Whether you're a fresh graduate or someone who's been in the job market for years, job hunting can be tough. It can feel like a full-time job itself and unfortunately, it doesn't get any easier if you are a migrant looking for sponsorship to secure a UK visa. Migrants will need to ensure that the company they are applying to join, can sponsor them on a Tier 2 Visa. This adds an additional strain to the already tough job search.
Reiss Edwards Solicitors have built a Tier 2 Companies Search tool (on the banner of this page) that helps users search for jobs only in companies that are able to offer them sponsorship. The first part of the tool allows users to check if a company has a sponsor licence. This is useful where the searcher already has a company in mind and just wants to know if that company is able to sponsor them. The result card also tells you if the company currently has a job opening.
The second part of the Tier 2 Companies Search tool is “Job Search”. As the name implies, this section allows a migrant job seeker to search one or more industries and cities for a specific job. You can search for all accounting jobs in London and elect to see only companies able to sponsor you. Use this to refine your search preferences and save hours of time that you would normally waste searching the web manually.
You may have been offered a job with an organisation in the UK, only to discover that they are not a UKVI approved licensed sponsor. If this is the case and the organisation are willing to apply, we recommend that you read the information provided below so that you can understand what is to be expected of your prospective employer. If you have an understanding of the sponsorship process, which the below will help with, you can either explain this to the relevant organisation or refer them to this article, so they have a comprehensive understanding.
Becoming a licensed sponsor allows the UKVI to assess employers' capability to uphold their duty as a sponsor. If the process of making a sponsor licence application did not exist, the UK authorities would have no means of ensuring that the organisations hiring migrants are able to uphold their duty.
Granting a licence allows the UKVI to share responsibility with the organisation, to ensure migrants sponsored follow the conditions of their visa. They also expect that a sponsor will only offer a genuine skilled vacancy at or above Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 6, paying the correct salary. Being a sponsor also places an expectation on the organisation to report to the UKVI using the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) and allow the UKVI to conduct compliance visits, as deemed necessary.
Tier 2 visas allow migrants to enter or remain in the UK as a permanent or temporary employee of a licenced organisation. Tier 2 is broken down into subcategories:
This is for skilled workers filling a post at or above Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 6. In plain English, RQF is a list of skilled professions that the UKVI accept to be skilled and ultimately permit sponsorship. There is also a list of shortage occupations that are afforded less requirements (no advertising), that also fall under the Tier 2 General scheme.
Is for existing employees of a multinational business that need to be sent to the UK office on a temporary basis. The organisations (UK and overseas) must be linked by common ownership or control. Usually, migrants will use this subcategory if they are to be sent to the UK for;
This targets the most elite sportspeople and coaches in the world. If considering this route, you must be internationally recognised for what you have achieved in your sport. Issuing you a Tier 2 Sportsperson visa should result in significant contribution to the development of your sport at the highest level. You must be applying with a view to be based in the UK, to qualify to apply under this subcategory.
Targets religious workers with a job offer in the faith community. This includes a minister of religion, missionary or member of a religious order again, with a base in the UK.
As a business owner, if somebody needs to be sponsored to work for you, you should ask yourself a number of questions to satisfy yourself that becoming a licensed sponsor is right for you and your business. Asking questions at the early stages of the process is crucial for you to know what you are doing and why you are doing it. We recommend that you ask the following questions of the business (and key personnel), before proceeding.
The Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT)
An advert must run typically for 28 days on two platforms unless you are sponsoring a high earner or they will switch from Tier 4 student status. What is the purpose of the advert? To give the UK employment market a fair shot at the job too. All candidates you consider must apply via one of these adverts and be interviewed and scored in the same way as other candidates that apply.
Applying for a sponsor licence
After the 28-day advert has run ended, if a person not already legally able to work for you is the best candidate, you need to apply to the UKVI for a licence. Once your application is lodged, a decision can take between 1 – 8 weeks. Many organisations are audited by the UKVI before a decision is made.
Requesting a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS)
If a restricted COS is needed for the skilled migrant to be sponsored, this request will need to be made on or before the 5th of the month (this is when the UKVI review and decide COS requests). Decisions for restricted COS applications take in the region of 14 days but can vary. The difference between a restricted and unrestricted COS is explained further in this article, so if this is not a term you are familiar with, scroll down and look at the Restricted COS section.
