If you’re interested in hiring foreign talent from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, you should be familiar with Tier 2 Sponsored Visa Scheme. This involves your company applying for a sponsor ‘licence’ from the UK Border Agency, then meeting specific hiring and job requirements. In this article our friends from Lexoo prepared an overview of the visa and a step-by-step guide to the process.
Tier 2 Visa: In a Nutshell
The Tier 2 Visa scheme allows UK businesses to bring on skilled workers from outside the EEA (and Switzerland) using an employer licence and points based system. There’s an annual limit of 20,700 visas, which is divided into monthly quotas.
Employers need to register for a sponsorship licence (this lasts four years) or each hire an employer will then need to meet the job eligibility, advertising and skills requirements and apply for the candidate’s sponsorship certificate(s).
Here is a a step-by-step outline of the process
Step 1: Register for a licence
Any company that wants to hire outside the EEA first needs a licence to sponsor migrant workers, which is granted by the Home Office. Your company needs to prove that it meets certain criteria and will usually be eligible for an inspection by the Home Office.
After you’ve gained a sponsorship licence, you can issue certificates of sponsorship for suitable jobs at your company for the next 4 years. The application process can usually take between 6 to 8 weeks in total (this can be faster if you bring on legal expertise).
The cost of applying for a licence for an SME is currently £536. If you use a lawyer, you can expect to spend between approximately £2,000 and £4,000, depending on the firm.
Since the application process can be quite complex, coupled with the fact that you cannot dispute a decision, we highly recommend using a specialised immigration lawyer to assist.
Step 2: Ensure that the job is eligible
After your company has obtained a sponsorship licence, you need to ensure that the job you are advertising for meets the criteria for sponsoring foreign workers:
1. The job must fall under one of the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) job titles, defined by the UKVI on page 6 here.
2. The job must meet a minimum skills threshold, i.e. pitched to degree level or equivalent (NQF Level 6).
3. The salary must be either at least £20,800, or the minimum rate as set in the relevant Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) on page 34 here (whichever is highest).
Step 3: Advertise the role
The ‘Resident Labour Market Test’ means that jobs must be advertised for 28 days within the UK to prove that no suitable ‘settled’ (European or British) local candidates could be found.
The typical procedure is for jobs to be marketed with the government’s Jobcentre Plus site, as well in as in one other place (either a national newspaper, professional journal or online).
There is no need to advertise if the role falls under the UK shortage occupation list, or has a salary of £155,300 or higher.
Step 4: Apply for candidate sponsorship certificate (employee applies for Tier 2 Visa)
Once all of the above has been completed, you can sponsor your candidate through applying for a candidate sponsorship certificate (currently £199). As soon as the certificate has been issued the visa application process can begin.
A visa of up to 3 years currently has an application cost of £564, outside of the UK, or £651 within the UK. Further information can be found here.
As well as the visa application fee, there is also a health care surcharge up front, typically £200 per year – it can be calculated here.
Under the points based system, the migrant worker will need a minimum of 70 points to qualify for a visa:
30 points for having a Certificate of Sponsorship
20 points for earning the appropriate salary for Tier 2
10 points for having the required level of English
10 points for having the appropriate funds
Once a visa application has been processed (processing times are available here), the decision on the visa is typically made within 3 weeks.
Costs and timeframes
At the very least, it costs around £1,500 to sponsor a candidate (if you do not use a lawyer), and roughly £3,000 to £6,000 with legal help. It can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months, from registering for a licence to actually hiring a candidate.
Let Lexoo help you
Most businesses use legal experts to take care of the process – at Lexoo, we match you with the right lawyer for your business. Just tell us your needs and we’ll send you fixed fee quotes from a range of vetted immigration lawyers within 1-2 business days, for free. Get your quotes online here.
Lexoo is a marketplace where start-ups and SMEs will be able to easily compare and hire talented and forward-thinking solicitors.
Adele Barlow, Lexoo
Join leading startups like Uber, GoCardless, Yieldify and more. www.kandidate.com
- The Essential Guide to Sponsoring Non-EU Candidates
Download this infographic.