Live and work in the UK


Who can apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa?

A non-EU national with a job offer from a UK-based company will need to apply for a Tier 2 visa. This will allow a migrant to live and work in the UK. There are, however, several requirements and restrictions associated with these visas.

You can apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa if:

  • You have a job offer for a skilled position in the UK
  • You’re from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland

The Tier 2 visa will allow you to live and work in the UK as long as you have been offered permanent employment and your employer is willing to sponsor you.

Some professions - such as engineering, healthcare and teaching - are in such high demand in the UK that a fast-tracked application process has been created for these workers.

If your occupation is not on the shortage list, your employer must be able to demonstrate that the role cannot be filled by a suitably qualified UK resident. They must meet the resident labour market test by advertising the post for a minimum of 28 days.

How does it work?

A Tier 2 (General) visa is a points-based category.

Points are awarded for the following:

  • Qualifications - 5-15 points
  • Future expected earnings – 10-25 points
  • Sponsorship – 25-50 points
  • English language skills - 10 points
  • Available maintenance (funds) - 10 points

To be eligible for the Tier 2 work permit, you must have the necessary qualifications required for the position you have been granted. The salary offered by your employer must exceed £30,000, but this may vary depending on your occupation and your SOC code.

What are the steps?

We'll help you apply for a UK tier 2 visa

We can help your Tier 2 application in two ways:

  • Our full service covers guidance and support in applying for both the sponsor licence and certificate of sponsorship, including advice and guidance on the advertising requirements, as well as representation in the Tier 2 visa application.
  • Our Tier 2 entry-clearance service covers advice and representation in the Tier 2 visa application.

You can apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa if:

  • You have a job offer for a skilled position in the UK
  • You’re from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland

UK employer work permit for a non-EU national

A UK employer can use a variety of visas to employ a non-EU national. There are, however, strict legal requirements that the employer and employee both must meet. If you want to sponsor a non-EU national as an employee you must have met the requisite criteria for a Tier 2 visa.

The skills charge: Important information for UK employers

In 2017, the UK government introduced a skills charge to encourage businesses to train British citizens to fill skilled roles and reduce reliance on migrant labour. The charge is payable when an employer sponsors an employee on a Tier 2 visa.

The nuts and bolts of the skills charge

The skills charge is levied against employers hiring Tier 2 migrant employees under the General and Intra-Company Transfer categories. Each hire will set them back £1,000 per year, as covered by the certificate of sponsorship.

Those sponsoring non-EEA nationals to fill a vacancy for the full duration of a Tier 2 visa will pay £5,000 to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).

Exceptions to the rule

There is relief for small businesses and charity sponsors in the form of a reduced rate of £364 per year. A sponsor will be allowed this relief where their annual turnover is £10.2 million or less, with fewer than 50 employees.

Government has provided for other exemptions, including for companies who have hired migrant workers who:

  • Were on Tier 2 visas before April 2017 and are applying to extend from within the UK
  • Are Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) graduate trainees
  • Are non-EEA nationals filling PhD-level roles
  • Change from a Tier 4 student visa to a Tier 2 (General) visa

Get the employees you need: UK visa sponsorship for employers

The process for UK-based employer is as follows:

  • Obtaining a sponsorship licence
  • Issuing a certificate of sponsorship (COS)

Obtaining a sponsorship licence

A UK-based company wishing to sponsor a migrant must hold a sponsorship licence. Once obtained, a certificate of sponsorship is assigned to that migrant.

To get a sponsorship licence, the company must:

  • Prove to the Home Office that they are a genuine company operating and trading lawfully in the UK
  • Meet the suitability criteria
  • Give the Home Office no reason to believe that you represent a threat to immigration control
  • Comply with the duties of sponsorship

There is no government fee to apply for a sponsorship licence. However, there is a new skills charge when taking on new non-EU employees on the Tier 2 (General) visa.

Issuing the certificate of sponsorship

Once an employer has a sponsorship licence, they can issue Tier 2 certificates of sponsorship. These are divided into two different types: Restricted and unrestricted.

Unrestricted category

Employers will not need permission from the Home Office to issue a certificate of sponsorship for candidates under this category.

The unrestricted category is for an employee:

  • With a salary of £153,500 or above
  • Seeking to extend their employment with their existing employer
  • With an existing certificate of sponsorship with other employers
  • Already in the UK with a current visa type that allows switching to a Tier 2 from within the UK*
  • Being transferred from an overseas branch of the UK sponsoring company

*Includes the Tier 1 post study work visa or the Tier 4 student visa

Restricted category

This category is for candidates who are unable to switch to a Tier 2 visa from within the UK. These candidates need to apply for their visa from overseas (e.g. Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa) or for those who are already overseas.

There is a cap on the number of potential employees permitted through this scheme. This is currently set at 20,700 for the year and only those who pass a new points-based system will qualify.

