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Differences between the Skilled Worker visa & other Tier 2 visa routes

When it comes to immigration law, change is a constant. The Home Office is constantly refreshing existing schemes and creating new ones. And for those trying to acquaint themselves with the latest rules and visa routes, this can sometimes be confusing. One of the most recent and significant changes for 2021 has been the phasing out of Tier 2 (General) work visa and the introduction of the Skilled Worker visa to replace it. This has led some to believe that the Tier 2 visa category has been removed altogether, however, this is not the case. In this article, we will explain the difference between sponsoring an international worker under the Skilled Worker visa scheme vs the Tier 2 route and the requirements for employers and workers for the latter.

What Is The Difference Between The Skilled Worker And Tier 2 Visa Routes?

The Skilled Worker and Tier 2 schemes are both classed as long-term work routes. The new Skilled Worker visa route, which replaces the outgoing Tier 2 (General) visa, is the Home Office’s main points-based immigration route for skilled migrants from outside the UK. There are still some existing Tier 2 visa routes, notably the Minister of Religion visa and the Sportsperson visa. The difference is that the remaining Tier 2 routes are much more narrow in their purpose compared to the Skilled Worker visa, which covers a wide range of eligible occupations. There are two other long-term visa routes; the Health and Care visa and the Intra-company visa.

What Are The Eligibility Requirements For The Tier 2 Visas?

Tier 2 Minister Of Religion Visa

Employee requirements

Like the Skilled Worker visa, Tier 2 Minister of Religion visa candidates needs a job offer before applying. The UKVI guidance states applicants need a “job within a faith community (for example as a minister of religion, missionary, or member of a religious order) in the UK”. The job offer must be from an employer that holds a sponsor licence specifically for this specific visa type. It is not possible for a Skilled Worker licence holder to employ someone applying under this Tier 2 route; they would need to apply to add a new category to their sponsor licence to do so.

In addition to holding a job offer in an eligible faith community role, applicants also need to:

  • Meet the English language requirements – either by passing an approved English language test with at least CEFR level B2 in reading, writing, speaking and listening or academic qualification that was taught in English (this must be recognised by Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC) as at the same level of a UK degree, master’s degree or PhD. Applicants from certain countries do not need to satisfy this requirement – see the Home Office website for more details
  • Have at least £1,270 in your bank account to show you can support yourself in the UK
  • Provide your travel history for the past five years
  • Provide a negative TB test result if you are from a ‘listed country’

Employer requirements

From the perspective of the sponsor, as per the guidance issued by UKVI, employers using the Tier 2 Minister of Religion scheme must:

  • have charitable status
  • have the structure for a faith-based community with a common system of belief and spiritual goals, codes of behaviour and religious practice, which exists to support and/or propagate common beliefs and practices.
  • not exclude anyone from their community on the basis of gender, nationality or ethnicity
  • receive financial and material support for their core religious ministry from their congregation or community on a voluntary basis, without promise or coercion
  • not breach, or encourage others to breach, any UK legislation
  • not work against the public interest, or have a detrimental effect on personal or family life as commonly understood in the UK

Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa


In order to apply for a Tier 2 Sportsperson visa, applicants must be an ‘elite sportsperson or qualified coach’, recognised by their relevant sport’s governing body as being at the highest level of their profession internationally. In addition to having a job offer and Certificate of Sponsorship from an employer with a sponsor licence, the relevant governing body must endorse the application. Applicants also need to demonstrate that their employment will help to progress the sport in the UK at the highest level. Like the Minister of Religion visa, applicants need to meet the English language requirements, but only to A1 rather than B2 level. They also need to have at least £1,270 in funds to support themselves when in the UK.


To make a successful application for a Tier 2 Sportsperson sponsor licence, applying businesses/organisations must be a “UK-based sporting body, sports club, events organiser or other organiser operating, or intending to operate, in the sporting sector. You must also be endorsed by the relevant, Home Office-approved, sports governing body”. The scheme is not available to non-UK sports clubs or organisations or agents. The Home Office advises that if there is no relevant sports body, “you should email the Economic Migration Policy team. We will ask the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Sport and Recreational Alliance (SRA) and/or other sports councils to identify if there is a suitable body who could act as your recognised sports governing body”.

In Conclusion

It is important that existing or prospective sponsoring businesses and organisations in the UK, whether in the private or public sector, hold the relevant type of sponsor licence for the type of visa route that their sponsored workers will require. If you already hold a sponsor licence in one category, it is possible to apply to add additional categories. And because you will already have the necessary sponsorship systems and processes in place, this will reduce the overhead on your organisation of securing a new sponsor licence.

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