Applying for a Tier 2 General visa
Once a COS has been issued, an application for a Tier 2 General, Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer or a Tier 5 visa can be lodged. If an application is made inside the UK, the decision can range from 2 working days to 6 weeks. If outside the UK, the decision ranges from 1 week to 6 weeks. Each country has a slightly different period in processing applications, depending on how busy the visa center is at the time of applying.
Entering the UK on a Tier 2 General visa
Once a visa is issued, the skilled worker is able to come to the UK (or remain) and work with your organisation. If they do not come into the office on the agreed start date, this will need to be reported on the SMS system, by a level 1 authorised user.
You first need to register an online account, completing the UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) Online Sponsor Application registration process. Once you have a registered account and are ready to submit your online application, make sure you have a debit or credit card to make payment for UKVI fees. You pay the fees at the point of submitting the application and are not expected to complete the form in one sitting.
Immigration solicitors like Reiss Edwards are able to assist with the completion of your online form and advise on the documentation needed. Notwithstanding whether we have assisted you, the actual submission of your application will have to come from you directly, as the UK Visa and Immigration make clear that physical submission by your legal rep will result in the application being withdrawn and a refund being issued for the fees paid.
When your application has been submitted online, documents in support of the application need to be sent off for consideration. This must be done within 5 working days. UKVI expect to receive:
It is easy to make an error when preparing an online application or sending off supporting documents if you do not know the process well. We regularly advise clients that have had adminstrative refusals that are avoidable. For example
If successful, your licence will be valid for 4 years and can be used for all skilled workers you intend to sponsor. At the point of submission, you will be able to select which categories of workers you want to have the capacity to sponsor. If you select more than just one category, documentation requirements will change differ. Considering the volume of rejected applications, you must ensure you are fully versed on what is required.
There is an important distinction to be made between an application that has been refused and an application that has been rejected as invalid. If rejected as invalid, there is no right to request any form of reconsideration, as there has been no decision issued which can be addressed in a reconsideration request. However, if a decision is issue refusing your licence application, the only recourse to have the decision reconsidered is if there has been a caseworking error on the part of the UKVI. For example, if they have suggested a document had not been provided when in fact, it had been provided, a form named “Error correction request” can be completed re-enclosing the document. Other errors can also be addressed using this form.
If there has been an error with the decision, the Error correction request form must be sent within 14 calendar days. The UKVI aim to provide a full response within 28 days from the receipt of the error correction request.
If the decision to refuse is not overturned, there is a 6-month cooling off period before a further application can be made. This is the reason why it is essential to provide all documents and meet the immigration rules at the first attempt. This long cooling off period could result in the loss of an important skilled worker. The cooling off period is explained further in this article, so if this is o interest to you, you can either scroll down to the section on cooling of period, or read the remainder of this article.
With the UKVI expectation that a licenced sponsor is, in effect, a partner to ensure migrant compliance, if this duty is not upheld a licence can be suspended or revoked. In our experience, the most common reasons a sponsor licence is revoked is:
The UKVI regularly visit licensed sponsors. The aim is to review record keeping to ensure it is adequate and not missing fundamental documentation and information. They will also review the job that the migrant fills to satisfy themselves that it is as applied for.
if the UKVI request a document that you must mandatorily hold and you are not able to produce this for review, this may result in revocation or suspension of your licence.
COS’ must be assigned for skilled or shortage occupation workers. If you assign for a role that is not at the correct skill level, this is a ground for suspension.
You will be given 20 working days to respond to allegations made by UKVI, where legal assistance is recommended. Once the UKVI review your response, they will either lift the suspension and allow you to continue as you had been, or revoke your licence.
The shortage Occupation List (SOL) is a list of the job titles that the UKVI confirm and accept to be in high demand in the UK and that there is a shortage of people able to fill within the UK labour market. This list can be found at Appendix K or the Immigration Rules. It is regularly updated by UKVI to meet changing demands and shortages. For example, on 6th October 2019, this list had been updated (please note this was the latest time it had been updated at the time of drafting this article). The following are included on the shortage occupation list:
Some of the above-named occupations do not entirely fall under the definition of shortage occupation. For example, a chef for a takeaway will not qualify, but an established executive chef may. For further advice, we recommend you contact one of our immigration lawyers for further details.
