The Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer Visa (ICT for short) is an excellent option for multinational companies to transfer staff from other countries to work in a UK based branch of their business. For employees, this is an excellent option for moving to the UK to live and work for the period defined by the visa. The route is significantly easier and faster to apply for than the standard Tier 2 General Visa, as many of the restrictions which apply to that visa are different in the case of the ICT. So in this article, we're going to look at the Tier 2 ICT Visa to look at your options if you are looking to switch businesses and work for a different company while in the UK.
As you are very much tied to the company you work for, it is not possible to switch out from the Tier 2 ICT Visa. This does not mean you have no options whatsoever, but it does mean switching directly from the Tier 2 ICT Visa to any other UK visa is impossible. One option, if you have a spouse with you in the UK is for them to apply for a Tier 2 General Visa. If they are successful then you will be able to apply as a Tier 2 Dependant spouse and remain in the country that way, avoiding the mandatory 12-month cooling-off period that comes with the use of the Tier 2 ICT Visa.
There are several reasons as to why you can't switch from a Tier 2 ICT Visa to another UK visa. One of the main reasons is that by using the Tier 2 ICT Visa, you have circumvented many of the obstacles put into place by the Tier 2 General Visa. The standard Tier 2 General Visa applies obstacles such as the resident labour market test and the Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship scheme. This means that Tier 2 ICT Visa holders can gain access to the country very quickly and are not subject to the same requirements as Tier 2 General Visa holders.
One obstacle which does apply to Tier 2 ICT Visa holders is the so-called 12-month cooling-off period. This cooling-off period means that after using a Tier 2 ICT Visa, you must return to your country of origin for at least 12 months before applying for a Tier 2 General Visa in the UK. This is one of the more off-putting aspects of the visa, as many other visa options give you the chance to switch once you are in the UK. In many respects, the Tier 2 ICT Visa is very restrictive - though, as we stated earlier, there are other potential options that exist.
The cooling-off period didn not always exist - before 2011 Tier 2 ICT Visa holders were able to apply to switch visas and could gain Indefinite Leave to Remain (ICT), the removal of these have caused considerable controversy and made the Tier 2 ICT Visa less desirable than it once was. The changes were just one of a number of recent visa changes that are seen as somewhat damaging to British businesses.
Realistically there is only one other option available to Tier 2 ICT Visa holders who are looking to make a change (apart from leaving the country and waiting out the 12-month cooling-off period), which is gaining a Tier 2 Dependent Visa. To do this, you will need to have a spouse in the UK. They, as a Tier 2 ICT Dependent, can find work with a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence holder and gain their own Tier 2 General Visa. Once they have done this, you can be added to their application as a dependent. This is actually, for many people, an ideal situation as you will have significantly better options as a Tier 2 General Visa Dependent than you would have had as a Tier 2 ICT Visa holder.
The real beauty of using this option is you will be able to work for whoever you like as a Tier 2 Dependent Visa holder. This is a huge change from the restrictive Tier 2 ICT Visa and is the only realistic alternative for those who are in the UK on a Tier 2 ICT Visa and wish to change employers and even have the opportunity to gain ILR - an option not currently available to Tier 2 ICT Visa holders.
Unfortunately, as we have already stated, it is not possible to gain indefinite leave to remain on the Tier 2 ICT Visa anymore. The removal of this option in 2011 was deeply unpopular and has helped to make the Tier 2 ICT Visa a far less desirable option than it once was. As we stated in the previous section, the only real option for long-term stay in the UK is to use the Tier 2 Dependent Visa option. For this, you will need a UK based spouse. If you do not have a spouse in the UK then your options are very limited. In this instance, you will be far better off returning to your country of origin and waiting out the 12-month cooling-off period before applying for a Tier 2 General Visa.
Getting More Help
If you need more help with a Tier 2 ICT Visa issue then please get in touch. Our team of immigration solicitors have extensive experience helping Tier 2 ICT Visa holders in the UK and can help you with your situation. So if you need advice, call today and a member of our team will be happy to help you with a free, no-obligation consultation.
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