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What is the Tier 2 General Visa?

Immigration expert Flora Mewies talks you through the Tier 2 General Visa.

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Tier 2 General - overview

Can I claim a refund for the Immigration Health Surcharge? – Business

The IHS refund scheme has been launched for those working in the NHS or social care sector.

Workers applying for the Tier 2 Health and Care visa are exempt from paying the IHS however there are thousands of others working within this sector on different visas who have had to make the IHS payment upfront at the time of applying for their visa. They will now be able to claim this back every 6 months.

To be eligible for a refund, you must:

  • hold a visa that gives you a generic right to work e.g. Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa, PBS Dependant visa, spousal visa, Student visa (with the right to work up to 20 hours per week during term time);
  • have paid the IHS at the time of applying for your visa;
  • have worked continuously for at least 6 months commencing on or after 31 March 2020;
  • have worked for an average of at least 16 hours per week over the full six month period;
  • have worked in an eligible job which means that you must be:
    • providing a service which is related to the delivery of health or social care; and
    • be employed or engaged by either:
      • a recognised health or care provider (e.g. NHS trusts, national NHS bodies); or
      • an employer which is registered with an appropriate health or social care services regulator to provide health or care services (e.g. care homes or independent sector healthcare providers registered with the CQC); or
      • an employer delivering services that directly support health and social care services (e.g. facilities management services within a hospital, as long as this work is undertaken within a health and care setting).

If the main applicant meets the eligibility criteria, they can also apply for a refund for their dependants.

Applications can be submitted online here.

Holders of a Tier 2 (General) visa who meet the eligibility criteria above can claim for a  reimbursement of the IHS by contacting the Home Office at IHSrefunds@homeoffice.gov.uk rather than through the online scheme.

What is the Tier 2 General visa?

This visa is for skilled workers who have been offered a job in the UK with a company that holds a sponsor licence.

Can my company sponsor an employee for a Tier 2 General visa?

Yes, if your company holds a Tier 2 General sponsor licence it can assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to the employee which will allow them to apply for the visa. The job they are sponsored to do must meet the minimum skill level and minimum salary.

If your company does not already hold a Tier 2 General sponsor licence, it will need to apply for one before you can sponsor an employee.

My employee has asked that the company ‘certifies their maintenance’, what does this mean?

When making their Tier 2 General visa application, the employee is required to provide evidence that they have at least £945 in an account in their name for the 90 days before the application. If the employee cannot meet this requirement, or wishes to avoid the hassle of providing evidence of this with the application, the sponsor can tick a box on the CoS to confirm that it certifies the employee’s maintenance.

If you tick this box, your organisation is confirming that you will maintain and accommodate the employee, up to the level of at least £945 up to the end of the first month of sponsorship/employment, if required.

How much does it cost to apply for a Tier 2 General visa?

The employer/sponsor will need to pay a fee to UKVI of £199 to assign the CoS and may also have to pay the Immigration Skills Charge.

The employee will have to pay the visa application fee, biometrics fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge. Some employers choose to cover all or part of these costs.

How much is the Immigration Skills Charge?

PeriodSmall or charitable sponsors Medium or large sponsors
First 12 months£364£1,000
Each additional 6 months£182£500

This charge is payable at the time of assigning the CoS.

How long should we sponsor a Tier 2 General visa for?

You should sponsor your employee for as long as you expect to require them to hold the role they are being sponsored to do. The maximum initial duration of sponsorship is 5 years but this can be extended subsequently to years in total.

The upfront fees payable increase if sponsorship is for more than 3 years so most employers sponsor their employee for 3 years and then they subsequently extend the visa for a further period of 3 years or less.

After 5 years, the employee can apply for Indefinite Leave Remain.

Can we promote a sponsored worker?

Yes. You will have to comply with your reporting duties as a sponsor and if the new role falls within a different SOC Code, you will have to assign a new CoS and the employee will need to make a new visa application.

Can my sponsored worker move to a new employer?

Yes. They would end their employment and sponsorship with you and need to obtain a new qualifying job offer from another employer with a sponsor licence who will assign a CoS and they would then have to make a new visa application.

What happens when we dismiss a sponsored worker or their employment ends?

You are required to notify UKVI that the Tier 2 General visa holder’s employment has ended. This is done through the Sponsor Management System within 10 working days of the termination date. The employee’s visa will then be curtailed.

What is the Tier 2 cooling off period?

The Tier 2 cooling off period prevents an individual who has held a Tier 2 visa from returning to the UK for a period of 12 months after their visa expired, on another Tier 2 visa. There are certain exemptions to this rule which we would be happy to discuss with you.