Given the importance of attracting talent, especially a shortage occupation, the UKVI offer exemptions to make the process of applying for a visa more stream lined. One example; there is no requirement to advertise the shortage role to the UK labour market as it can be assumed that, if the role is listed as being in a deficit, there will be very few, if any, local applicants suitable to fill the role. Additionally, the new entry and experienced worker salary bands are relaxed. For those that are not sure what these two terms mean:
Is a lower band salary aimed at new graduates or young professional starting out their career. More specifically, if you meet one of the following bullet points below, you may qualify for a new entrant level salary:
is a higher-level salary aimed at those that are established or of a certain age. You will be regarded as an experienced worker if:
You may need to retain original documents for other purposes, or have had a bad experience sending original documents in the post. For this reason, the UKVI accept certified copies, as long as they are certified in the format below.
Certain documents may not be sent to UKVI as certified, so ensure you consult a solicitor to verify which documents must be sent as originals.
The Home Office have sponsor guidance notes which regularly change. The guidance for sponsors and documentation required is broken down into 4 tables in Appendix A of the rules. We provide some example documents that the UKVI will ask to review as well as when an organisation may be exempt from producing some of the documentation.
Confirms that certain public bodies, government departments, local authorities and London Stock Exchange companies do not need to send all of the required documentation, as they UKVI can confirm most details without the need to send them directly.
Lists mandatory documents that a start up with less than 18 months of trading must provide. It also applies to charities, franchises’, or a business subject to regulation, inspection or monitoring.
Is a category specific table that applies to the subcategories of Tier 2 Sportsperson and Tier 5 Temporary worker Creative & Sporting.
You can apply for up to 12 months extending to a maximum of 24 months depending on the scheme you intend to apply under.
Is other documents that can be provided, if you are unable to produce all suggested
The simple answer to this question is yes, but there are restrictions:
You must continue to in the role that you had been sponsored to fill if you want to work a second job. You may also be able to work as self-employed, applying the same caveats listed above. You do not need to make a formal application to the UKVI when taking a second job as long as the above criteria are satisfied.
When making an application for a Tier 2 visa you must confirm how long you want the COS to be assigned for. There are differing rules applied to those that hold a Tier 2 General visa vs a Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer visa. We have broken them down below:
5 years and 14 days is the maximum duration a single COS can be assigned for, although most employers choose to issue for a lessor period to save costs. The maximum period of stay permitted on a Tier 2 general visa is 6 years, unless earning at or above £120,000.
This cap of 6 years is in combination of the initial application and extension period. If you do not qualify to apply for settlement once you hit the cap of 6 years, you will be expected to leave the UK and will be subjected to the cooling off period.
As a side not, it is advised that an employer should not request the maximum duration of 5 years and 14 days when making an initial application, as this is costly and there are no guarantees your chosen skilled worker will remain for the entire period. If the employee leaves at year 2, you would have saved £1000’s if you selected a shorted COS assignment period. For this reason, it is advised that a period of 3 years is the best compromise for the initial term. The extension term then needs to be for a further 2 years. This will bring the total period of leave to 5 years, which is what is required to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer – There are subcategories of ICT visas which have differing time restrictions.
It is important to note that only a Tier 2 General migrant can apply for ILR and not a migrant that holds a Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer visa. Unfortunately, in April 2010 the UKVI removed the right for Tier 2 ICT migrants to apply for settlement
The Tier 2 cooling off period lasts for 12 months and prevents the skilled worker in question from making further Tier 2 applications for 12 months. Even if your skilled worker has not reached the 6-year cap, they may still be caught by the cooling off period. The following bullets illustrate who may be subjected to it:
The UKVI issue a limited number of COS’ each year and if this number is exceeded, they may not issue a COS even if you meet the traditional requirements. There are 20,700 that are available each year and if this number if close to being hit, the UKVI usually issue certificates to the higher earning roles.
Tier 2 General leads to settled status, as long as the associated rules are met when making an application. Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer does not lead to settlement, which was abolished in April 2010. For this reason, when you sponsor a skilled worker, if you will need them to remain in the UK for more than 6 years, you are advised to apply for a Tier 2 General visa.
Reiss Edwards are a team of Immigration solicitors and lawyers based in London. We specialise in corporate immigration and global mobility and are able to offer clear and honest guidance to clients and prospective clients.
If you want to discuss your situation with one of our immigration lawyers, you can call on 020 3744 2797 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We offer at least 20 minutes of time without cost so that you have a clear understanding of the process before you pay any legal fees.
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