The Tier 2 General visa is the primary immigration route into the UK for skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland.
It enables skilled non-EEA migrant workers to undertake qualifying work from a licensed employer in a role that cannot be filled by a suitably qualified or skilled worker in the resident labour market.
The following guidance sets out the requirements for non-EEA workers when applying for entry clearance under a Tier 2 General visa, including who is eligible to apply and the application process.
The provisions for Tier 2 are subject to constant change and legal advice should always be sought in the event of any uncertainty.
Who is eligible to apply for a Tier 2 General visa?
In order to apply for a Tier 2 General visa you must be at least 16 years old on the date that the application is decided. You will also need:
- an offer of a job from a Tier 2 General licensed sponsor
- an offer of a job that is genuine and will not displace a suitably qualified or skilled settled worker
- an offer of a job that meets the Tier 2 General skill and salary level
- a valid certificate of sponsorship from your licensed sponsor
- proof of your knowledge of English
- personal savings or a maintenance guarantee from your licensed sponsor so you can support yourself on arrival in the UK.
Tier 2 General – licensed sponsor requirement
A Tier 2 General sponsor licence is the permission granted to a UK employer to sponsor skilled foreign workers to fill jobs that cannot otherwise be filled by the resident labour market. When applying for a Tier 2 General visa, any offer of a job to work in the UK must be from a licensed sponsor.
There is a published record of organisations licensed to sponsor non-EEA migrant workers under Tiers 2 and 5 of the points based system. This is entitled the ‘Home Office Register of Sponsors Licensed Under the Points-Based System’. It includes information about the category of workers a UK employer is licensed to sponsor and their sponsorship rating.
The list currently shows over 27,000 sponsors registered under Tier 2. This list is updated daily or, at the very least, every few days.
Tier 2 General – genuine vacancy requirement
When applying for a Tier 2 General visa, the Home Office must be satisfied that you are being sponsored to undertake a genuine vacancy. In particular, the requirements of the job must not have been tailored to exclude resident workers from being recruited. Your application will only be accepted if the job you have been offered will not displace a suitably qualified or skilled settled worker. This means that your sponsoring employer cannot offer you a position if a suitable settled worker will be turned down for the job or made redundant.
Under Tier 2 General employers are required to advertise any job offered to a non-EEA migrant worker if it is not on the shortage occupation list (Table 1 – United Kingdom Shortage Occupation List – Immigration Rules). This is known as the resident labour market test. These adverts are designed to ensure that there are no suitable workers already living permanently in the UK and that the vacancy offered is genuine.
Where applicable, your Tier 2 General sponsor must have met the requirements of the resident labour market test before assigning a certificate of sponsorship. Further, the certificate of sponsorship must confirm that a resident labour market test has been completed.
Tier 2 General – skill & salary level requirement
You will need to ensure that any job that is offered to you meets the Tier 2 skill and salary levels. To be granted a Tier 2 General visa, the job will usually need to be Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 6 or above. In a creative sector occupation or for a job that appears on the list of shortage occupations, the job must be skilled to RQF level 4.
In most cases the minimum salary requirement is at least £20,800 per annum for ‘new entrants’ or £30,000 for ‘experienced workers’ – or the appropriate rate for the particular job on offer, whichever is higher. The appropriate rates of pay for each occupation are set out in Codes of Practice for skilled work under the Immigration Rules.
Your certificate of sponsorship must confirm that the job is at the required skill level and that you will be paid at or above the appropriate rate for the job.
Tier 2 General – certificate of sponsorship requirement
When applying for a Tier 2 General visa you will need a certificate of sponsorship from your licensed sponsor. The employer will need to be licensed for Tier 2 General as a specific category of workers in order to assign you a valid certificate. Further, your sponsor must only assign a certificate of sponsorship to you if are appropriately qualified or registered to do the job shown.
A valid certificate of sponsorship does not guarantee that your application will be successful. You must still meet all the criteria for the Tier 2 General category.
Tier 2 General – English language requirement
As a Tier 2 General applicant you must prove your knowledge of English. This can be evidenced by either passing an approved English language test, or by having an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised as being equivalent to at least a UK bachelor’s degree. You do not need to prove your knowledge of English if you are a national of one of various excepted countries, eg, the USA, Canada and New Zealand.
Tier 2 General – maintenance requirement
When applying for a Tier 2 General visa you must satisfy the Home Office of your ability to support yourself on arrival in the UK. You will need to provide a bank or building society statement or letter that shows you have enough personal savings, ie; you must have at least £945 in your bank account for 90 days before you apply. Alternatively, if your sponsor can guarantee support that will meet this requirement, this should be shown on your certificate of sponsorship.
What is the Tier 2 General visa application process?
You must apply for your Tier 2 General visa within three months from the date your certificate of sponsorship was assigned. Each certificate has a unique reference number which you will need before you can apply.
You will also be required to send various supporting documents including a current passport or other travel document to prove you can travel. If you are going to be working in the education, health and social care sectors in the UK you will need a criminal record certificate. You may also need tuberculosis test results if you are from a listed country.
The Home Office will assess your application on the basis of how many points you have accumulated under the points based system. Under Tier 2 General applicants must gain a minimum of 70 points. This is calculated as follows:
- 30 points for having been assigned a certificate of sponsorship
- 20 points for earning the appropriate salary
- 10 points for meeting the English language requirement
- 10 points for meeting the maintenance requirement.
The Home Office will also consider any general grounds for refusal, eg, any relevant criminal history or previous immigration violations.
A successful Tier 2 General applicant will normally be granted leave for up to 5 years based on the start date shown on the certificate of sponsorship, or a period equal to the length of the engagement – whichever is shorter. It may be possible to extend this time, although you will not be able to extend your total stay in the Tier 2 General category beyond 6 years.
If your application for a Tier 2 General visa is refused, there is no right of appeal. You can only apply for an administrative review of the decision if you think the Home Office has made an error in considering your application.
Should I seek legal advice when applying for a Tier 2 General visa?
The Immigration Rules can be complex and subject to constant change. An experienced immigration specialist can help you with all aspects of a Tier 2 General visa application.
If you are applying for a Tier 2 General visa from outside the UK, you must have entry clearance before you travel. You must also reapply for leave to remain prior to expiry of your visa. Your legal adviser will be able to assist with any application to extend your stay in the UK under the Tier 2 General category.