The Tier 2 visa allows skilled workers to enter the UK on a long term basis to fill a skilled job vacancy; including in a wide range of skilled occupations including in IT, accountancy, teaching, and healthcare. The occupation needs to be on the Tier 2 occupation list the Codes of Practice for Skilled Workers.

If the occupation is on the Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List in most cases the employer will not have to advertise the vacancy. In addition, you do not need to advertise the vacancy if you wish to sponsor someone under the Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa scheme.  Before they apply, Tier 2 visa applicants must have a job offer and a Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship from a UK employer with a valid Tier 2 sponsor licence.

Tier 2 jobs under the Tier 2 General visa scheme must usually be advertised to workers who are citizens or residents of the European Economic Area (EEA) before they can be offered to non-EEA immigrants, unless the job is on the Tier 2 Shortage Occupations List or it comes under the tier 2 intra-company transfer visa. This is known as the Resident Labour Market Test.

Tier 2 Visa categories

  • Tier 2 (General) visa For workers who have a skilled job offer and a certificate of sponsorship from a UK employer with a valid Tier 2 sponsorship licence. The vacancy must be advertised to UK workers before it can be offered to an immigrant, unless it is on the Tier 2 Shortage Occupations List. Limited to 20,700 places a year for job applicants resident outside the UK. 
  • Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visa For employees of multinational company who are being transferred to the business’s UK branch. Applicants must have a valid certificate of sponsorship from their employer. There are two sub-categories:
    • Long term staff
    • Graduate trainee
  • Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) visa For workers who’ve been offered a job, such as missionary or minister of religion, within a religious community organisation in the UK. 
  • Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visa For elite sportspeople and coaches. The applicant must be recognised or endorsed by their sport’s governing body.

Tier 2 Shortage Occupations List

In the UK skilled jobs usually need to be advertised for twenty-eight days before they can be offered to a Tier 2 worker. This is not necessary if the occupation is on the shortage occupation list. Jobs on this list do not need to be advertised to residents of the European Economic Area (EEA) before they can be offered to a non-EEA immigrant.

Jobs found on this list often include physical and medical scientists, such as engineers, doctors, and nurses.

The Resident Labour Market Test

If you are a UK employer, you may want to recruit a skilled worker from outside the European Economic Area. If you choose to sponsor them for certain types of Tier 2 visa, including the Tier 2 (General) visa, you will usually need to complete a Resident Labour Market Test unless the job to be filled is on the UK’s Shortage Occupation List.

Documents

Tier 2 applicants must provide several documents with their application, these include:

  • Current passport and/or other travel documents 
  • A separate passport photograph in some circumstances. 
  • Proof that they can meet the maintenance funds requirements for their visa, such as bank statements, unless their Tier 2 sponsor can guarantee their maintenance with the UK Home Office. Only ‘A rated’ sponsors have this option. 
  • Proof that they meet the Tier 2 English Language requirements, such as qualification equivalent to a bachelors degree or higher taught in English or English language test results. 
  • A clear tuberculosis (TB) test result letter, if the applicant is from one of the countries on the Home Office’s TB testing list 

Tier 2 Visa Points system

Tier 2 applicants must score at least 70 points on the Tier 2 points test. Please see our Tier 2 Points System page for full details. 

Tier 2 Visa Family members (dependants)

In most cases you can bring your partner or children with you during your stay, but you must show that you have sufficient funds to provide for them. They will be able to apply under a family visa, please see our UK Family Visas page for more details.

Tier 2 English language requirement

Tier 2 General visa applicants may be required to complete an approved UKVI version of the English language test if they are not nationals of an English-speaking country or have not completed a degree level course taught in English.  There are no English language requirements for Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa applicants.


Tier 2 General Visa

The Tier 2 visa is the main UK visa route for skilled workers coming to the UK to take up employment, usually paying a salary of at least £20,800 per annum for “new entrants” and £30,000 for “experienced workers”. In order to apply for this visa you must have a job offer and a certificate of sponsorship from a UK employer with a valid Tier 2 sponsor licence.  Unless earning £159,600 per annum, shareholding in the UK business by the applicant is limited to ten percent.  One bit of good news is that since 6 October 2019 many more occupations have been added to the Shortage Occupation List.  Therefore processing times for a Tier 2 visa should be significantly reduced for many.

The Tier 1 General Visa Category for independent skilled immigration to the UK without a job has not been available for new applicants since April 2011.  Therefore for many skilled workers the only option is the Tier 2 visa category, Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa or in a small number of cases the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa.  In some cases if a company is sending a senior employee to set up a new office in the UK the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa category may be worth considering.

This guide is split into the following sections:

  • Length of stay
  • Required maintenance funds
  • Tier 2 salary requirements
  • Taking up new or additional employment

Tier 2 General Visa Length of Stay

Up to 5 years and 14 days, or up to one month after the period stated on your certificate of sponsorship (whichever comes first), and up to 6 years with extensions. If you apply for a Tier 2 visa in the UK as a “new entrant” the maximum initial period you can extend the visa by is three years and one month.  After three years and one month as a Tier 2 General visa holder as a new entrant or experienced worker you will have to be paid the experienced worker rate to extend your tier 2 visa. 

