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Everything you ever wanted to know about applying for a UK Tier 2 (General) visa

by John Dunn | Jul 18, 2019
  • The Tier 2 visa is one of the most popular routes to live and work in the UK and earn permanent residency. Due to its many requirements, it’s also one of the most daunting and complex application processes. We’ve compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions about the Tier 2 visa to help ensure your application is successful.
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    What is a Tier 2 visa?

    A UK Tier 2 (General) visa or work visa allows citizens from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland to work and live in the UK for up to five years. Before you can apply for this visa, you first need a job offer for a skilled position in the UK.

    One of the major benefits of the Tier 2 work visa is that you can bring your family with you. To do this, you will need to show that your dependants can be financially supported while in the UK.

    How to get a UK Tier 2 visa

    The Tier 2 visa works on a points-based system, and you’ll need 70 points in total to be eligible. The points are awarded as follows:

    • Future expected earnings – 20 points
    • Sponsorship – 30 points
    • English language skills – 10 points
    • Available maintenance (funds) – 10 points

    The minimum salary required for a Tier 2 is £20,800, but this may vary depending on your occupation and your Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code.

    There are three main steps involved in applying for a UK Tier 2 visa.

    1. Sponsorship licence

    Your employer will apply for a sponsorship licence. If your occupation is not on the shortage list, your employer will need to do a resident labour market test.

    2. Certificate of sponsorship

    Once your employer has a sponsorship licence, they can issue you with a certificate of sponsorship (COS). The certificate acts as confirmation that your employer wants and needs to sponsor you. Once you have received your certificate you can apply for your visa.

    3. Applying for the Tier 2 (General) visa

    This is the final stage in the application process. You’ll apply with your unique COS number and provide evidence that you meet the Tier 2 visa requirements.

    See also: Four of the most important things you need when moving to the UK

    Knowledge of English

    To prove your knowledge of the English language, you will need to:

    • Pass an approved English language test with at least CEFR level B1 in reading, writing, speaking and listening
    • Have an academic qualification taught in English and recognised by the UK NARIC as being equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PHD

    Prove you can support yourself and your dependants

    You must have £945 in your bank account for 90 days before you apply. If you are bringing dependants with you, you will need an additional £630 for each dependant.

    Get tested for TB

    For citizens from certain countries, including South Africa, part of the application process includes getting tested for tuberculosis. The process is relatively straight-forward, but you must ensure that it’s done at a UKVI-approved clinic.

    See also: Why you want to get your hands on a UK Ancestry visa

    Frequently asked questions about the Tier 2 (General) visa

    If you’ve got a question about the Tier 2 visa and don’t find your answer here, get in touch with our immigration advisors or leave a comment below with your question.

    When should I start applying for my Tier 2 visa?

    The earliest you can apply for your work visa is three months before you’re due to start your job in the UK. You can find your employment start date on your certificate of sponsorship.

    How much does a Tier 2 visa cost?

    The cost depends on the type of visa you apply for and whether you apply from within or outside of the UK. This is how much you’ll pay if you’re making an application from outside of the UK:

    • A visa for a period of three years or less, where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued, will cost £610
    • A visa period of more than three years, where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued, will cost £1,220
    • A shortage occupation visa for a period of three years or less, where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued, will cost £464
    • A shortage occupation visa for a period of more than three years, where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued, will cost £928

    If you’re making an application from within the UK:

    • A visa for a period of three years or less, where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued, will cost £464
    • A visa period of more than three years, where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued, will cost £1,408
    • A shortage occupation visa for a period of three years or less, where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued, will cost £464
    • A shortage occupation visa for a period of more than three years, where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued, will cost £928

    How long will it take to get my Tier 2 application approved?

    If you’re applying from outside the UK, it takes about three weeks to get a decision.

    Can I extend my Tier 2 visa?

    Yes, you can extend your Tier 2 visa. However, there are a few conditions you must meet:

    • You must be in the UK
    • You must have the same job as when you were first issued your visa
    • You must still be working for the same employer who issued your certificate of sponsorship
    • You must meet the minimum salary requirements

    Can I get indefinite leave to remain with a Tier 2 visa?

    Yes, you can get indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after living and working in the UK for five years, and having spent no more than 180 days outside the UK during any 12-month period during those years.

    Your employer will need to provide proof that you are still needed for your job and your salary must meet the minimum requirement.

    Can I switch to a Tier 2 (General) visa from another visa?

    Yes, you can switch to a Tier 2 (General) visa from other visas, but you must do so before your current visa expires. You must already be in the UK on one of the following visas:

    You can also switch if you’re a dependant partner of someone with a Tier 4 visa or a representative of an overseas business.

    Will changing employers affect my current visa?

    While it is possible to change employers once you’re in the UK, it will affect your current work visa. You will need to get sponsorship from your new employer and apply for a new Tier 2 visa.

    Should I apply for a visa if the salary offered is below the minimum threshold?

    No. If the salary requirement is not met, your visa application will be refused.

    Can I have more than one job with this visa?

    Yes, you can work in another job with a Tier 2 visa. You can work up to 20 hours per week in one of the following:

    • The same profession as your main job, at the same level
    • A profession on the shortage occupation list

    What happens if my application is refused?

    If your visa application is rejected, you can either reapply or appeal the decision. If you choose to appeal, you’ll need to do so via a tribunal. However, the wait time on a hearing is 12 months. The hearing will be based on your initial application and no new information will be accepted.

    I am an EU citizen; do I need a Tier 2 visa?

    Currently, EU citizens do not need a visa to live and work in the UK. That may change when the UK leaves the EU. To continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021, you must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. You’ll either receive settled or pre-settled status. Your status will depend on how long you’ve been living in the UK when you apply.

    Can my partner work in the UK if I am granted a Tier 2 visa?

    Yes, if your partner wants to work in the UK, they’ll need to apply for a dependant visa. This visa is valid for the length of time remaining on the main visa holder’s visa.

    How long does an application take?

    Application timelines will vary as they’re dependent on when the sponsor licence is granted and visa processing times.

    What happens if my current employer terminates my contract?

    If your employer decides to terminate your contract, you can try to find another employer who is willing to sponsor you. You will also need to apply for a new work visa. It’s best to speak to an immigration expert about your options.

    Do I need to leave the UK if I leave or lose my job?

    If you wish to stay in the UK after leaving or losing your job, you’ll need to find another employer who is willing to sponsor you. You must also apply for a new visa, or switch to another visa if you’re eligible. It’s best to get advice from an immigration expert about your options.

    Can I travel while on a work visa?

    Yes, with a Tier 2 visa you’re permitted to leave and enter the UK whenever you wish.

    Should I use an immigration service when making a visa application?

    Visa applications are costly and, in some cases, complex. Getting help from a registered immigration advisor can ensure you’ve submitted the correct information and documents. If you’re feeling even just a little unsure of what information to provide, it’s best to get advice from an expert.

    What Tier 2 work visa questions do you have? Let us know in the comments.


    If you’d like to apply for a UK Tier 2 (General) visa, get in touch with our immigration experts at immigration@sableinternational.com or give us a call on +44 (0) 20 7759 5330.

    We are a professional services company that specialises in cross-border financial and immigration advice and solutions.

    Our teams in the UK, South Africa and Australia can ensure that when you decide to move overseas, invest offshore or expand your business internationally, you’ll do so with the backing of experienced local experts.

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