Tier 2 General - eligibility

What is the minimum salary for Tier 2 General sponsorship?

Each role that you can sponsor an employee for has a minimum salary set by UKVI. This can be found here and is split into ‘new entrant’ and ‘experienced worker’ salaries.

For a new entrant, the minimum salary is £20,800pa or, if higher, the salary stipulated in the Immigration Rules.

For an experienced worker, the minimum salary is £30,000pa or, if higher, the salary stipulated in the Immigration Rules. This is based on working a minimum number of hours per week as set out in the Rules.

Please note that from 1 January 2021 the minimum general salary threshold will be reduced from £30,000 to £25,600 (with lower salaries in certain circumstances for new entrants).

The roles capable of sponsorship and the salary requirements are regularly amended, for assistance with identifying the minimum salary for a specific role, please contact us.

What is the minimum skill level for a Tier 2 General sponsored job?

Currently, the role that you are sponsoring must be at RQF Level 6 or above, which is equivalent to degree level. There are some limited exceptions to this requirement and this will change under the new immigration system from 1 January 2021 where the skill level will be reduced to RQF Level 3 or above, which is equivalent to A Level.

What is the Shortage Occupation List?

The Shortage Occupation List is a list of all roles in the UK which UKVI believes there are not enough settled workers to fill. The current shortage occupation list can be found here.

For all roles on the Shortage Occupation List (except Nurses), there is no requirement to conduct the Resident Labour Market Test.

Can we sponsor a student for a Tier 2 General Visa?

Yes – so long as the student has:

  • obtained an eligible qualification
  • completed their course of study or are due to complete it within 3 months, or
  • completed 12 months of a PhD.

Sponsoring a student means that you don’t have to carry out the Resident Labour Market Test and you don’t have to pay the Immigration Skills Surcharge.

Tier 2 Health and Care visa

What other steps do I need to take if I am a sponsor?

Employers who are assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship to a migrant under the Health and Care Visa must ensure that they:

  • explain in the ‘Summary of job description’ field of the Certificate of Sponsorship how the migrant meets the Health and Care Visa criteria which includes which SOC code applies;
  • provide brief information about the contract or agreement that they have with NHS trusts or bodies to provide the services (if they are a private organisation); and
  • inform migrants that they are eligible for the visa so that their visa application can be correctly processed.

These steps are to ensure that those migrants who qualify for fast-track entry, reduced fees and automatic exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge are identified during the application process.

What is the health and social care visa?

From 4 August 2020, health professionals can apply for the new Health and Care visa.

Although it is billed as a new visa, the Health and Care visa will actually be an addition to the existing Tier 2 (General) visa scheme. Therefore applicants will need to meet all of the Tier 2 (General) criteria as well as additional eligibility criteria to be successful.

This will apply to global health professionals including nurses, midwives, paramedics, dental practitioners, physiotherapists and more.

Applicants must meet the existing Tier 2 General requirements in that they must have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship, meet the appropriate skill and salary level for their role, be able to prove their English language ability, have the minimum personal savings, have a valid TB test (if required) and criminal record certificate.

What are the benefits of the new visa?

The application fee for the Health and Care visa is cheaper than the Tier 2 (General) visa at £232 for visas for up to 3 years and £464 for more than 3 years.  The fee is discounted further if the role is on the Shortage Occupation List. In addition, applicants do not have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (currently £400 per year). An added benefit is that dependants will also be exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge.  These exemptions would save a family of four nearly £5,000 on a three year visa.

Further, those applying for a Health and Care visa should receive a faster decision than the standard Tier 2 route. The Government has stated that a decision should be granted within three weeks of an applicant giving their biometrics, rather than the standard 8 week processing time under Tier 2.

Who qualifies?

In order to qualify for the visa, applicants must be taking up a job in an eligible role. Although the name of this visa suggests that care assistants and other care home staff would be eligible, this is not the case and these professions have been explicitly excluded. Instead, the visa is for those health professional roles which the Government assesses as being skilled, such as doctors, nurses, dentists, physiotherapists and paramedics. A full list of the eligible roles are provided in the Tier 2 Policy Guidance.

In addition to holding an eligible job, applicants must be taking up a job with the NHS, an NHS provider or one of listed organisations in the Tier 2 Policy guidance. Listed organisations include a Local Authority or Clinical Commissioning Group as well as organisations registered with the Care Quality Commission where the migrant is employed to provide (or to support the provision of) regulated activities as prescribed in Schedule 1 to the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014.