You can apply for indefinite leave to remain twenty-eight days before the five year period ends in the UK if you meet the following salary requirements:

  • £35,800 if applying on or after 6 April 2019
  • £36,200 if applying on or after 6 April 2020
  • £36,900 if applying on or after 6 April 2021
  • £37,900 if applying on or after 6 April 2022
  • £38,800 if applying on or after 6 April 2023
  • £40,100 if applying on or after 6 April 2024

Tier 2 Maintenance Funds

In many cases the Tier 2 sponsor licence employer will guarantee maintenance which will meet this requirement.  Most employers are “A rated” and are allowed to do this.  Alternatively, Tier 2 General applicants as well as Tier 2 Intra-company transfer visa applicants must show that they have funds of at least £945, and that at no time over the last ninety days has the balance in their bank account gone below this figure.

Tier 2 Visa Salary Requirements

The job stated on a Tier 2 certificate of sponsorship must pay the required salary as in the immigration rules:

  • Those who are under twenty-six years of age can come under the new entrant salary rate of £20,800 a year or the new entrant rate in the Codes of Practice for Skilled workers, whichever is higher.
  • Those who have completed a degree in the UK or have three months or less to completion of any age (not necessary to have graduated), and wish to switch from a Tier 4 visa to a Tier 2 visa can also come under the new entrant salary rate of £20,800 per annum. This also includes those who have completed twelve months of a course leading to a PhD, or those who have completed or have three months or less to completion of a Postgraduate Certificate in Education or Professional Graduate Diploma of Education.
  • Those who are 26 years of age or older and are not switching from a Tier 4 visa to a Tier 2 visa from within the UK after completing a degree in the UK, will usually need to be paid £30,000 per annum or the experienced worker rate in the Codes of Practice for skilled workers, whichever is higher.  

As mentioned above, usually for both experienced workers and new entrants you also need to have a look at the codes of practice for skilled workers, usually at a RQF Level 6 occupation, to confirm the minimum salary requirement. If the rate is higher in the codes of practice then you will have to pay at least at this rate.  If the salary is close to the minimum hourly rate required, this will need to be considered as well. Further details of the minimum hourly rate can be found in the Codes of Practice for Skilled Workers.  

If you are currently based outside the UK and need to apply for UK entry clearance for a visa, or are currently in a visa category such as Tier 5 Youth Mobility that requires you to apply for tier 2 visa entry clearance then you will need to have a restricted CoS.  This means at times the salary requirements to gain a tier 2 visa may fluctuate.  Tier 2 visas for those who need to apply for visas from outside the UK come under the quota system.  At times of high demand there may be a shortage of restricted CoSs which will mean in most cases that you will need to have more points and a higher salary to gain enough points for a restricted CoS. Fortunately since 6 July 2018 when doctors and nurses were taken out of the Restricted CoS cap there has not been a shortage.

For the following occupations the salary can come under the new entrant rate of £20,800 or the appropriate rate for the job (see Codes of Practice for Skilled Workers), whichever is higher:

Medical radiographers (2217)

Nurses (2231) or the rate for a supervised practice placement

Secondary education teaching professionals – subject teachers in maths, physics, chemistry, computer science and Mandarin only (2314) 

Paramedics (3213)

There are also exceptions for certain groups, workers whose previous OR current permission to enter the UK fall under the following categories have different salary rules:

  • Religious workers, including ministers, missionaries, and religious order members.
  • You are being paid at least at NHS Band 3 and are sponsored as a pre-registration nurse or midwife. 

Tier 2 Visa and New or additional employment

Tier 2 Workers on this visa who wish to leave their job and work for a new employer will need a new Tier 2 visa.  The new employer will need a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence and will most likely have to do the Resident Labour Market Test.  Tier 2 visa holders are free to work for an additional 20 hours per week in the following circumstances:

  • In another job on the shortage occupation list or a job in the same sector and at the same professional level as the work for which the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) was assigned.
  • Outside the working hours covered by the CoS for the Tier 2 Visa. 

Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer Visa

This category allows multinational companies to transfer workers from their overseas operations to a UK branch. There must be common ownership or control of the overseas business and the UK business.  This may be an easier and faster route than the Tier 2 General visa to transfer existing staff to the UK.  The worker must have a confirmed UK job and a certificate of sponsorship from their employer, who must hold a valid Tier 2 intra-company transfer sponsorship licence. 

This guide is split into the following sections:

  • Tier 2 Intra-company Transfer visa overview
  • Tier 2 Intra-company Transfer visa sub-categories
  • Maintenance Funds requirements
  • Other activities and restrictions
  • Tier 2 Visa holder taking up new or additional employment

Tier 2 Intra-company Transfer visa overview

There is no requirement to advertise and do the resident labour market test under this visa category and no English language requirement.  In addition, there is no need to obtain a Restricted CoS which reduces processing times compared to applications made by Tier 2 General visa applicants who are based outside the UK.  There is also no restriction on shareholdings owned by the Tier 2 intra-company transfer visa applicant and so businessmen with any shareholding in the UK business can gain entry.

