Tier 2 Visa Sponsorship
This note of advice contains information about how a UK Company can employ skilled migrant workers who have been offered jobs in the UK.
Migrants may need to apply for work authorisation under Tier 2 of the United Kingdom’s points-based immigration system before undertaking any employment. Part of this process will require them to demonstrate that they:
(a) have a job offer from a licensed sponsor and a valid certificate of sponsorship; and
(b) pass a points-based assessment.
Overseas workers do not need to apply under the points-based system if:
(a) they are a national of a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland;
(b) they are a British overseas territories citizen, unless they are from one of the sovereign base areas in Cyprus;
(c) they are a Commonwealth citizen with permission to enter or stay in the UK because at least one of their grandparents was born in the UK;
(d) their partner has permission to stay in the UK under Tier 2 of the points-based system (they should apply as their dependant); or
(e) they have no conditions or time limit attached to their stay.
There are two standard routes to obtain work authorisation under Tier 2.
The Tier 2 (General) visa category is for foreign nationals who have been offered a skilled job to fill a gap in the workforce that cannot be filled by a settled worker.
The Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visa (“Tier 2 ICT”) category is for employees of multinational companies who are being transferred by their overseas employer to a UK branch of the organisation, either on a long-term basis or for frequent short visits. There are 3 sub-categories:
(a) long-term staff – for established, skilled employees to be transferred to the UK branch of their organisation for more than 12 months to fill a post that cannot be filled by a new recruit from the resident workforce;
(b) short-term staff – for established, skilled employees to be transferred to the UK branch of their organisation for 12 months or less to fill a post that cannot be filled by a new recruit from the resident workforce;
(c) graduate trainee – this route allows the transfer of recent graduate employees to a UK branch of the same organisation, as part of a structured graduate training programme which clearly defines progression towards a managerial or specialist role.
All applicants under the Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 ICT categories need a sponsor. The sponsor must be a UK based organisation who wishes to employ migrant workers in the UK.
Tier 2 (General) Visa
The Tier 2 (General) Annual Limit
There is an annual limit of 20,700 certificates of sponsorship (CoS) available to sponsors under Tier 2 (General). The limit runs from 6 April each year to 5 April the following year.
The limit applies to:
(a) CoS for new hires earning under £159,600 per year – these are called ‘restricted’ jobs, for which a ‘restricted’ CoS is needed.
(b) CoS for the dependant of a migrant who was last granted leave under Tier 4, where that dependant is already in the UK and wishes to change (‘switch’) into Tier 2 (General) and will be paid less than £159,600.
(c) CoS for Croatian nationals.
High earners – where the annual salary for the job is £159,600 or more are exempt from the annual limit and are called ‘unrestricted’ jobs, for which an ‘unrestricted’ CoS is needed.
The Resident Labour Market Test
The resident labour market test is there to protect the UK resident workforce and means that the sponsor must advertise the job it wants to recruit for to give UK resident workers a chance to apply. A sponsor can only recruit a foreign national if:
(a) it has completed a resident labour market test and can show that no suitable UK resident worker is available to fill the job or
(b) the job is exempt from the resident labour market test
A suitable UK resident worker means any settled worker who has the skills and experience the sponsor is seeking. If the sponsor finds that it has more than one candidate with all the necessary skills and experience it advertised for, where one is a settled worker and the other is a foreign national, the sponsor must appoint the settled worker even if the foreign national is more skilled or experienced.
The sponsor does not have to carry out a test where the total salary package for the job will be £159,600 or above.
Unless an exemption applies, all jobs must be advertised (using prescribed advertising methods) to settled workers for 28 calendar days.
Certificate of Sponsorship
When a sponsor assigns a Tier 2 (General) certificate of sponsorship (CoS), it is confirming that either:
(a) it has carried out a resident labour market test and has been unable to identify a suitable UK settled worker to fill the post; or
(b) a resident labour market test is not required
All CoS, restricted or unrestricted, must be assigned within 6 months of the date the vacancy was first advertised.
How long can a Foreign National Stay
A foreign national can come to the UK with a Tier 2 (General) visa for a maximum of 5 years and 14 days, or the time given on the CoS plus 1 month, whichever is shorter.
An applicant can start their stay in the UK up to 14 days before the start date on the CoS.
To be eligible for a Tier 2 General visa, the foreign national will need to:
(a) have a valid certificate of sponsorship.
(b) show they are being paid an appropriate salary.
(c) prove their knowledge of English (this is not required for nationals of the USA).
(d) have personal savings so they can support themselves when they arrive in the UK.
(e) show they can travel and their travel history over the last 5 years.
(f) have tuberculosis test results if the migrant is from certain listed countries.
The minimum salary a sponsor must pay for a Tier 2 (General) applicant is £30,000 per year or the appropriate rate of pay for the job offered, whichever is higher.
The applicant must have £945 in their bank account for 90 days before they apply for the visa. They do not need to prove this if they have a sponsor who is fully approved (A-rated) who can give the applicant at least £945 to cover their costs for a month if they need it. The sponsor must confirm this on the certificate of sponsorship.
Knowledge of English
The applicant may need to prove their knowledge of the English language when they apply.
