The Tier 2 visa is one of the most popular routes to live and work in the UK and earn permanent residency.
Due to its many requirements, it’s also one of the most daunting and complex application processes, says immigration consultant John Dun of Sable International.
“A UK Tier 2 visa or work visa allows citizens from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland to work and live in the UK for up to five years. Before you can apply for this visa, you first need a job offer for a skilled position in the UK,” he said.
“One of the major benefits of the Tier 2 work visa is that you can bring your family with you. To do this, you will need to show that your dependants can be financially supported while in the UK.”
Below Dunn outlined some of the most popular questions surrounding the visa and what you need to apply.
How to get a UK Tier 2 visa
The Tier 2 visa works on a points-based system, and you’ll need 70 points in total to be eligible. The points are awarded as follows:
- Future expected earnings – 20 points
- Sponsorship – 30 points
- English language skills – 10 points
- Available maintenance (funds) – 10 points
The minimum salary required for a Tier 2 is £20,800, but this may vary depending on your occupation and your Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code.
There are three main steps involved in applying for a UK Tier 2 visa.
- Sponsorship licence – Your employer will apply for a sponsorship licence. If your occupation is not on the shortage list, your employer will need to do a resident labour market test;
- Certificate of sponsorship – Once your employer has a sponsorship licence, they can issue you with a certificate of sponsorship (COS). The certificate acts as confirmation that your employer wants and needs to sponsor you. Once you have received your certificate you can apply for your visa;
- Applying for the Tier 2 (General) visa – This is the final stage in the application process. You’ll apply with your unique COS number and provide evidence that you meet the Tier 2 visa requirements.
Before you can access the visa you need to prove your knowledge of the English language.
To do this you will need to:
- Pass an approved English language test with at least CEFR level B1 in reading, writing, speaking and listening;
- Have an academic qualification taught in English and recognised by the UK NARIC as being equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PHD.
You must also be able to prove you can support yourself and your dependants You must have £945 (R16,500) in your bank account for 90 days before you apply. If you are bringing dependants with you, you will need an additional £630 (R11,000) for each dependant.
For citizens from certain countries, including South Africa, part of the application process includes getting tested for tuberculosis. The process is relatively straight-forward, but you must ensure that it’s done at a UKVI-approved clinic.
How much does it cost?
The cost depends on the type of visa you apply for and whether you apply from within or outside of the UK.
This is how much you’ll pay if you’re making an application from outside of the UK:
- A visa for a period of three years or less, where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued, will cost £61 (R1,060);
- A visa period of more than three years, where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued, will cost £1,220 (R21,200);
- A shortage occupation visa for a period of three years or less, where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued, will cost £464 (R8,000);
- A shortage occupation visa for a period of more than three years, where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued, will cost £928 (R16,144).
Can I extend my visa?
Dunn said that you can extend your visa, provided you meet the following conditions:
- You must be in the UK;
- You must have the same job as when you were first issued your visa;
- You must still be working for the same employer who issued your certificate of sponsorship;
- You must meet the minimum salary requirements.
“You can get indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after living and working in the UK for five years, and having spent no more than 180 days outside the UK during any 12-month period during those years,” Dunn said.
“Your employer will need to provide proof that you are still needed for your job and your salary must meet the minimum requirement.
“If your partner wants to work in the UK, they’ll need to apply for a dependant visa. This visa is valid for the length of time remaining on the main visa holder’s visa.
“Application timelines will vary as they’re dependent on when the sponsor licence is granted and visa processing times.”