The highly popular Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme allows young people between 18 and 30 to travel to the UK to live and work. The scheme is open to nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, Taiwan and also British overseas citizens, British Overseas Territories citizens, and British nationals (overseas). While it offers a great opportunity for many young people each year to experience life in the UK, it does have a major limitation compared to other visa types; it is strictly limited to a maximum period of two years and cannot be extended. If you are currently in the UK on a soon to expire Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa, it is important to understand your options if you would like to continue to work in the UK.
The immigration rules state that the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa is granted for up to 24 months but it cannot be extended. And, unfortunately, it is not possible to apply for a Tier 2 work visa if you are still in the UK; this can only be completed from your home country. To apply for a Tier 2 visa from your home country, you will first need to be sponsored by an employer licensed to recruit workers from outside of the EEA. This may pose an additional challenge if your current employer is not currently licensed to sponsor non-EEA nationals. In this case, you have the option of either finding employment with an already licensed sponsor, or approaching your current employer to see if they will apply to become a licensed sponsor.
Click here also to use this tool to find companies/employers that have sponsor licenses.
If your current employer is not licensed to sponsor non-EEA nationals under the Tier 2 visa route, they will need to apply for a license. Thankfully, the Home Office processing time for a Tier 2 Employer Sponsorship License is relatively short, at between eight and ten weeks. The process, however, is not a mere formality, and hence your employer will need to understand the implications and obligations of becoming a sponsor. In order to become a licensed sponsor, your employer will need to satisfy the Home Office that they have the necessary systems and processes in place to:
They may also have to pay an immigration skills charge for each non-EEA worker they hire, which is paid each time a new Certificate of Sponsorship is issued. This can be costly as the longer the sponsorship, the larger the fee, and hence they will need to take this into account when considering applying for a license.
Employers also will need to manage and update the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) government portal, assign key staff to keep the SMS system updated, and remain compliant with the requirements of a sponsored worker at all times (the Home Office carry out unannounced visits to ensure you are remaining compliant).
Related Article: Read also ‘Work in the UK for foreigners: Job without a UK sponsor’
The process of applying for a sponsorship license is as follows:
It is very likely that the employer will also receive a visit from a Home Office Tier 2 compliance officer to ensure their systems and processes meet the requirements of a licensed sponsor.
Licensed sponsors are entrusted by the Home Office to carry out the required checks before offering a non-EEA national a position. This will apply even if you are applying to your existing employer. If your employer already has a sponsorship license, they will first need to carry out an RLMT to verify no settled worker can undertake your role. They will also need to:
Assuming that all of the checks which the employer must carry out as part of their license obligations are completed successfully, they will then be able to request and assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) – this can then be used to allow you to apply for a Tier 2 (general) work visa.
The application for a Tier 2 (general) visa is completed online. As part of the application process, you will need to visit a local visa application centre (VAC) to have your photograph and fingerprints taken, which will later be used to create a biometric residence permit (BRP).
You can apply for a Tier 2 work visa no earlier than three months before you are due to start your job, and you can expect to receive a decision within three weeks.
The fact that you are unable to extend your Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa, or apply for a work visa from the UK should not deter you from making an application. The process of returning home and securing a Tier 2 visa is reasonably fast, and with support from your employer, this should be a smooth process. If you are in any doubt about the best option for you now that your Tier 5 visa is coming to an end, it is advisable to speak to immigration Solicitors who can explain all of your options, including returning to the UK to study and then switching to a Tier 2 visa from within the UK. As the saying goes, ‘where there is a will, there is a way’.
‘Guide to finding a Tier 2 Visa Sponsor in the UK’
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