However, unlike the tier 2 general visa category the tier 2 intra-company transfer visa does not lead to indefinite leave to remain at the end of five years in the UK.  You also cannot switch to a tier 2 general visa from within the UK and there is usually a twelve month cooling off period before being able to apply for another tier 2 visa.  In most cases the minimum UK salary will need to be £41,500 per year. This is higher than the requirements for the Tier 2 General visa category which is £30,000 per year in many cases and can be as low as £20,800 per year in some cases.

Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa Sub-categories

  • Long term staff For workers who are filling a position in the UK for a year or more. Applicants for this category must have been employed by the company overseas for at least a year, unless the UK job pays at least £73,900 a year.

Length of stay: Length of stay for long term staff is salary dependent. Those earning above £120,000 per year can stay for a maximum of 9 years. Those earning less can stay for 5 years and one month.

Minimum salary: £41,500

  • Graduate trainee For workers with a recent degree level or above qualification who are filling a position in the UK on a graduate trainee program – such as a specialist research or IT role. Applicants for this category must have been employed and/or trained by the company overseas for at least 3 months.

Length of stay: Up to one year.

Minimum salary: £23,000
 

Maintenance Funds

In many cases the Tier 2 sponsorship licence employer will guarantee maintenance which will meet this requirement.  Most employers are “A rated” and are allowed to do this.  Alternatively, Tier 2 (Intra-company transfer) visa applicants must show that they have funds of at least £945, and that at no time over the last ninety days has the balance in their bank account gone below this figure.

Other activities and restrictions

Workers on this visa can take part in other work and study activity while in the UK. This includes doing voluntary work, and studying outside of their working hours.  Unlike the tier 2 general visa category the tier 2 intra-company transfer visa does not lead to indefinite leave to remain at the end of five years.

Tier 2 Visa holder and New or Additional Employment

Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer Workers on this visa who wish to leave their job and work for a new employer will need a new tier 2 visa.  However, there is a cooling off period of twelve months before you can apply for another tier 2 visa. The cooling off period does not apply if the salary is £120,000 or more for a Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa applicant or £159,600 or more for a Tier 2 General visa applicant.  In most cases you cannot switch from a Tier 2 Intra-company transfer to a Tier 2 General Visa.  

In some cases to get around the restrictions on a Tier 2 intra-company transfer visa holder staying longer or changing employer, the tier 2 dependent spouse finds a sponsor and applies for entry clearance as a tier 2 general visa holder.  The tier 2 intra-company visa holder then applies as the spouse of a Tier 2 general visa holder.

Tier 2 visa holders are free to work for an additional 20 hours per week in the following circumstances:

  • In another job on the shortage occupation list or a job in the same sector and at the same professional level as the work for which the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) was assigned.
  • Outside the working hours covered by the CoS for the Tier 2 Visa.
  • UK Visa Tier Points-Based Immigration System
    • Tier 1 Visa
      • Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa
      • Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur
      • Tier 1 Investor Visa
    • Tier 2 Visa for Skilled Workers
      • Tier 2 General Visa
      • Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer Visa
      • Tier 2 Visa Points System
      • UK Visa Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship
      • Tier 2 Sponsor Licence Application – How to apply
      • UK Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List
      • Tier 2 Minister of Religion Visa
      • Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa
      • Tier 2 Visa Resident Labour Market Test
      • Tier 2 visa switching from another visa scheme
      • Tier 2 Visa Government fees from 29 March 2019
    • Tier 3 Visa – Never Implemented and discontinued
    • Tier 4 Student Visas
      • Tier 4 Visa for International Students
    • Tier 5 Visa for Temporary Workers
      • Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Charity Worker) visa
      • Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting) visa
      • Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Government Authorised Exchange) visa
      • Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – International Agreement) visa
      • Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Religious Worker) visa
      • Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa
    • Who needs a UK Tier 2 Work Visa or other visa?
  • Non Tier UK Business visas
    • UK Innovator Visa
    • UK Start Up Visa
    • UK Sole Representative of an overseas business visa
    • UK Turkish Businessperson visa
  • UK Visitor Visas
    • UK Standard Visitor visa
    • UK Permitted Paid Engagement visa
    • Who needs a UK visitor visa?
  • UK Family Visas
    • UK Family of a settled person visa
      • UK Marriage visa (Family of a Settled Person Visa) tips
      • UK Fiancé visa (Family of a Settled Person Visa) tips
    • EEA Family Permit and UK Residence Card
    • UK Parent of a Tier 4 child visa
    • British Ancestry visa
    • UK Entry Clearance Guide
    • EU, EEA and Swiss Nationals Working in the UK
  • UK Permanent Residence and UK Citizenship
    • UK Permanent Residence/Indefinite Leave to Remain
    • UK Citizenship and Naturalisation – How to apply
      • Children Born Outside The UK
        • The British Nationality Act 1981
        • British Citizenship By Descent Or Otherwise
        • Children born outside the UK/qualifying territory
        • UK Children of parents in Crown and similar services
        • Children who will not be British citizens
        • List of Crown and services
      • Right of Abode (UK)
    • Long Residence in UK

Tier 2 Visa Points System

Tier 2 (General) visa applicants must score 70 points on the Tier 2 points test to be eligible for a visa. The table below gives a detailed breakdown of how points are allocated for the Tier 2 visa category.   The employer needs to firstly have a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence and have assigned a certificate of sponsorship to the overseas worker.  In many cases the employer would have had to have undertaken a resident labour market test to show that local workers are not available to do the job.

