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Tier 2 (General) Work Visas in the UK

Foreign workers looking to come and work in the UK will require a visa, with the current visa route being under the Tier 2 visa category.  This route permits skilled workers to enter the UK on a long term basis to fill a skilled job vacancy.  

While the individual worker has to make the visa application themselves, you – as the prospective employer – have to meet various requirements in this process. Your business has to have a visa sponsor licence and to allocate a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) to the potential employee.

At Thorntons, we can advise you on the necessary actions and help you throughout the process.

Work visa issues for employers

While an individual has to apply for the Tier 2 (General) Work visa themselves, you as their prospective employer have certain obligations as part of the application route.

There are several types of long-term work visas for non-UK skilled workers looking to work in the UK for more than a year:

  • Tier 2 (General) Work visa
  • Tier 2 (Intra-company) Work visa
  • Tier 2 Minister of Religion visa
  • Tier 2 Sportsperson visa

With a Tier 2 (General) Work visa, the individual can work in the UK for a maximum of five years or for the period stated on their certificate of sponsorship if less plus one month, whichever is shorter.  This category permits work visa extensions of leave and also settlement but the holder can not hold a Tier 2 (General) visa for a period in excess of 6 years.   

With a Tier 2 Minister of Religion or Sportsperson visa, the individual can stay in the UK usually for a period up to three years.

The individual can apply for an extension of their visa.

For short-term contracts, the non-UK skilled worker would need to apply for a Tier 5 Work visa.

The Home Office Tier 2 sponsorship system is designed as a safeguard to ensure that those coming to the UK for employment purposes are eligible to do so and have a genuine offer of employment from a reputable business.

If, as an employer, you want to employ non-EEA nationals, you will usually be required to apply for a sponsor licence to enable them to be able to come to the UK and work for you. You apply online to the Home Office for the licence and have to supply supporting evidence to prove your business status. Your sponsor licence can then be managed by appropriate people within your organisation via the Home Office online Sponsorship Management System.

You also have to satisfy the Home Office that you will abide by your immigration responsibilities, including:

  • Making sure the employee has the necessary skills, qualifications or professional accreditations to carry out their role and retaining copies of documents proving this;
  • Assigning Certificate of Sponsorship to workers when the job is suitable for sponsorship and that the employee carries out the responsibilities for the role they have been sponsored for
  • Ensuring the Home Office are informed of sponsored workers not complying with conditions of their visa  and change in your circumstances within set timescales

This is particularly important as your immigration sponsor licence may be downgraded, suspended or withdrawn if your business does not comply with its duties and responsibilities as a sponsor licence holder.

At Thorntons, our experienced Immigration Law team can advise you on your employer responsibilities, the sponsorship licence requirements and process, and ongoing licence compliance.

Another requirement with the Tier 2 (General) visa process is that the vacancy is a sponsorable role in accordance with the Home Office list of Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes. Also, there are minimum salary thresholds that have to be met. These vary depending on the role and the level of experience of the candidate. You can find the up-to-date list of sponsorable roles on the Home Office website.

Currently, before an employer can issue a worker with a Certificate of Sponsorship, the employer will be required to carry out a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) in order to satisfy the UK Home Office that a genuine vacancy in the business cannot be filled by a British or EEA national or settled worker.  This may potentially be applicable for the following categories: Tier 2 (General); Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) or Tier 5 (Religious Workers); Tier 5 (Creative and Sporting) in the creative and entertainment sector.

The requirements of the RLMT are strict and inflexible and it is important that this be carried out in accordance with the relevant Home Office guidance.

However, this test is proposed to be phased out so it may not apply to your situation. Our expert immigration law team can keep you up to date as to your sponsorship responsibilities and requirements in this fast-changing area of employment and immigration law.

The Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) is the electronic document that allows your proposed employee to apply for a Tier 2 or Tier 5 visa. You have to assign a COS to each foreign worker you propose to employ. The individual can then use the COS number in their application to the Home Office.

The sponsored employee may be able to extend their Tier 2 visa. They will need to apply online to the Home Office before the end of their current work visa. They can apply to extend their visa by another five years, as long as the total stay in this category is not more than six years.

If your sponsor licence application is refused or rejected, this can have a significant impact on your business and recruitment planning.  If your application has been rejected, this is likely to be because of an invalid application but a refusal from the Home Office may be due to a more serious issue. It could be that you have not supplied the correct supporting evidence in your application or that the supporting documents were submitted late or due to failing a compliance visit from the Home Office.  There could other reasons for refusal but this will be outlined by the Home Office.  Depending on the reasons for refusal, you may find that you can re-apply straight away, wait for a cooling-off period before you can re-apply or submit a judicial review to challenge the decision.  There is no right of appeal.

We can assist you in finding out the reasons for your sponsor licence application refusal or rejection and help you address the necessary areas.

How can Thorntons help?

Our Immigration Law team are on hand to give you comprehensive Tier 2 sponsorship guidance and help you with all necessary immigration checks. Our specialist Immigration Solicitors can advise you on all aspects of applying for a sponsorship licence for potential non-UK employees from eligibility to completing the relevant application.

We have many years’ experience in dealing with all types of visa applications, sponsorship licences and immigration employment law issues. With our proactive support, you can ensure your business meets the sponsorship and visa requirements it needs.

Call the Thorntons Immigration Law team on 03330 430 350 to find out more about our Tier 2 visa support for businesses, or complete our online enquiry form and we will contact you.