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02 June 2020

Tier 2: Working in the UK

7 mins

The Tier 2 route has now closed and applications must be made under the skilled worker scheme. You can find out more information on the new scheme here.

Individuals who wish to come to the UK to take up employment are likely to need a Tier 2 Visa.  This is a visa aimed at allowing skilled workers and their immediate families to live and work in the UK for up to 6 years.  Working in the UK on a Tier 2 visa can, in some circumstances, lead to permanent residency (settlement). 

I want to work in the UK, do I need a visa?

  • Yes, if you wish to work in the UK and are not a British or EU national, or have leave to remain in the UK with permission to work, for instance as a refugee or a partner of a British citizen,  you will need a Tier 2 visa. 
  • Tier 2 visas are only available for skilled workers, which subject to some exceptions means being at NVQ level 6.
  • Tier 2 visas come in 4 categories:
  1. General: these are for skilled jobs that cannot be filled by a settled worker (i.e. a British citizen, EU national, someone with permanent residency.)
  2. Intra-company transfers: these are for existing employees of multi-nationals who need to transfer to the UK.  These are broken down into two further categories:
  • Long Term Staff
  • Graduate traineesSportsperson: if you are an elite sportsperson or coach
  • Sportsperson: if you are an elite sportsperson or coach
  • Minister of Religion: if you are undertaking preaching, pastoral, missionary work or as a Member of a Religious Order and are taking up a post with your faith community in the UK.

How do I apply for a Tier 2 visa?

In order to apply for a Tier 2 visa you will need:

  • Sponsorship from a  UK based company which holds a Tier 2 licence with the Home Office
  • A job offer for a skilled position with a UK based company
  • Evidence that the Resident Labour Market Test has been passed (if applicable)
  • Be assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) by your employer.  Your employer must have a valid Tier 2 Sponsor Licence
  • Be offered a salary at the appropriate rate for the job, as set out in the UKVI Code of Practice
  • Meet an English language requirement
  • Have sufficient funds to support yourself and any dependants

Do I need a job offer before I come to the UK?

  • Yes, you must have a job offer and your employer must be a ‘licensed sponsor’ in the UK so that they can issue you with a ‘Certificate of Sponsorship’
  • A Certificate of Sponsorship is an electronic reference number assigned to you by a prospective employer.
  • You cannot usually be offered a job if there is a suitable settled worker who would not be hired or would be made redundant as a result.  Your employer will have to carry out a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) to check there is no settled person available for the job.  There are some exemptions to theRLMT, including if your job is a shortage occupation, your salary will be over £159,600 or for an Intra Company Transfer.

How long can I stay in the UK as a Tier 2 worker?

  • The length of the visa depends on the type of Tier 2 visa you have.
  • Tier 2 General staff will be granted up to 5 years or for the length of the employment, whichever is shorter
  • Tier 2 Intra Country Transfer long term staff will be granted up to 5 years or for the length of the employment, whichever is shorter
  • Graduate trainees will be granted a maximum 12 month visa
  • Minsters of Religion and Sportspeople will be granted a visa for up to 3 years or for the length of the employment.

Can I extend my visa to stay in the UK?

  • Yes, if you meet certain requirements you can extend your stay in the UK.  
  • You cannot apply for an extension if you are applying from outside the UK, switching into a different category or changing employer.
  • A Resident Labour Market Test is not required for extension applications if you remain in the same job with the same employer.
  • You cannot remain in the UK as a Tier 2 Migrant for more than 6 years.

Can I stay in the UK permanently?

  • Tier 2 workers other than Intra Company Transfer workers can apply for indefinite leave to remain (settlement) after 5 years continuous leave as a Tier 2 migrant.
  • Intra Company Transfer workers are not eligible for settlement.
  • There are minimum salary thresholds that must be met for settlement applications, unless you have a COS for a PhD-level occupation or a shortage occupation, or your most recent grant of leave was as a Tier 2 (Minister of Religion). 
  • The salary thresholds change each year and you will need to check the requirement for the year you are applying. 
  • You must still be required for the job in question and your employer will be asked to confirm this.

What happens if I am unable to work during the period of my Tier 2 visa  

  • You are permitted to have periods of absence related to maternity, paternity, shared parental leave, adoption leave or long term sick leave.  However, your leave may be curtailed where you have been absent from work without pay for 4 weeks of more in any calendar year.
  • Your employer will be required to report to UKVI any absences from work for more than 10 working days where the employer’s permission has not be reasonably granted.

Can I change jobs?

  • Your grant of leave as a Tier 2 (General) migrant is tied to your sponsored employment. If you want to change jobs, you will need to apply for further leave as a Tier 2 (General) migrant, after you have been assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship by your new licensed sponsor.

Can I work for two different employers?

  • There is a difference if you are undertaking supplementary or secondary employment.
  • Supplementary employment is permitted in certain circumstances.  Secondary employment is not unless a new COS is applied for and the standard requirements for a Tier 2 job are met.
  • Tier 2 (General) Migrants are entitled to undertake supplementary employment in certain circumstances:
  • The supplementary employment must be in the same profession and at the same professional level as your  main job.
  • Supplementary employment cannot be for more than 20 hours a week and those hours must be outside of your main working hours.
  • Where possible, the supplementary employment does not have to meet the resident labour market test and the employer does not have to have a sponsor licence.

What happens if I am dismissed or made redundant?

  • Where your sponsored employment as a Tier 2 (General) migrant ceases prior to the date stated on the COS, your leave to remain will be curtailed, i.e. cut short. Leave will be curtailed to a period of 60 days starting with the date of curtailment or to the end of your period of leave, whichever is shorter.

 What happens if my employer loses their Sponsor licence?

  • An individual’s leave may be curtailed to a period of 60 of days starting with the date of curtailment or to the end of their period of leave, whichever is shorter. If you were complicit in the reason for the sponsor licence being revoked, your leave may be curtailed with immediate effect.

Can my family join me?

  • Yes. Tier 2 (General) migrants can be joined in the UK by their partners (spouse/civil partner/unmarried partner) and their dependant children under the age of 18 years.  Their leave will be for the same time as the main applicant .
  • Dependants of Tier 2 migrants can work, subject to those whose employment will be as a doctor or dentist in training.
  • Dependants cannot access public funds.
  • Dependant children can attend school.

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