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Can I apply to ILR without meeting the salary threshold, even if my job code is in the Shortage Occupation list?

The Tier 2 General Visa is an excellent option for those looking to enter the UK to live and work. While it is a great option, there are significant eligibility criteria attached to the visa route that can make the process of gaining the visa tricky. In this article, we will look at several key areas of the visa route including minimum salary requirements, the monthly cap, other eligibility criteria areas and your options for setting in the UK at the end of your visa period.

Shortage Occupancy Codes And Minimum Salary Requirements

While the minimum salary requirement for a Tier 2 General Visa is £30,000, certain jobs in specific sectors have such a vital need that the Home Office has allowed a different, and often lower, salary requirement to be attached to these specific roles. This alternative option is available to those who are applying for roles on the Shortage Occupation List. As well as a different salary requirement, there is also a preferential system for applications meaning many of the roles do not have to have the resident labour market test applied, ensuring a quicker process.

Many of the jobs on the Shortage Occupation List are incredibly valuable to the UK. In areas such as education and health, the ability to employ specialist staff at short notice helps to quickly fill necessary knowledge gaps in specialist areas. As well as these vital public services, there are also many engineering and science jobs. As the UK has a growing skills gap in these specialist areas, it is necessary and helpful to bring in this specialist knowledge that is not available domestically.

Monthly Cap

Every year the Home Office limits the number of Tier 2 General Visas available. Currently this limit is 20,700, equally split over the 12 months of the year. This means all applications for Certificates of Sponsorship need to be made by the 5th of the month and decisions will be received around the 11th (for restricted Certificates of Sponsorship). If your application does not fall inside the monthly limit, you will need to wait until the following month to apply again for a Certificate of Sponsorship.

While the Shortage Occupation List helps employers and employees to avoid the resident labour market test, applications still need to use the Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship route, therefore they must still apply for one of the capped places. There is, however, some exceptions to this rule. For those who are going to earn over £159,600 per year or are already living in the UK (not the dependents of Tier 4 Student Visa holders), there is an Unrestricted Certificate of Sponsorship route. This allows employers and employees to not only avoid the resident labour market test but also the monthly cap.

Other Eligibility Criteria For The Tier 2 General Visa

For the vast majority of Tier 2 General Visa applicants there is an extensive set of eligibility criteria that must be met which is laid out below:

  • A valid Certificate of Sponsorship from a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence holder - this guarantees you have a job that meets the requirements of the visa.
  • Good English language skills - there are a few ways to prove this and you may not need to if you come from one of the exempt countries
  • You have maintenance funds of at least £945 available to you for at least 90 days before applying

There is also a process to follow for employers who are looking to advertise a role to those based outside of the EEA. This includes, where applicable, the resident labour market test. This test is added to ensure that domestic workers have an opportunity to apply for a role in the country. The test ensures this by compelling employers to advertise the role on at least two job boards (one of which is the government job site) as well as keeping notes as to why any domestic worker who applied was not given the role. Once this test has been applied, Tier 2 Sponsor Licence holders are free to advertise outside of the EEA as long as the job is eligible.

Applying For Indefinite Leave To Remain On The Tier 2 General Visa

As a general rule, you will apply to settle in the UK after being in the country for 5 years. There is, however, an option to settle slightly earlier depending on your income. If, for instance, your salary is in excess of £35,800 per year (£36,200 after April 2020), you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain 28 days before your 5 year period comes to an end. While this may not seem significant, it does allow you to make the transition earlier and in some cases would allow you the option of not having to worry about extensions.

The Tier 2 General Visa is an excellent way for workers to settle in the UK. As long as all of the eligibility criteria is met, it is a straightforward way for those who do not have significant wealth or run their own business to settle in the UK for the long-term. You do not even need to remain with the same employer, as there are options to switch jobs at any point in your stay (as long as your new employer is also a Tier 2 General Visa holder).

Getting More Help With The UK's Visa System

If you need help with any of the UK's visas then please get in touch - our team can help you to establish yourself in the UK and make the most of your stay in the country.

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