of your first month of employment in the UK, if required.
What is the process when applying from Tier 5 to Tier 2?
You will need to submit an online application for a Tier 2 (General) visa from outside the UK within three months of being assigned your certificate of sponsorship. The certificate is an electronic record containing a unique reference number that is needed to complete your application.
In support of your application, you will need to provide a number of documents, including the following:
- A current passport or other travel document to show you can travel
- Any expired passports or travel documents to show your travel history over the last five years
- Where applicable, proof of your English language ability
- Where you do not have a maintenance guarantee from your licensed sponsor, proof of your personal savings
- Where you are from a listed country, your tuberculosis test results
- Where you are planning to work with vulnerable people, a criminal record certificate from any country you have lived in for twelve months or more in the last ten years.
You will also need to provide your biometric information, ie; a scan of your fingerprints and a digital photo of your face.
The earliest you can apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa is three months before you are due to start work in the UK. The date you can start your new job will be set out on your certificate of sponsorship. You should get a decision on your visa within three weeks when you apply from outside the UK.
What is the cost of switching from Tier 5 to Tier 2?
The cost of applying for a Tier 2 (General) visa from outside the UK will depend on the duration of the visa and where you are from.
To apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa for up to three years the application fee will be £610, or £555 for citizens of Turkey or Macedonia. For shortage occupation roles for up to three years the fee will be reduced to £464 (or £409).
For visa applications for more than three years the cost will be £1,220, or £1,165 for citizens of Turkey or Macedonia. For shortage occupation roles for a period of more than three years the cost will be £928 (or £873).
You will also be liable to pay an immigration healthcare surcharge set at £400 for each year you are granted leave to come to the UK, as well as a fee of £19.20 to enrol your biometric information.
What are the alternatives for Tier 5 visa holders in the UK?
By way of alternative to a Tier 2 (General) visa, you may be eligible to apply for other categories of visa, such as the Start-up visa or Tier 1 (Global Talent) visa.
The start-up category is for new entrepreneurs who want to establish a business in the UK for the first time. To qualify the business must be innovative, viable and scalable, and will need to be endorsed by an authorising body.
The global talent category is for applicants who have exceptional talent or promise in a qualifying field, such as the sciences and medicine, humanities, engineering, the arts, or digital technology. As with the Start-up visa, your application will need to be reviewed by an endorsing body.
In most cases, however, it will not be possible to switch into either the Start-up or Global Talent visa routes in the UK as a Tier 5 migrant. As with an application for a Tier 2 (General) visa, you will need to leave the country and apply for entry clearance from outside the UK.
DavidsonMorris are leading UK immigration specialists. Our team of immigration lawyers specialise in UK Home Office applications, including Tier 2 visa applications for Tier 5 visa holders. We can guide you through the process to remove the stress and optimise your prospects of being successful. Contact us for advice on your application.
Tier 5 to Tier 2 FAQs
Can you apply for Tier 5 in the UK?
To apply for a Tier 5 visa under the points based system you must usually be outside the UK, although if you are already in the UK you may be able to make an application to extend your existing visa or switch to this visa.
Can Tier 2 ICT be converted to Tier 2 General?
If you are currently in the UK under a Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visa under the Immigration Rules in place before 6 April 2010 and you are applying to change sponsor, you may be eligible to switch to a Tier 2 (General) visa. Otherwise, you will need to apply for entry clearance as a Tier 2 (General) migrant from outside the UK.
What is a Tier 2 skilled worker?
A Tier 2 skilled worker is a migrant worker from outside the EEA or Switzerland looking to undertake a skilled job role in the UK under Tier 2 of the points based system. There are four different subcategories of Tier 2 worker, including Tier 2 (General) enabling a non-EEA skilled worker to fill jobs that cannot be filled by a suitably qualified or skilled settled worker.
Can I extend my Tier 5 visa?
Whether you can apply to extend your Tier 5 visa will depend on the subcategory of your existing temporary work visa and how long you have already been in the UK. For example, if you are in the UK on a Temporary (Creative & Sporting) visa, you may be able to extend your stay for up to twelve months.
Last updated: 4 April 2020