This guide is split into the following sections:

  • Summary of Tier 2 points conditions
  • Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)
  • Tier 2 visa appropriate salary
  • English language
  • Tier 2 visa maintenance requirements


Summary of Tier 2 points conditions

ConditionPoints
Having a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)30
Receiving an Appropriate Salary for the job in question20
Meeting the English Language criteria10
Having enough Maintenance funds10

Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)

In order to apply for a Tier 2 UK visa, you must have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from the employer who has offered you a job. The employer must have a Tier 2 Sponsorship licence and  have been issued with a  The CoS confirms that you have a job offer which meets the following conditions:

  • The employer has met the conditions of the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), or the job is exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test condition. To meet RLMT requirements the job must have been advertised to workers from the European Economic Area before being offered to the applicant from outside the EEA. More information can be found on our Resident Labour Market Test page. 
  • Your Tier 2 (General) application will be made no more than 3 months after the CoS is issued, and you will start work no more than 3 months after your visa application is made. 
  • The job in question meets the Tier 2 minimum skill level requirement, which should be checked in the Codes of Practice for Skilled Workers. This means it must usually be Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 6 or above, or RQF level 4 or above if it is on the Tier 2 Shortage Occupations List, or it is in certain creative fields such as dance, theatre and opera, and television and film. 

There are two types of Certificate of Sponsorship: restricted and unrestricted. Those prospective employees based outside the UK will need a restricted certificate of sponsorship.

  • Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship are for prospective employees who are based abroad, and planning to work in the UK in a role paying less than £159,600 a year, unless the job is an inward investment post. Please note that to be included in the quota in a particular month you need to apply by the 5th of the month.  There is a monthly allocation meeting for restricted certificates (usually 1000-2000) and an annual cap of 20,700. Prospective employees based in the UK who are eligible to change status to a Tier 2 visa do not come under the Tier 2 Visa Cap and usually do not need a restricted COS. The exception is for partners of Tier 4 visa holders who wish to switch to a Tier 2 visa. These applicants do need a restricted certificate of sponsorship. 
  • Unrestricted Certificates of Sponsorship are for prospective employees who are already in the UK (except dependent family members of Tier 4 visa holders) or are outside of the UK and will be working in a role which pays £159,600 a year or more, or will be working in an inward investment post.

Restricted CoS Points

Please note again that this is only relevant in a situation where you need to employ someone resident outside the UK, or employ someone who needs to apply for a visa from outside the UK for some other reason.  To be able to obtain a restricted CoS the employer needs to gain a certain number of points.  You need to add the points from each column below.  For example, passing the resident labour market test would give you twenty points and being offered a salary of £30,000 per annum would give you thirty points, resulting in a total of fifty points.  Historically most of the time people have gained enough points to gain a restricted CoS under the quota.  However, this is certainly not guaranteed to happen.  As can be seen below those in the shortage occupation list or in a PhD level occupation, or with a high salary gain the most points.

It should be noted that doctors and nurses now find it easier to qualify for the tier 2 visa scheme, as they no longer come under the cap and the restricted CoS system since 6 July 2018.  This includes all occupations under SOC codes 2211 medical practitioners which includes doctors, psychiatrists, and surgeons, and 2231 nurses which includes psychiatric nurses, health visitors, and district nurses.

Type of jobPointsSalaryPoints
Shortage occupation 320For every £1,000 up to a maximum of 160 points.1
PhD level occupation code and job passes resident labour market test or an exemption applies. 175  
Resident labour market test met by the ‘milkround’provisions and the individual being sponsored meets the ‘post study work’ provisions, other than they will be applying for entry clearance rather than leave to remain.30  
The job is in one of the following public service occupations: • 2217 Medical radiographers• 2314 Secondary education teaching professionals – subject teachers in maths, physics, chemistry, computer science and Mandarin only• 3213 Paramedics and the job passes the resident labour market test or an exemption applies 30  
Job passes resident labour market test or an exception applies 20   

Tier 2 Visa Appropriate Salary

Tier 2 (General) applicants must have a job offer which pays an appropriate salary. The appropriate salary varies by job, and by your level of experience. In general less experienced ‘new entrants’ must be paid at least £20,800 per annum, while experienced workers must receive at least £30,000, or the appropriate rate based on the SOC (Standard Occupational Classification) code for the job in the Codes of Practice for skilled workers, whichever is higher.

Applicants come under the new entrant salary rate if all of the following conditions apply:

  • Aged 25 or under, or has recently been on a degree level course or higher in the UK and is switching from a Tier 4 visa to a Tier 2 visa (no age restrictions).
  • The combined total for periods of stays under Tier 2 visa should not be more than 3 years and one month.  For example if you have been in the UK already on a Tier 2 General visa for one year (under any salary rate) then you can apply for an additional two years and one month stay under the Tier 2 General visa category.      

Applicants come under the experienced worker salary rate if the above conditions do not apply. The appropriate salary for experienced worker applicants in the Codes of  Practice depends on when their first Certificate of Sponsorship with any employer was granted:

  • If the Certificate of Sponsorship was granted before 24 November 2016
    • The job must pay the appropriate experienced rate salary based on its SOC code or the minimum salary is £20,800 (whichever is higher).
  • If the Certificate of Sponsorship was granted on or after 24 November 2016
    • The job must pay the appropriate experienced rate salary based on its SOC code, OR £30,000 (whichever is highest).

