Tier 2 is the UK immigration category for skilled workers (often referred to as a ‘work permit’, from the old pre-Points Based System terminology). There are four categories of Tier 2 workers: Tier 2 (General) workers, Tier 2 (Minister of Religion), Tier 2 (Sportsperson) and Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) workers. Applicants in all categories will need to be sponsored by a UK employer with the relevant sponsorship licence before they can apply for leave to enter or remain in the UK.

This category is for existing overseas employees of multi-national companies whose company wishes to transfer them to a UK branch. The UK company must hold a Tier 2 ICT sponsorship licence. This category is further divided into sub-categories: Long Term Staff; Short Term Staff; Graduate Trainee and Skills Transfer.

This category is for those wishing to work in the UK as either a minister of religion or a member of a religious order for a religious organisation which holds a Tier 2 sponsorship licence.

This category is for elite sportspeople who want to play for a club in the UK with a Tier 2 sponsor licence. Their application must be endorsed by their sport’s governing body.

In order to qualify under this category an applicant will need an offer of employment from a UK employer sponsor in a skilled role, i.e. NQF level 6, according to the UKVI Codes of Practice, unless the job is listed on the ‘shortage occupation list’ or is in the creative sector under certain Standard Occupational Codes. The job will also need to pay at least £20,800 a year or the appropriate rate for that role according to the UKVI Codes of Practice, whichever is higher.

An applicant must not have been in the UK with Tier 2 leave in the 12 months before any entry clearance application unless the job will pay £155,300 a year or more. (This is called a ‘cooling off’ period.)

Unless an exemption applies, before offering the role to a migrant worker, the employer will need to advertise the role to the resident workforce for 28 days by way of a Resident Labour Market Test (the role would need to be advertised via two acceptable media, one of which must be Jobcentre Plus unless the job pays more than £72,500 a year). If no suitable settled worker is identified then the role can be offered to the migrant worker. Employers are exempt from undertaking a Resident Labour Market Test if any of the following applies: the job is on the shortage occupation list’; the job will pay more than £155,300 a year; the applicant is switching from Tier 4 student leave where they have achieved a UK recognised Bachelors or Masters degree during their last grant of leave (and certain other limited exceptions).

Tier 2 Visa applications made from outside the UK will need their employers to apply to the UKVI for a ‘restricted’ Certificate of Sponsorship which needs to be granted and assigned before they can make their application for entry clearance, unless they will be doing a job in a shortage occupation or will be earning more than £153,500 a year (from 6th April 2014). In respect of applicants switching inside the UK into Tier 2 (General) from another eligible immigration category, the sponsoring employer assigns the CoS from their existing allocation of certificates and are not required to apply for a restricted certificate.

The Tier 2 Visa rules state that applicants need to meet the English language requirement by either being a national of a majority English-speaking country, holding a degree taught in English recognised as equivalent to a UK Bachelors degree or showing an English language ability to level B1 CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) by means of an approved English test certificate. Applicants switching inside the UK from certain other immigration categories will be deemed to meet the English language requirement.

Applicants entering the category will also need to show maintenance funds of £945 for a consecutive-90-day period by the date of application. An A-rated sponsor can certify maintenance on the Certificate of Sponsorship so the applicant does not need to show documentary evidence of their own maintenance funds.

Tier 2 (General) Workers can bring their dependants with them but will need to show additional maintenance funds (again, the employer can certify maintenance for dependants also).

A successful applicant for entry clearance would be granted leave to enter for the length of the period of engagement plus one month or for five years and one month, whichever is the shorter. A successful applicant for leave to remain would be granted leave to remain for the period of engagement plus fourteen days or for five years, whichever is the shorter (note the Home Office fee for applications for leave of over three years is twice that for applications for leave of up to three years).

Applicants are not permitted to spend more than 6 years in the Tier 2 (General) category unless they previously had leave under the Rules in place before 6 April 2011 as a Tier 2 (General) migrant (or in certain other limited categories).

Applicants can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR, also called settlement) after five years in this category as long as they are still required for the employment in question (they would also need to meet other ILR qualifying criteria). Note, there will be a minimum salary requirement of £35,500 for Tier 2 ILR applications made on or after 6th April 2018 (PhD level or shortage occupations are exempt).

Our Tier 2 Visa lawyers can assist with all stages of the process and fully prepare the application on behalf of the client. We will advise on the merits at the outset and make clear the legal and evidential requirements so that the application is set up on the best footing from the very start. We of course advise on all the supporting documents and evidence required and take the client through the immigration process from start to finish.

Our Tier 2 General Visa solicitors can assist with templates for documents specified by the Rules and deal with third parties where necessary and we aim to make the whole process as smooth as possible. If there are any issues in your immigration matter you will know before applying and we can help best overcome them. In short, we prevent mistakes and ensure any application meets the requirements of the Immigration Rules. We are here to help you safely navigate your way through the UK immigration process.