How to apply

Applicants will need to apply using the online Tier 2 (General) visa application form but will need to tick a box to confirm that they are applying for the Health and Care visa.

Sponsors employing migrants under this route will need to explain in the Certificate of Sponsorship how the employee is eligible. For example, where a sponsor provides services commissioned by the NHS, proof of this arrangement should be provided to evidence that the Health and Care visa is applicable.

Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer - overview

What is the Tier 2 ICT visa?

This visa is for skilled workers who have been offered a job by their overseas employer at a UK Branch of the organisation.

There are two different types of ICT visa:

  1. Long-term staff – this is for employees of overseas companies coming to work at a branch office in the UK, and
  2. Graduate trainee – this is for transfers onto graduate training programmes in the UK for your employer.

How long can a worker stay in the UK for on a Tier 2 ICT visa?

This depends on the type of ICT visa have and the salary you pay your worker:

  • those sponsored for a Long-term staff visa who earn more than £120,000 per year, can stay in the UK with this visa for up to 9 years
  • those sponsored for a Long-term staff visa who earn less than £120,000 per year, can stay in the UK with this visa for up to 5 years and 1 month, and
  • those sponsored for a Graduate trainee visa, can stay in the UK with this visa for up to 12 months.

How much does it cost to apply for a Tier 2 ICT visa?

The employer/sponsor will need to pay a fee to UKVI of £199 to assign the CoS and may also have to pay the Immigration Skills Charge (please see above).

The employee will have to pay the visa application fee, biometrics fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge. Some employers choose to cover all or part of these costs.

Which is better – Tier 2 General visa or Tier 2 ICT visa?

Employees will usually prefer to be sponsored for a Tier 2 General visa. This is because it leads to settlement in the UK where are the Tier 2 ICT visa is a temporary visa and they have to leave the UK at the end of it.

For the employer, the Tier 2 ICT visa is usually a little quicker and easier to obtain because you do not have to do the Resident Labour Market Test or apply for a Restricted CoS. However the minimum salary for the Tier 2 ICT visa is often higher than for the Tier 2 General visa.

Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer - eligibility

Do we need a different sponsor licence for Intra-Company Transfers?

Employers need to hold a Tier 2 ICT sponsor licence to be able to sponsor workers for this visa type. This is so that the Home Office has evidence of the connection between your UK entity and overseas entity from which the worker will be transferred.

If you currently hold a Tier 2 General licence only, you can apply to add Tier 2 ICT sponsorship to this. This can be done online for an additional fee.

Is there a minimum salary payable for sponsorship under the Tier 2 ICT visa?

Yes. For the Graduate trainee visa the minimum salary is £23,000pa and for the Long-term staff visa, it is £41,500pa.

Are allowances and bonuses included in the minimum salary?

The Home Office will take account of the following when calculating the minimum salary:

  • basic pay (excluding overtime)
  • allowances (such as accommodation allowance up to a set level, London weighting), and
  • guaranteed bonuses.

Does the job need to meet a minimum skill level for a Tier 2 ICT visa?

Yes. Currently, the role that you the worker will be sponsored to do must be at RQF Level 6 or above (equivalent to degree level). There are some limited exceptions to this requirement.

How long does the worker have to have been employed overseas before they can be transferred to the UK?

For the Graduate trainee visa, the worker needs to have worked for your overseas entity for at least 3 months.

For the Long-term staff visa, the worker need to have worked for your overseas entity for at least 12 months. This 12 month requirement can be avoided if the role that the worker will carry out in the UK pays a salary of £73,900 pa or more.

What type of Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is needed for sponsorship under a Tier 2 ICT visa?

To sponsor a worker for a Tier 2 ICT visa you need to assign an unrestricted ICT CoS. This can be applied for via the Sponsor Management System if you do not have any.

Services, audits, training and pricing

Services and pricing options

We provide a range of services to Tier 2 visa applicants including assistance with their initial application and switching to this visa category. This includes:

  • initial correspondence with you regarding eligibility
  • review of and advice to you on the draft completed application form
  • advice to you on the application process and queries
  • advice on which supporting documents to provide with the application
  • assist with questions about the process or correspondence from the Home Office.

Fee estimate*: £750 – £1,250

*:  Our fees are calculated based on the number of hours it will take us to carry out this work. The exact number of hours it will take depends on the circumstances in your case, such as:

  • the volume of supporting documents and evidence that we need to consider
  • the quality of the draft supporting documents provided by you, the amount of time required to amend these and the number of amended drafts required
  • whether face to face meetings with you are required (if you reside in the UK) and the volume of calls and queries from you
  • the urgency of your application
  • whether you have an adverse immigration or criminal history
  • the need to obtain documentation from or liaise with third parties such as accountants or translation companies
  • whether you are applying alone or with dependants
  • whether you require advice on your current immigration status.

