Tier 2 Visa Overview
A large part of ensuring that the Home Office’s immigration schemes are successful is granting applications to skilled, useful workers. The UK is an internationally-recognised leader in many industries, and attracts a high level of immigration from overseas to work in the fields of technology, engineering, aerospace, energy, digital design and more. Recognising that it’s important to receive skilled workers from overseas, the Tier 2 visa system has been created to provide a path through which professionals from other countries can bring their skills to the UK job market.
An important criteria for Tier 2 applications is to ensure that the applicant is moving to the UK specifically for work, and a vital requirement for these applications is proof that a job has been offered and accepted. There are several key criteria that applicants must fulfil, and there are strict controls in place to ensure that not just any applicant can receive approval - they must possess skills which will benefit the UK, and be in a position to make use of them.
In this article we’ll discuss the general outline of a Tier 2 visa application, and highlight the main criteria needed for a successful application. For further guidance, applicants should refer to the UK Government’s Immigration website.
Who is the Tier 2 Visa system designed for?
A “general” tier 2 visa is designed for workers who have been offered a job in the UK which meets the requirements set out by the Home Office. It allows workers to remain in the UK for up to 5 years, but the length of the visa can vary. Applicants will have to meet some basic requirements, such as demonstrating English language skills and a minimum level of initial maintenance, and will be subject to several restrictions on their employment whilst in the UK.
Timeline of a Tier 2 Visa
A tier 2 visa can be applied for up to 3 months before the applicant begins work in the UK, and may be used to enter the UK up to 14 days before beginning their employment. Upon application, the worker will be required to provide details of the length of their employment, which will determine the length of their visa; tier 2 visas permit immigrants to remain in the country for up to 1 month after their employment ends.
Tier 2 visas can be initially granted for up to 5 years and 14 days, and can be extended once they expire. However, immigrants cannot remain on a tier 2 visa for more than 6 years, whether it has been renewed or not: if an initial application is made for a 3 year stay, this can be extended for another 3 years. However, a 5 year stay could only then be extended by another 1 year.
A Tier 2 visa is primarily concerned with admitting highly skilled workers into the UK, so a major part of the application process is providing evidence of useful employment. An applicant has to be “sponsored” by a UK business, which must provide a certificate of sponsorship reference number. This will give details of the type and length of employment, along with the salary to be paid.
As a general rule, applicants will need to be receiving more than £25,000 in salary to be granted a tier 2 visa. This reflects the emphasis on highly skilled workers, and their value to the nation’s economy. However, there are exceptions to the rule, and there are several sectors in which workers may be granted entry even if they’re paid less than £25,000; these jobs are “Shortage Occupations”, where there is a shortfall of workers for specific roles in the UK.
Shortage occupations include many different fields, but are mostly within the STEM sectors - engineers, software designers and scientists, but also skilled musicians and dancers. A full list is available from the UK immigration website.
Taking a Second Job
It is possible for applicants to take on additional work while in the UK, but they must notify the Government of their intention to do so, and must ensure that it doesn’t interfere with their primary employment. If this second job is on the shortage occupation list, no permission is needed, and the applicant may begin work freely.
Criminal Records Requirement
Some occupations will require applicants to submit their criminal records during their application. This doesn’t apply to all fields, and as a general rule only applicants who will be working with vulnerable people will need to provide these records - employees in the medical industry or in education, for example. A full list is available from the UK immigration office’s website.
Route to Settlement
In 2016, the UK Government raised the bar for Tier 2 visa settlements, requiring that immigrants who wished to settle in the UK after their visa expired must be earning at least £35,000 - a significant increase on the £25,000 previously required. Workers in Shortage Occupation fields are exempt from this requirement, however, owing to the vital nature of the work they carry out.
In addition to earning at least £35,000, applicants who wish to settle in the UK must demonstrate knowledge of life and language in the country, and have lived here for more than five years.
Fees for a Tier 2 visa
The cost of applying for a tier 2 visa varies depending on the length and type of application submitted. For applicants who will be staying in the UK for more than 3 years, a fee of £1,151 is needed (£1,328 if the application is submitted in the UK), while those who only intend to remain for less than 3 years must pay £575 (£664 for applications from the UK). Discounted rates are also available for workers in shortage occupations, who pay the smaller amounts of £873 and £437 respectively.
A premium service is available for applicants who need a visa in a hurry, which can usually give a decision within 10 working days. However, a £500 surcharge is levied on premium applications, and only a small number can be processed - the UK immigration services will only process the first 60 applications received after 8:30am each day.