English Language

Tier 2 visa applicants must meet the English Language requirement, meaning they must meet at least one of the following conditions. Applicants meet the English language requirement if they:

  • Are a citizen of a majority English speaking country (see table below)
  • Hold a degree which is equivalent to a UK Bachelor’s degree or higher, which was taught or researched in English (UK NARIC evaluation required if not taught in a majority English speaking Country)
  • Have passed a recognized English language test with at least a B1 score Council of Europe’s common European framework for language and learning.
  • Have previously met the English Language requirement during a grant of leave in the UK
  • Qualify under transitional arrangements (this is rare) 

Majority English Language Speaking Countries outside UK to meet Tier 2 Visa English language requirements.

Antigua and BarbudaBelizeGuyanaSt Lucia
AustraliaCanadaJamaicaSt Vincent and the Grenadines
The BahamasDominicaNew ZealandTrinidad and Tobago
BarbadosGrenadaSt Kitts and NevisThe United States of America

Approved English Language Tests for Tier 2 Visa at B1 or above include:

You must have reached the required level in all areas of reading, writing, speaking and listening. MUST BE AN UKVI VERSION OF THE TEST

TestScore
Integrated Skills in English (level B1, B2, C1, or C2)Passes in reading, writing, listening, and speaking
Graded Examinations in Spoken English (level B1)Grade 5
IELTS for UKVI (level B1)4.0 in reading, writing, listening, and speaking
IELTS for UKVI (level B2)5.5 in reading, writing, listening, and speaking
IELTS for UKVI (level C1)7.0 in reading, writing, listening, and speaking
IELTS for UKVI (level C2)8.5 in reading, writing, listening, and speaking

Tier 2 Visa Maintenance Requirements

Most Tier 2 sponsors guarantee their prospective employees’ maintenance by stating on the Certificate of Sponsorship that they will cover the applicant’s maintenance and accommodation for the first month of employment in the UK. Only ‘A rated’ sponsors have this option which covers the vast majority of employers with tier 2 sponsorship licences.   

If their employee does not guarantee maintenance then Tier 2 applicants must prove, with bank statements or other documents, that they have personal funds of at least £945, and have had this money continuously for a 90 day period ending no more than 31 days before the date of the Tier 2 application.

Applicants are exempt from this condition if they already have entry clearance, leave to enter, or leave to remain under a Tier 2 visa.


UK Visa Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship

In order to apply for a Tier 2 UK visa, you must have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from an employer with a Tier 2 Sponsorship licence. Your prospective employer must request and if granted assign your CoS via their online Sponsor Management System account. In order to do so they must be a UK Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence holder and must have access to the Sponsor Management System (SMS) as a level 1 User. Level 2 users can only assign an unrestricted CoS. They will then provide you with a certificate number which you must use when submitting your visa application.

You will not receive a physical certificate, though you may ask your employer for a print out of the details for the certificate from the SMS system. There are two types of Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship are to employ people based outside the UK. Unrestricted CoSs are to employ people switching to a tier 2 visa from within the UK.

This guide is split into the following sections:

  • Tier 2 CoS Basics
  • Tier 2 CoS application process
  • Tier 2 CoS monthly allocation
  • Types of Tier 2 CoS
  • FAQ

Your prospective UK Tier 2 employer confirms on the CoS that you have a job offer which meets the following conditions:

  • The employer has met the conditions of the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), or the job is exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test requirements. To meet RLMT requirements the job must have been advertised to workers from the European Economic Area before being offered to the applicant from outside the EEA. More information can be found on our Resident Labour Market Test page.  
  • Your Tier 2 (General) application must be made no more than 3 months after the CoS is issued, and you will start work no more than 3 months after your visa application is made.  
  • The job in question meets the Tier 2 minimum skill level requirement. This means it must usually be Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 6 or above, or RQF level 4 or above if it is on the Tier 2 Shortage Occupations List, or it is in certain certain roles within creative fields such as dance, theatre and opera, and television and film.  

Application process for UK Tier 2 Visa after Certificate of Sponsorship Assigned

Once you have been assigned a CoS you have 3 months to make your Tier 2 visa application, after which time the certificate will expire. During this 3 month period you cannot be assigned any additional CoS by another employer.
 

Monthly allocation for UK Tier 2 Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship

There is a monthly allocation meeting for restricted COSs on the 11th of each month, and an annual cap of 20,700 split into 12 monthly caps. Your employer must apply by the 5th of the month to be allocated a restricted CoS by the 11th of the month.
 

Types of UK Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship

There are two types of Certificate of Sponsorship: restricted and unrestricted. All prospective employees based outside the UK will need a restricted certificate of sponsorship unless they will be working in a role which pays £159,600 a year or more, or will be working in an inward investment post.

  • Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship are for prospective employees who are based abroad, and planning to work in the UK in a role paying less than £159,600 a year, unless the job is an inward investment post. There is a monthly allocation meeting for restricted certificates (usually 1000-2000) and an annual cap of 20,700. Prospective employees based in the UK who are eligible to change status to a Tier 2 visa do not come under the Tier 2 Visa Cap and usually do not need a restricted COS. The exception is for partners of Tier 4 visa holders who wish to switch to a Tier 2 visa. These applicants do need a restricted certificate of sponsorship.  
  • Unrestricted Certificates of Sponsorship are to employ prospective employees who are already in the UK (except dependent family members of Tier 4 visa holders) or are outside of the UK and will be working in a role which pays £159,600 a year or more, or will be working in an inward investment post. 

What if you have a UK Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship but decide not to go ahead with your application?

In that case, you should contact your sponsor who will cancel the Certificate of Sponsorship. If you fail to do so, it will expire after three months in any event.
 

What if you have a UK Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship but decide to work in another position in the UK?

If you wish to take up alternative employment in the UK then the procedure is as follows

  • BE CAREFUL TO TRY AND MAKE SURE THAT THE NEW EMPLOYER IS IN A POSITION TO SPONSOR YOU ENABLING YOU TO APPLY FOR A TIER 2 VISA BEFORE YOUR VISA EXPIRES. 
  • You must ask your sponsor to withdraw your live Certificate of Sponsorship, either in writing or by email. You cannot apply for another Certificate while the original one remains live. 
  • The sponsor must then cancel your live Certificate within five days of receiving your request. If the employer does not do this you must send a reminder, after which they have another five days to cancel the CoS. 
  • If your sponsor does not cancel your CoS after the steps above, you can ask the Sponsor Licensing Unit of the UK Visas and Immigration to cancel it instead. 
  • Once the original Certificate is cancelled, you can apply for another one from your preferred employer.

Tier 2 Minister of Religion Visa

For workers coming to the UK to fill a position – such as as a minister of religion or missionary – within a religious organisation in the UK. As with all Tier 2 visas, the worker must have a confirmed job in the UK and a certificate of sponsorship from a religious organisation with a valid Tier 2 sponsorship license before they apply.

This guide is split into the following sections:

  • Length of stay
  • Funding requirements
  • Exemptions to funding requirements
  • Other activities and restrictions

Length of stay

Up to 3 years and 30 days, or up to one month after the period stated on your certificate of sponsorship (whichever comes first), and up to 6 years with extensions.

Funds

Tier 2 (Minister of religion) visa applicants must have funds of at least £945, and must have had this amount consistently for 3 months or more, unless their Tier 2 sponsor can guarantee their maintenance with the UK Home Office. Only ‘A rated’ sponsors have this option.

Funding rules exemptions

Workers who are already in the UK and meet one of these conditions are exempt from the funding requirements for this visa:

  • Holders of any other Tier 2 visa 
  • Employees of a Jewish agency 
  • Ground staff employed by an airline based outside of the UK 
  • Religious workers (with a pre-existing visa), including ministers, missionaries, and religious order members 
  • Workers employed by a media organisation – such as a newspaper or television news station – based outside of the UK 
  • Work permit holders

Other activities and restrictions

Workers on this visa can take part in other work and study activity while in the UK. This includes taking a second job (but cannot begin working before they start the job on their certificate of sponsorship), doing voluntary work, and studying.


Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa

For top-level athletes and coaches – whose application is being endorsed by their sport’s governing body – who are coming to the UK to work in a way that will help their sport’s development. Workers for this visa must have a certificate of sponsorship from a sports organisation with a valid Tier 2 sponsorship license before they apply.

Length of stay

Up to 3 years, and up to 6 years with extensions.

Funds

Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visa applicants must have funds of at least £945, and must have had this amount consistently for 3 months or more, unless their Tier 2 sponsor can guarantee their maintenance with the UK Home Office. Only ‘A rated’ sponsors have this option.

Funding rules exemptions

Workers who are already in the UK and meet one of these conditions are exempt from the funding requirements for this visa:

  • Holders of any other Tier 2 visa 
  • Employees of a Jewish agency 
  • Ground staff employed by an airline based outside of the UK 
  • Religious workers (with a pre-existing visa), including ministers, missionaries, and religious order members 
  • Workers employed by a media organisation – such as a newspaper or television news station – based outside of the UK 
  • Work permit holders

Tier 2 Visa Resident Labour Market Test

If you are a UK employer and you have a Tier 2 Sponsor License and want to recruit a skilled worker from outside the European Economic Area on a Tier 2 (General) visa, you will in many cases need to complete the Resident Labour Market Test.  Since 6 October 2019 the number of occupations that come under the Shortage Occupation List has greatly increased from about one percent of UK jobs to about nine percent.

Please note that Tier 5 visa holders cannot switch to the Tier 2 General visa category from within the UK and need to apply for a visa in their home Country.

Some examples where you do not need to do the Resident Labour Market Test are as follows:

  • if you are extending a tier 2 visa in a similar job role for the same employer.
  • If you are employing someone who has completed a degree or there is three months or less to the completion date, and person is switching from within the Country from a Tier 4 student visa to a Tier 2 visa.
  • On a Tier 4 visa and has completed at least twelve months study towards an UK PhD and wishes to switch to a Tier 2 visa from within the UK.
  • If the job is on the shortage occupation list.  However, if you wish to employ nurses you will still need to do the Resident Labour Market Test.
  • If the salary is at least £159,600 per annum.