Fees are excluding VAT at the rate of 20%. VAT may or may not be payable on the above fee estimate as this is dependent on the country in which you reside and you will be advised of this before work on your application commences. Disbursements are costs related to your matter that are payable to third parties, such as visa fees payable to the Home Office and document translation fees. These are not included in the above estimates.

Full details can be found in our comprehensive pricing document, which can be found here, or please contact one of our immigration specialists.

About the Sponsorship Management Service

As a registered sponsor of Tier 2 migrants, you have a wealth of obligations and duties to UK Visas & Immigration and failure to comply can ultimately lead to your licence being revoked.

Have peace of mind from only £100 per month

Let our business immigration experts take away that risk and strain by being named as Legal Representative on your sponsor licence, as well as having day-to-day involvement as a Level 1 User of the Sponsor Management System.

Our service includes:

  • Submitting reports to UKVI via the SMS in relation to:
    • sponsored migrants, including absences, termination of employment, salary changes
    • key personnel, including changes to named personnel and contact details
    • the organisation, including changes to contact details, size and structure
  • Preparing and submitting applications for renewal of unrestricted Certificates of Sponsorship
  • Preparing and submitting applications for renewal of the sponsor licence
  • Access to guidance for sponsors on key personnel, record keeping and reporting duties
  • Preferential pricing on training packages and immigration audits
  • Updates on matters affecting your sponsor licence

Contact us to find out more.

Tier 2 Sponsor Management training course

We run an in-depth training course on Sponsor Management for Tier 2 sponsor licence holders. This half day course is aimed at members of HR and Management and those who are Key Personnel named on the sponsor licence. This training, previously delivered at your premises but available to delivered online, covers:

  • the current immigration landscape
  • the roles of the organisation’s Key Personnel
  • the Sponsor Management System
  • Tier 2 visa sponsorship requirements – skill and salary level and genuine vacancies
  • how to conducting a compliant Resident Labour Market Test
  • Certificates of Sponsorship – what these are and identifying the appropriate type
  • the Immigration Skills Charge
  • record keeping and reporting duties as a sponsor, and
  • the future for UK immigration routes.

These training courses cost £950 plus VAT each and can be delivered in-house to your staff.  To discuss your immigration training requirements or the above courses, please contact us.

Right to Work training

Our immigration solicitors provide Right to Work training for HR and Recruitment teams and those who are responsible for carrying out right to work checks on employees. Using practical examples and case studies, the course is designed to up-skill your staff and ensure compliant right to work checks are completed. This training can be delivered at your premises and covers:

  • the history of illegal working legislation
  • the groups of individuals who are subject to right to work checks
  • the statutory excuse – what it is and how to obtain it
  • how to carry out a compliant right to work check
  • types of right to work documentation commonly encountered
  • right to work checks for EU nationals in light of Brexit, and
  • responding to Home Office enquiries and civil penalties.

Training courses cost £950 plus VAT each and can be delivered in-house to your staff. To discuss your immigration training requirements or the above courses, please contact us.

Immigration compliance audit

Correctly managing your organisation’s Tier 2 sponsor licence and retaining copies of all of the relevant documents is an onerous but important task.

If you are concerned that the organisation is not on top of this, or you want peace of mind that you reporting and record keeping is up to date, or perhaps you have a pending visit from a Home Office Immigration Compliance Officer, a member of our expert immigration team can carry out a thorough compliance audit for you.

This typically includes:

  • attendance at your offices (where possible)
  • review of the organisation’s sponsor licence
  • interview with a member of the Key Personnel responsible for the sponsor licence
  • review of your HR systems and processes
  • review of all sponsored Tier 2 visa holder’s personnel files
  • sample review of employee right to work checks and procedures in place, and
  • provision of report and action points.

Prices start from £1,000 plus VAT.  Contact us to find out more.

Disclaimer

Given the fast pace of change, we would stress that this information is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

As a hub, we have included references to articles and explainers from third parties. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

Our immigration team

Flora Mewies profile image

Flora Mewies

Associate | Employment

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Leeds and Manchester

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Roisin Patton

Partner | Employment

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Newcastle

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Gillian Burns

Associate | Employment

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Newcastle

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Natalie Payne

Solicitor | Employment

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Leeds and Manchester

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