This type of visa is available to highly-skilled Non EEA (European Economic Area) nationals who are coming to the UK to fill a vacant position that cannot be filled by a UK settled person. There are 4 different types of Tier 2 visas: Tier 2 General (for those employees who have a job offer for a skilled job which cannot be filled by a settled worker), Tier 2 Intra-Company transfer (for existing employees of multi-national companies who are being transferred to the UK branch of the company either for training or to fill a specific position), Tier 2 Sportsperson (reserved for elite athletes and coaches) and Tier 2 Minister of Religion.
In order to be eligible for the a Tier 2 visa the employee must have a job offer and a Certificate of Sponsorship from a licensed sponsor in the UK, however, simply having a Certificate of Sponsorship does not mean that the employee would be automatically granted a work visa as all work visa application are subject to individual review against multiple factors (including previous immigration history of the applicant). The job offer can only be issued if the proposed employee would not be displacing or taking the space of the settled worker.
Except for limited circumstances, the employee cannot hold more than 10% of the shares of the sponsoring company (if it is a limited company).
There is an annual limit on the application for Tier 2 General visa on application from outside of the United Kingdom (and certain applications made from within the UK).
A Tier 2 holder cannot take up employment in the UK, except as follows:
- With a sponsoring employer
- Supplementary employment (either in shortage occupation professions or in the same profession and same professional level as the job on certificate of sponsorship; no more than 20 hours per week; outside of normal working hours of the job you are being originally sponsored for)
- Voluntary work (in any sector as long as it is not paid for).
Tier 2 holder does not have the right to set up their own business. If they wish to undertake any other employment – except as specified above – they would need to make a secondary employment application and such application would be considered as a separate application and must meet Tier 2 criteria on its own.
A Tier 2 holder may study while being sponsored, there is no limit on the hours of study provided that such studies do not interfere with the job.
A new application is would have to be made of a Tier 2 holder is changing jobs, or remains with the current employer but the circumstances of employment are being changed (for example, there is a change to core duties), such application may trigger a new resident labour market test by the proposed sponsor.
Tier 2 visa can be granted for a period of up to 5 years with a possibility to extend for a maximum of 6 years. After 5 years of being in the UK under Tier 2 the employee will be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK (provided that other conditions are met at the time of application). If the employee for any reason cannot apply for a permanent residence permit (for whatever reason), they will be required to leave the UK for a period of 12 months. In order to qualify for settlement under Tier 2 visa category the holder may not be absent from the UK for periods of more than 180 days during any consecutive 12 months’ period within the 5 year period. With very limited exceptions any absences from the UK would be counted towards the 180 days’ period (this includes absences for work reasons or for compelling reasons). The 2 very limited exceptions to the rule above are: undertaking overseas research and assisting with national or international humanitarian or environmental crisis.
A Tier 2 holder who has been outside for more than 180 days in the consecutive 12 months period would have to start the qualifying period for settlement from the very beginning. If this happens the Tier 2 holder may find himself unable to apply for settlement altogether since he would have reached the maximum allowable period in the UK in this visa category.