Points are gained from the salary amount, whether the job is on the current shortage list and whether the position is at PhD level. You must also conduct the resident labour market test. This test is to protect the resident work force and means you must advertise the post to give resident workers the opportunity to apply.

The Home Office has categorised, rated and coded every occupation and specified a minimum salary for each one. Whatever type of certificate is required, you will need to decide upon the appropriate code and offer at least the minimum salary stated. Apart from a few occupations in the creative sector, jobs have to at least be classed at degree level (NQF Level 6).

Employing EU nationals

We assist and advise UK employers, and the EU nationals who they employ, on their visa status.

A brief history of the EU and the UK

You may be aware from previous dealings with European citizens that they do not need visas or permission to take up employment in the UK. Their rights of free movement as well as employment and business opportunities in any EU member state are granted by the Treaty of Rome (and subsequent European treaties).

Various member states of the EU joined at various times. Following the decision by the UK public to leave the EU at some stage in the future, the UK legislation allowing EU nationals to work in the UK will have to be modified or repealed. This, however, is not expected until December 2018.

The members of the European Union before 1 May 2004 were as follows:
Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

Other citizens with the same rights as EU nationals

The EEA includes all EU countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. It allows them to be part of the EU’s single market and so nationals of these three countries have the rights to employment in the UK as nationals of the other EU states. Switzerland is neither an EU or EEA member but is part of the single market - this means Swiss nationals have the same rights to live and work in the UK as other EEA nationals.

Some countries acceded to the European Union on 01/05/2004.

The European states (often referred to as the A8 countries) in question are:

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Czech Republic

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From the period 2004 to 2011, nationals of these countries had to apply to the Home Office for permission to work under the worker registration schemes. Now nationals of these countries are treated in the same way as any other European Union citizens.

Similarly, Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union on 1 January 2007 and were subject to restrictions on taking employment in the UK. The restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians ceased on 1 January 2014

From 1 January 1983, children born in the UK are not automatically British citizens and the status of the parent must be considered. Where the parents are European citizens, the rules have changed no less than three times in the last 15 years and so children born at different times will have different rights to British citizenship.

Get an employee visa audit

There are substantial penalties (up to £20,000 per employee) payable by the employer where an employee does not hold the correct UK immigration status. We can undertake a full audit of your employee records to ensure that all your non-British staff hold a valid visa and work status in the UK.

How you as an employee can be held liable for an illegal hire

All UK-based employers are required by law to check that their staff have the right to take employment in the UK. Those employers that hold sponsor licences from the Home Office have an additional duty to ensure the relevant checks have been made and those who do not comply risk having their sponsor licence downgraded or revoked.

Prior to January 1997, no sanctions were imposed on UK employers who gave work to overseas nationals who did not have lawful permission to remain in the UK or take employment in the UK. At this time, any person found working unlawfully was simply removed from the UK by the Immigration Service.

Section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 came into force in January 1997 creating a new criminal offence of employing an illegal worker. It became the personal responsibility of the person instigating the employment to make certain mandatory checks on the employee’s documents, to benefit from a statutory defence given under the Act.

The Act was tightened in 2004, but it did not have the desired effect (i.e. to reduce illegal working in the UK), and we were only aware of a handful of cases that resulted in fines to employers.

In February 2008 new legislation came into force which allowed the Secretary of State to serve an employer with a notice requiring payment of a penalty of a specified amount where they employ a person aged 16 or over who is subject to immigration control unless:

  • That person has been given valid and subsisting leave to be in the UK by the government, and that leave does not restrict them from taking the job in question; or
  • The person is in a category for which employment is also allowed

The current state of affairs: Massive fines for non-compliant employers

A further code of practice was issued in 2017 under section 19 of the Act, which updates the ones issued in 2008 and 2014 to specify the factors that are to be considered by the Home Office in determining the amount of the civil penalty for employing an illegal worker.

Offences are divided into two areas:

  1. Civil penalties for those employers who employ illegal migrant workers as a result of negligent recruitment and employment practices
  2. A new criminal offence for those employers found to be knowingly employing illegal migrant workers

The civil penalty scheme is designed to encourage employers to comply with their duty as an employer to prevent illegal working by carrying out complete document checks. It also means that you will face a sanction if you have failed to act with due care and diligence in doing so.

The civil penalties that the Home Office impose are intended to be proportionate to the level of non-compliant behaviour and are therefore calculated on a sliding scale. The fine for employing an illegal worker in its basic form is presently £20,000 and the fine for knowingly employing an illegal worker is £50,000.

How we can help

At Sable International we offer a service to audit the personnel files of your employees. We will do this on-site for you and confirm whether each employee has the right to work in the UK, ensuring your compliance with the legislation on the prevention of illegal working and sponsor duties from the Home Office.

Get in touch

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