How Long Is The Tier 2 General Visa Cooling Off Period?
When you come to the end of your Tier 2 General Visa (perhaps by leaving a job or being made redundant) you face a decision: find a new Tier 2 Sponsor Licence holder, switch to an alternative visa route (such as a Spouse Visa) or leave the country. If you choose the last option (leaving the country) you will have 60 days to do so. Once you return to your country of origin (or another country), you will then be subject to a so-called cooling-off period.
How Long Is The Cooling Off Period For A Tier 2 General Visa?
The cooling-off period for a Tier 2 General Visa is 12 months, meaning once you have left the country, you will be unable to apply for a new Tier 2 General Visa for at least 12 months.
There are, however, notable exceptions to this rule.
For example, if your new job is in the high earner category (more than £159,600 per year - or £120,000 if you are returning to the UK), you will be able to forego the cooling-off period. There are also a few other technical exceptions to the cooling-off period but these will not apply to the vast majority of cases.
It is useful to know that the 12 month period does not begin when you leave the country, it begins at the expiry of your current visa instead. This may be good or bad news depending on when you left the country. It is worth noting this 12-month cooling-off period can also affect applications for other visa categories, so it is best to check with us before lodging an application for an alternative visa.
Can I Switch Employers Instead Of Leaving The Country?
If you are still in the country then you may be able to apply for a new job. Depending on how long you have been in the country (and some other eligibility criteria), you may be able to take up employment with a new Tier 2 Sponsor Licence holder. This is the usual route migrants take when they want to stay in the UK but do not want to remain with their current sponsor. Many people falsely believe they cannot change employers if they are on a visa - this isn't true. If you want to change employers, you will need to gain a new Certificate of Sponsorship from them and apply for a new visa.
You can also opt to switch employers if your visa has been curtailed due to a job coming to an end. For those who have resigned, lost their job or been made redundant, there is a 60-day window where you will still be able to try and get a new job. If you are not successful then you will need to leave the country. This is also the case where your Tier 2 Sponsor Licence holder has lost their licence.
Can I Switch Visas While Still In The Country?
Yes, many of the UK's visa routes can be switched to from the Tier 2 General Visa. Options such as the newly introduced Innovator Visa are an excellent one for entrepreneurial migrants who have a business idea to bring to market. If you do not have seed funding (the Innovator Visa requires £50,000 seed funding to be available), then you can opt for the Start-Up Visa which is aimed at younger, less experienced entrepreneurs.
As well as the business-minded visas, you can also switch to a Spouse Visa if you are in the UK and have a spouse or partner who is either a British or EEA citizen, a person with settled status or has humanitarian or refugee protected status. This is an excellent option as it negates the need to work for a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence holder, and allows you to work for whoever you choose.
Can I Apply For An Alternative Visa While In A Cooling Off Period?
The 12-month cooling-off period attached to the end of a Tier 2 General Visa can have a knock-on effect on other UK visa routes. This could end up limiting your choices. It is often better to try and remain in the UK. There are several ways to achieve this by either switching employers or switching visa routes.
Where Can I Get More Help?
If you need more help with a query related to the Tier 2 Visa then please get in touch. Our experienced team of immigration solicitors can help you to know exactly where you stand with your situation. Make sure you contact one of our lawyers today for a free, no-obligation consultation and let us help you to make the most of your stay in the UK.
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