The Resident Labour Market Test requires the employer to show to UK Visas and Immigration that no ‘settled worker’* is available for the role they wish to fill with a Tier 2 visa worker. To do this employers will usually need to advertise the job in Find a Job a Government owned website and in a private sector job site.

The Employer needs to review the details for each job applicant and decide whether or not the applicant is suitable.  Careful records need to be kept on why applicants, if relevant, were rejected for the position.  Details for each applicant should also be available in case the Home Office decides to check employer records.

*A settled worker is one of the following:

  • A UK national
  • An EEA national who is exercising their ‘treaty right’ to free movement (to work in the UK)
  • A citizen of a UK Overseas Territory, except citizens of Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus 

This guide is split into the following sections:

  • Completing a valid Resident Labour Market Test
  • Jobs advertised with Find a Job
  • Exceptions to advertising with Find a Job
  • Methods of advertising a vacancy
  • After the Resident Labour Market test
  • Exemptions from the Resident Labour Market Test 

Completing a valid Resident Labour Market Test

To complete a satisfactory Resident Labour Market Test you must, in most cases

  • Advertise in the UK in two places which are suitable for the industry and job in question
  • Include the following in the advert:
    • The job title
    • Main duties and responsibilities of the job
    • The location
    • Salary package or range
    • Necessary skills, qualifications and experience
    • Closing date for applications. For rolling recruitment programmes the advertisement must show the period the programme will run for.
  • Advertise for the required length of time: a total of 28 days in either one or two stages, each of which must be no shorter than 7 days. For example, you could run one advertisement period for 10 days, and later run a second advertisement period for 18 days. 

Jobs advertised on Find a Job

For most jobs you should advertise on the UK government’s Find a Job website – or JobCentre Online in Northern Ireland – and in one other place.

The vast majority of jobs with a salary under £73,900 per year, must be advertised on Find a Job. Please see the Methods of advertising a vacancy section below for more details.
 

Exceptions to the Find a Job Requirement

The following jobs do not have to be advertised on Find a Job or Jobcentre Online, but must still be advertised in a minimum of 2 places. Please see our Methods of advertising a vacancy section below for more details.

  • Jobs with an annual salary package over £73,900
  • Jobs where there will be ‘stock exchange disclosure’ requirements
  • University recruitment ‘milkround’ jobs
  • Barristers’ pupillage places
  • PhD level jobs with the following Standard occupation Classification codes:
    • 2111 – Chemical scientists
    • 2112 – Biological scientists and biochemists
    • 2113 – Physical scientists
    • 2114 – Social and humanities scientists
    • 2119 – Natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified. This includes those employed by research institutions which are not universities
    • 2150 – Research and development managers
    • 2311 – Higher education teaching professionals
  • Jobs which are exempt from the need for a Resident Labour Market Test


Although these jobs do not have to be advertised on the Find a Job site, all other Resident Market Labour Test rules apply.

Methods of advertising a job vacancy

All jobs must be advertised in a minimum of 2 places, even if they are exempt from advertising in Find a Job (see above). You may choose to advertise the job on the Find a Job service (replaced the Universal Jobmatch service from 14 May 2018) even if it is exempt, and you can also use any of the following methods:

  1. National newspaper (published at least once a week) or professional journal (published at least once a month)
  2. A university milkround.
  3. Rolling recruitment programmes.
  4. Recruitment Agencies and headhunters. In these cases the agency or headhunter must still advertise the job in line with Resident Labour Market Test rules.
  5. The internet.

Documents related to the Resident Labour Market test must be kept for each recruitment method used.

1. National newspaper or professional journal

The job may be advertised using the employment section appropriate to the job, of a national newspaper or a professional journal. A national newspaper is one that is available in the majority of newsagents throughout the United Kingdom, or throughout the devolved nation (Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland) in which the job is based.

A professional journal is one that is published for a particular field, such as a trade journal or the journal of a professional occupational body, and is available nationally either at a majority of newsagents or through subscription.

  • The Scotsman and The Herald are acceptable as suitable national newspapers for vacancies in Scotland and bordering counties of England.
  • The Western Mail is acceptable for vacancies in Wales.
  • The Belfast Telegraph is acceptable for vacancies in Northern Ireland.


2. University Milkround

An annual recruitment programme, known as a ‘milkround’ may be used; employers from a wide range of sectors visit universities to give presentations and interview students, usually as part of university career fairs.

  • A minimum of three UK universities must be included in the recruitment programme, or all universities which offer the course relevant to the job, if that number is lower.
  • The milk round itself must be advertised in 2 places according to the same rules followed for advertising a job, one of which must be a graduate recruitment website which charges no fees for viewing or applying for vacancies.


3. Rolling recruitment programme

Employers can use rolling recruitment programmes to identify suitable candidates for positions that they cannot fill but they must still advertise each job in accordance with the Resident Labour Market Test before offering it to a migrant.

4. Recruitment agencies

If the relevant code of practice permits it, you can use a recruitment agency or headhunter to help you fill the post. The agency or headhunter must still advertise the job in accordance with the Resident Labour Market Test.

