If you are a national of a country outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or of Switzerland and you are looking for skilled work in the UK, you may be able to apply for entry clearance under the Tier 2 (General) visa category.
Tier 2 visa eligibility criteria are however strict, and include a primary requirement to have a genuine job offer from a licensed sponsor.
The Home Office maintains a Tier 2 sponsor list, called the Register of Licensed Sponsors, which details all UK employers that hold a valid sponsorship licence enabling them to employ skilled non-EEA workers.
For applicants, the Tier 2 sponsor list can be a useful resource to help focus your UK job search to licensed employers.
What is the Tier 2 sponsor list?
The Tier 2 sponsor list is a published record of organisations licensed to sponsor non-EEA migrant workers under Tiers 2 & 5 of the points based system. It is officially entitled the ‘Home Office Register of Sponsors Licensed Under the Points-Based System’.
The list is updated on a regular basis. It currently shows over 27,000 sponsors registered under Tier 2, with over 29,000 in total including Tier 5 sponsors.
What are the Tier 2 sponsor list categories?
The Tier 2 sponsor list includes information about the category of workers a UK employer is licensed to sponsor and their sponsorship rating. A sponsor may be licensed under more than one tier, and may have different ratings for each tier.
There are four categories under the Tier 2 sponsor licence route:
- Tier 2 (General) – to enable non-EEA nationals to accept an offer of a job that cannot be filled by a suitably qualified or skilled settled worker. This includes workers coming to the UK to fill shortage occupations, ie; there are not enough workers in the domestic labour market to meet demand.
- Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer (ICT)) – to enable existing employees who are non-EEA nationals to be transferred to a UK branch.
- Tier 2 (Sportsperson): to enable elite athletes and coaches who are internationally established to be based in the UK.
- Tier 2 (Minister of Religion): to enable religious workers to undertake employment within a faith community in the UK.
The majority of sponsors on the Tier 2 sponsor list are licensed under Tier 2 (General). Under this tier, employers are required to advertise any job offered to a non-EEA migrant worker if it is not on the Shortage Occupation List. This is known as the ‘resident labour market test’ requirement, to ensure there are no suitable workers already living permanently in the UK and that the vacancy offered is genuine.
What are the Tier 2 sponsor list ratings?
For each organisation on the Tier 2 sponsor list there is a sponsorship rating. A sponsor licence can be rated either ‘A’ or ‘B’. The Home Office will only grant a licence to those able to achieve an A-rating, ie; the employer has in place effective human resource systems to be able to meet their sponsor duties.
Once the Tier 2 sponsor licence has been granted, if the Home Office finds evidence that an organisation is unable or unwilling to continue to meet its sponsor duties, or there is evidence of immigration non-compliance, this may result in the rating being downgraded to a ‘B’ rating, or the sponsor licence being suspended or in the most severe instances, revoked.
In the event that your sponsor loses their licence, your certificate of sponsorship will be cancelled and you may have to leave the UK.
How to make best use of the Tier 2 sponsor list
The Tier 2 sponsor list can help you to search for a suitable sponsoring employer based on the following information:
- name of the organisation (in alphabetical order)
- town/city or county
- tier and rating
- sub-tier, eg, Tier 2 (General).
When seeking to identify sponsoring employers, you should create a list of organisations from the Tier 2 sponsor list that is related to your industry. You can then search each organisation using online job search sites to identify those currently advertising vacancies.
You will need to ensure that any advertised job meets the Tier 2 skill and salary levels. To be granted a Tier 2 (General) visa, the job will usually need to be Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 6 or above.
In most cases the minimum salary requirement is at least £20,800 per annum for ‘new entrants’ or £30,000 for ‘experienced workers’ – or the appropriate rate for the particular job on offer, whichever is higher. The appropriate rates of pay for each occupation are set out under the Codes of Practice for skilled work under the Immigration Rules (Table 2 – Occupations skilled to Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 6 and above).
Other requirements for a Tier 2 visa
In addition to a job offer from a Tier 2 licensed sponsor, to be eligible for a Tier 2 visa you will need to show:
• a valid certificate of sponsorship for that job assigned by your sponsor;
• proof of your knowledge of English;
• evidence of personal savings to support yourself on arrival in the UK.
You can prove your knowledge of English by either passing an approved English language test, or by having an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised as being equivalent to at least a UK bachelor’s degree. You do not need to prove your knowledge of English if you are a national of one of various excepted countries, eg, the USA, Canada and New Zealand.
To prove the maintenance criteria, you will need to provide a bank or building society statement or letter that shows you have enough personal savings, ie; you must have at least £945 in your bank account for 90 days before you apply. Alternatively, if your sponsor can guarantee support that will meet this requirement, this should be shown on your certificate of sponsorship.
When applying for a Tier 2 (General) visa you will also need to provide a current passport or travel document to prove you can travel, together with expired passports or travel documents if you need them to show your travel history. If you are going to be working in the education, health and social care sectors in the UK you will need a criminal record certificate.
Should I seek legal advice when applying for a Tier 2 visa?
To undertake skilled work in the UK you will need the offer of an appropriate job, together with a certificate of sponsorship assigned from an organisation on the Tier 2 sponsor list. You will then need to apply for your Tier 2 visa to enable you to legally undertake work in the UK.
The Immigration Rules can be complex and are subject to constant change. An experienced immigration specialist can help you with all aspects of a Tier 2 visa application.
In the event that you have the offer of a job from an organisation that is not currently listed on the Tier 2 sponsor list, your legal adviser can also guide you through the steps your employer will need to take to obtain a licence.
The Register of Licensed Sponsors can be viewed here
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.