An applicant can prove their knowledge of English by either:
(a) passing an approved English language test in reading, writing, speaking and listening; or
(b) having an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised as being equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD.
If the applicant is applying from outside the UK they must apply online. They can apply for a Tier 2 General 2 visa up to 3 months before the day they are due to start work in the UK.
They will need to have their fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre (to get a biometric residence permit) as part of their application. They will have to collect the biometric residence permit within 10 days of when they said they would arrive in the UK.
An applicant’s family members (‘dependants’) can come with them when they come to the UK on a Tier 2 General visa. A ‘dependant’ is any of the following:
(a) husband, wife or partner
(b) child under 18
(c) child over 18 if they’re currently in the UK as a dependant.
Extending the Visa
It is possible to apply to extend a Tier 2 (General) visa. An extension application should be made before the current visa expires.
Any application to extend should include any dependants. This includes children who have turned 18 during the applicant’s stay in the UK.
In order to be eligible to extend, the applicant must have current permission to enter or stay on a Tier 2 (General) visa and also meet the following conditions:
(a) have the same job as when they were issued the previous permission to enter or stay in the UK;
(b) still be working for the employer who assigned the certificate of sponsorship; and
(c) still be earning an ‘appropriate salary’.
The applicant can apply to extend their visa for up to another 5 years, as long as the total stay is not more than 6 years.
Tier 2 ICT Visa
The Tier 2 ICT visa is for foreign nationals who have been working for multinational organisations and who are being transferred by an overseas employer to a related UK employer. There are 2 sub categories of this category:
(a) Long-term Staff.
(b) Graduate Trainee.
This sub category is for employees to be transferred to the UK to fill a post which cannot be filled by a settled worker. Typically, applicants must meet one of the following:
(a) will be paid an annual salary of £73,900 or more for the job.
(b) have been working for at least 12 months for a business established outside the territory of the UK which is linked by common ownership or control to the UK sponsor.
An applicant can have leave granted under the Long-term Staff sub category for any period of time up to a maximum of 5 years in total. If the applicant is a high earner (salary of £120,000 or more), they can extend their stay up to a maximum of 9 years.
Where an individual leaves the UK after a period of Tier 2 leave granted under the Long-term Staff sub category, but the sponsor wants them to return to the UK in future, they may be affected by a Tier 2 cooling-off period.
The minimum salary a sponsor must pay to sponsor an applicant in the Tier 2 ICT Long-term Staff category is £41,500 per year or the appropriate pay threshold for the job offered, whichever is higher.
The minimum salary is:
(a) £30,000 for Short-term Staff
(b) £23,000 for Graduate Trainee
How long can a Foreign National Stay
The maximum stay for each type of Tier 2 ICT visa is:
(a) Long-term Staff (if the applicant earns more than £120,000 a year): 9 years
(b) Long-term Staff (if the applicant earns less than £120,000 a year): 5 years, 1 month
(c) Graduate Trainee: 12 months
(d) Short-term Staff: 12 months
The applicant can start their stay in the UK up to 14 days before the start date on the certificate of sponsorship.
To be eligible for a Tier 2 ICT visa, the applicant will need to:
(a) have a valid certificate of sponsorship for the job.
(b) be paid an ‘appropriate salary’ for the job.
(c) have personal savings so they can support themselves when they arrive in the UK (please see Tier 2 General section above).
(d) show their travel and their travel history over the last 5 years.
(e) have tuberculosis test results if the migrant is from a listed country.
(f) be able to show they have worked for the sponsor company outside the UK or for a business established outside the UK which is linked by common ownership or control to the UK sponsor.
The Tier 2 ICT application process is the same as for the Tier 2 General visa as set out above.
As with the Tier 2 (General) visa, the applicant’s family members (‘dependants’) can come with them when they come to the UK on this visa. Each family member must have a visa if they’re from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.
The length of time that Tier 2 applications can take will vary according to personal circumstances and which particular visa the individual is applying for. We can give an estimate of likely time scales for visa acquisition at the relevant time.
We wish to provide our clients with fee structures that are suitable for their needs. We will therefore collaborate with you to agree a pricing strategy which is most appropriate for your requirements. Our goal is to ensure that however the matter plays out, you feel that you have had good value for money and no surprises.
The current Home Office fees are as follows:
Assigning a certificate of sponsorship – £199 each.
Tier 2 General and Tier 2 ICT Visa applications (assuming applying outside the UK) – £610 (for up to 3 year visa) or £1,220 (more than 3 year visa) for each person including dependants. There are faster visa processing speeds available on occasion, which we will advise upon if relevant.
The sponsor company will have to pay an additional charge for each foreign worker it employs under either Tier 2 General or Tier 2 ICT visa categories. This is called the immigration skills charge.
For medium to large sponsors, the immigration skills charge will be £1,000 for the first 12 months and then £500 for each additional 6 months.
Most migrant workers and their dependant family members applying to enter or remain in the UK for a period of more than 6 months will be liable to pay a Healthcare Surcharge. Currently, the surcharge is set at £200 per year for each year of the validity of visa.
Please feel free to contact a member of the team as below if you would like to discuss any of the above information further.
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