A Tier 2 visa enables a skilled or well-qualified non-EEA migrant to work for a UK-based employer in a skilled job, if that employer holds a Tier 2 sponsor licence and if they have sponsored the migrant.
There are two basic types of Tier 2 visa:
- Tier 2 General visa
- Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa (often abbreviated to “Tier 2 ICT visa”)
(There are also some others, which are more specialised: Tier 2 Sportsperson visa and Tier 2 Minister of Religion visa.)
The Tier 2 General visa is for a situation where a UK-based employer wishes to employ a non-EEA national in a skilled job and they have not been able to recruit a suitable employee from the workforce in the UK. In many cases the employer will have had to advertise the job to see if they could find a suitable employee.
If the employer wants to employ the non-EEA migrant as a Tier 2 General migrant they must sponsor the migrant by issuing an online “Certificate of Sponsorship”. The migrant can then apply for the visa, either from outside the UK or from in the UK, depending on the circumstances. Once the migrant obtains the visa they can then start work for the employer, in the specified job.
Employers of Tier 2 migrants must in all cases pay the migrant at least the minimum required salary for that particular job.
There is an English language requirement for Tier 2 General migrants (at at least CEFR B1 level).
Close family members of the main applicant (spouse/partner and children under the age of 18) can apply along with the main applicant as dependants.
If the visa application is successful it can be initially granted for a period of up to five years, depending on the circumstances. In some cases it is necessary or appropriate to apply for a Tier 2 extension visa. Tier 2 General migrants and any family members, if they have accrued five years’ continuous leave, may be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (settlement) on that basis.
The Tier 2 ICT visa is a special kind of Tier 2 visa: it is relevant where an international organisation wishes to send an employee based overseas to work in a UK branch of the organisation. In such a situation the migrant may be able to apply for a Tier 2 ICT visa. (NB: This is different from a Representative of an Overseas Business visa. A Tier 2 ICT migrant does not set up the UK branch; it must already be in existence when they apply for the visa.)
Close family members may apply as dependants and there is no English language requirement for Tier 2 ICT migrants.
However, unlike with the Tier 2 General scheme, the Tier 2 ICT scheme does not offer a route to Indefinite Leave to Remain. It only allows the main applicant and any family members to stay in the UK on a temporary basis, although this could in some cases be for a period of years.