5. Internet

The Internet may be used to advertise a job. The website must be one of the following:

  • The Find a Job service in the UK, or JobCentre Online in Northern Ireland
  • A national newspaper’s website
  • a professional journal’s website
  • a prominent or professional recruitment organisation’s website


An organisation’s own website may be used but only if the organisation is a multi-national or global company, or a large organisation with over 250 permanent employees in the United Kingdom.

Any website used must be free to access and must not charge any fee for viewing or applying for job vacancies.

After the Resident Labour Market Test

  • If a settled worker applies for the job and has all the correct qualifications, experience and skills, you cannot employ a migrant over them, even if the migrant is more qualified. The exception is for PhD level jobs with the following Standard occupation Classification codes:
    • 2111 – Chemical scientists
    • 2112 – Biological scientists and biochemists
    • 2113 – Physical scientists
    • 2114 – Social and humanities scientists
    • 2119 – Natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified. This includes those employed by research institutions which are not universities
    • 2150 – Research and development managers
    • 2311 – Higher education teaching professionals
  • If you do offer the job to a worker from outside the European Economic Area, you must issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) within 6 months of placing the advert. This is to make sure that the results of the advertising reflect the current availability of the skills needed.Exceptions to the 6 month rule include:
    • If the migrant was recruited through a milkround you have 48 months to assign a CoS, but you must offer the migrant the job within 6 months of the recruitment campaign ending
    • If the job falls under one of the PhD level Standard Occupational Classification codes found above, in which case you have 12 months to assign a CoS
    • If the job is a pupillage position for trainer barristers, in which case you have 12 months to assign a CoS
    • If the job is for a rank and file (‘tutti’) orchestral musician, in which case you have 12 months to assign a CoS
  • The Certificate of Sponsorship you assign must include details of how you completed the Resident Labour Market Test, including:
    • The dates and locations of the job advertisements
    • Relevant reference numbers, such as the Find a Job ID number, or (if advertised in Northern Ireland) the Jobcentre Online vacancy reference number, any reference numbers from online or newspaper advertisements, and so on.
    • Details of any exemption to the Resident Labour Market Test, if used
    • Details of any third party, such as recruitment agency, used.

Further details on completing and assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship can be found on our Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship page.

Exemptions to the Resident Labour Market Test

Please note that those who are currently on tier 4 visa student visas, and who have completed their degree including all coursework and have sat all exams do not come under this requirement.  There is no requirement that you have received your degree.

You do not have to complete a Resident Labour Market Test if:

  • The job is on the Shortage Occupation List. You can only use this exemption if the migrant will be working for 30 hours a week or more.If the job comes under Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code ‘2231 Nurses’ you must still complete a Resident Labour Market Test, even if this SOC code is on the Shortage Occupation List.
  • The job is a Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer
  • The migrant is already working for you on a tier 2 visa and needs to extend their leave to remain in the UK under the same category, and in the same or similar job.  
  • The migrant is already in the UK, or was last granted leave to enter on stay in the UK, in one of the following immigration categories and wants to switch to a Tier 2 (General) Visa:
    • Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa – this category was closed to new applicants in April 2012
    • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa
    • the International Graduates Scheme
    • the Fresh Talent Working in Scotland Scheme
    • the Science and Engineering Graduates Scheme.

You also do not need to do the Resident Labour Market Test in the following circumstances:

  • The salary for the job will be £159,600 or above
  • You are a higher education institution and the worker is returning to a post with you after a period of academic leave
  • The job is a supernumerary research position, where the worker has received a non-transferable award or fellowship for scientific research from another organisation. After this award or fellowship has ended you may continue to sponsor the worker to continue their research
  • The worker is a doctor or dentist doing speciality training and their salary is being paid by an overseas government as part of an international agreement. You are also exempted if the worker is applying to continue their training after an out-of-programme experience.
  • The worker will be supporting a posting to you from a business based abroad in connection with the transfer of a high value business to the UK or a high value inwards investment project. These are the following requirements:
    • You registered with Companies House in the UK no more than 3 years before the date that you assigned the worker a Certificate of Sponsorship
    • You are a branch or wholly owned subsidiary of a business based outside of the UK
    • You or the business based outside of the UK must be directly making the investment and not working in support of a third party making the investment.
    • The transfer or inward investment project involves capital expenditure of at least £27 million, or will create at least 21 new jobs in the UK. This does not need to occur before you assign a Certificate of Sponsorship, but evidence that it will occur as part of the transfer or inward investment project must be provided.
  • The migrant currently has, or was last granted, permission to stay in the UK on a Tier 4 student visa, and during their last grant of leave to remain in the UK (or during a continuous period of leave which includes their last grant of leave to remain) which must confirm that they have completed one of the following courses.  It is no longer required that the exam results are known before applying for a tier 2 visa:
    • Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree (recognised in the UK)
    • UK Postgraduate Certificate in Education
    • Professional Graduate Diploma of Education
    • 12 months of study in the UK towards a UK PhD

In all cases the migrant’s sponsor during their studies must have been one of the following:

  • An institution receiving funding as a higher education provider from the Department of Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, or the Scottish Funding Council
  • A higher education institution based abroad and sponsoring the migrant to undertake a study abroad program in the UK
  • An Embedded College which offers Pathway Courses