Tier 2 visas

If you are you are hoping to come to the UK as a skilled worker and are a citizen of a country outside the EEA you will need a visa under Tier 2 of the points based system.

This is one of the main routes to settlement which the government has left open, although it has been severely restricted since 2010. This has included a limit on the maximum number of skilled workers who can come to the UK in a year in the Tier 2 (General) category.

In order to qualify for a Tier 2 visa you will need to have been offered a skilled job in the UK and your employer must be willing to sponsor you. You will also need to pass a points-based assessment.

There are now four categories of Tier 2 visas:

  1. General
  2. Minister of religion
  3. Sportsperson
  4. Intra company transfer

Tier 2 (General)

The Tier 2 (General) category is for foreign nationals who have been offered a skilled job to fill a gap in the workforce that cannot be filled by a settled worker.

If you want to apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa the first thing you should do if you is read the Tier 2 policy guidance - valid from 1 October 2011 (PDF, 679KB)

For the year from 6 April 2011 to 5 April 2012, a maximum of 20,700 skilled workers can come to the UK under Tier 2 (General) to do jobs with an annual salary below £150,000. This is split into 12 monthly allocations of 1,500 places.

In oversubscribed months applications will be prioritised and processed in the following order:

  1. applications for jobs on the Shortage Occupation List
  2. then applicants with phd level qualifications
  3. then vacancies with the highest salaries

There is no limit on the number of workers coming to the UK to do jobs with an annual salary of £150,000 or above. Tier 2 (Minister of religion) visas are also exempt from this limit.

Visa requirements

In order to qualify for a Tier 2 (General) visa there are four main criteria you will need to meet.

  1. You need a certificate of sponsorship which you have because one of the following applies:
  2. You must be earning an appropriate salary for your position, which is normally £20,000 per annum or more. Guidance on appropriate salaries is given on the Appropriate salary and allowances page of the UKBA website.

    The UKBA have introduced a salary threshold for Tier 2 (General) visa holders who want to go on to apply for Settlement. The salary threshold is £35,000 - although some exemptions apply such as PHD students and people in occupations on the shortage occupation list.

  3. You must be able to demonstrate a minimum level of English language in one of the following ways:
    • By being a national of a majority English-speaking country.
    • Holding a degree that was taught in English and is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree.
    • Passing an English language test on the UKBA list of approved English language tests. The minimum level of English language required is the intermediate level, B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference.
    If you have to take an English language assessment for any reason you must take a UKBA-approved English language test. The complete list of approved English language tests (PDF, 126KB) is found on the UKBA website.
  4. You must have enough money to support yourself during your time in the UK. You automatically qualify in some circumstances, which are detailed on the Maintenance (funds) page of the UKBA website.

    If you don’t automatically qualify you will need to have £800 in personal savings for a continuous 90-day period which ends no more than 1 month before your application, or an A rated sponsor who confirms in your certificate of sponsorship that it will maintain you until the end of your first month of employment in the UK.

Requirements for settlement

At present, you cannot apply for settlement until you have been in the UK for a continuous period of 5 years in an eligible immigration category.

This 5-year continuous period can include any time that you have spent in the following immigration categories before you applied under Tier 2:

  • member of the operational ground staff of an overseas-owned airline
  • minister of religion, missionary or member of a religious order
  • qualifying work permit holder
  • sole representative of an overseas business
  • representative of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation
  • any Tier 1 category, except Tier 1 (Post study work)
  • highly skilled migrant
  • innovator

You will also need your sponsor to confirm in writing that you are still needed in your job and that you receive a salary at or above the minimum threshold to be eligible for settlement in the UK. These confirmations must be accompanied by your most recent payslip and a bank or building society statement.

As noted above, from 6 April 2012 you need to be earning at least £35,000 a year to qualify for settlement. Some exemptions apply, such as for positions on the shortage occupation list and PHD students

Can my dependents apply for settlement?

If your wife, husband or partner wants to apply for settlement they must have lived with you in the UK for at least 2 years on a spouse or partner visa. Your children can apply for settlement at the same time as you.

You should note that all applications for settlement, for you and any dependents must meet all the requirements of the Immigration Rules at the time when they apply for settlement. If you are applying for settlement in the future, you must check that the Immigration Rules are subject to change.

At present, your partner must have lived with you in the UK for a minimum of 2 years before they can apply for settlement. Your children can apply for settlement at the same time as you do.

Intra company transfers

You must be applying for a position with a salary of at least £24,000 to get a Tier 2 (Intra company transfer) visa. Your permitted length of stay depends on your salary as well. With a salary of between £24,000 and £39,999 you can stay for 12 months. If you earn £40,000 or more you can stay up to five years. This means you can only go on to apply for settlement if you earn over £40,000 per annum.

There are extra requirements for Intra company transfer visa holders who are applying for settlement, such as providing payslips and declarations from your sponsoring employer. You should check these in detail before you make any application.

Other Tier 2 categories

If you are applying through one of the other categories in Tier 2 there may be other rules and requirements that apply to your visa. For instance, application fees will be different compared to Tier 2 (General) applications. You should check these details before making any applications.

For Ministers of religion and Sportsperson visas the qualifying requirements for settlement are the same as General visas.

All four categories of Tier 2 visa give the same rights for your dependents to apply for settlement, as detailed above.

For full details you should check the UKBA website using the links to the visa categories at the top of this page.