The Tier 2 visa routes are among the UK's most popular. Comprising a few different work-related options, the main two Tier 2 visas are the Tier 2 General Visa and the Tier 2 Intra-Company Visa (known as ICT). While giving excellent access to those who wish to live and work in the UK, they both have vastly different eligibility criteria and benefits. In this article, we are going to focus on one aspect of the Tier 2 visa routes: the minimum salary levels. These minimum salary levels are an important part of eligibility criteria and depending on your situation, may vary. After reading this article you should have a greater understanding of the minimum wage levels for the Tier 2 visa routes and the role they play.
To apply for a Tier 2 General Visa, you will normally need to receive a Certificate of Sponsorship for a role that pays at least £30,000 per year. There are, however, some very important exceptions to this rule. For the so-called shortage occupations, there are different minimum salary levels. These levels will depend entirely upon the role and you will need to consult your prospective employer to ensure that the job you are applying for is relevant if the salary is going to be less than £30,000 per year.
As well as having a lower minimum salary threshold, shortage occupations also allow for a slightly easier application process. The usual procedure involves a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence holder applying for one of the monthly limited places which are available to those who are applying to move to the UK on a Tier 2 General Visa. This route is known as the Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship and applies to the vast majority of roles. For those applying for a shortage occupation role, there is no such barrier, making the application faster and more straightforward. This Unrestricted Certificate of Sponsorship process also applies to roles that attract over £159,600 per year.
The Tier 2 ICT Visa is a very different proposition and is aimed at those who work for a multinational company and are being transferred to a UK based branch of it. For these roles, there is a minimum salary requirement of £41,500 for long-term staff and a lower rate of £23,000 for graduate trainee level staff. This visa is aimed primarily at businesses who are looking to transfer experienced staff to the UK, or graduates who are new to the business. As well as the different salary thresholds, there are also different eligibility criteria and restrictions imposed on those who use the Tier 2 ICT Visa to come to the UK to work.
Because you are transferring within the same business, Tier 2 ICT Visa holders will not need to worry about the monthly cap or the resident labour market test (a process employers have to satisfy to bring in Tier 2 General Visa workers). These are clearly positives but there are some downsides. Two of the biggest downsides of the Tier 2 ICT Visa are the inability to switch to an alternative visa route (like you can do on a Tier 2 General Visa) or gain Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). This means that long-term options for Tier 2 ICT Visa holders in the UK are very limited.
While we have looked at the minimum salary levels, there are often alternative criteria for high earners. While a high salary does not make a huge difference to Tier 2 ICT Visa holders (it can help with extensions), it can make a stark difference to Tier 2 General Visa holders. The main difference for Tier 2 General Visa holders with a large salary is the ability to avoid the resident labour market test and the Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship. For these staff, an Unrestricted Certificate of Sponsorship can be given and this allows for a fast and simple application process for their visa.
Unfortunately, the Tier 2 ICT Visa offers no ability to gain ILR. No matter your salary level or position, the route offers almost no options to settle in the UK. There is, however, one option for those on the Tier 2 ICT Visa who wish to stay in the UK. If they have a spouse, they can become a Tier 2 Dependent if their spouse gains a Tier 2 General Visa. To do this, their spouse must gain a role with a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence holder and add the current Tier 2 ICT Visa holder as a dependent on their application.
As for Tier 2 General Visa holders, they have much better options for settling in the UK. As long as they stay in the UK continuously for 5 years (and do not leave for more than 180 days in any individual year), they can apply to gain ILR. This frees them from immigration control and means they can work for any employer of their choosing. This ability to settle makes the Tier 2 General Visa an excellent option for skilled workers who are looking to migrate to the UK for the long-term.
If you need more help with the Tier 2 visa routes in the UK then please get in touch. Our team of immigration lawyers are happy to help and can offer you a free, no-obligation consultation to show you how we can help you to make the most of your stay in the UK. So for more information, call today and we will get you started.
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