UK Sponsorship Visa (Tier 2) — skilled worker
The UK Tier 2 visa is for workers who are offered a job in the UK and therefore have an employer who will act as a sponsor for their visa application. How to get sponsorship in the UK is through a job offer for a position categorised as a ‘shortage occupation’ and the employer completing a ‘resident labour market test’ to prove that the job can't be filled by a resident worker.
The Tier 2 visa has four sub-categories:
- General — for those filling a gap in the workforce
- Minister of Religion — for those to be employed in a faith community
- Sportsperson — for those employed at a high level in sports
- Intra Company Transfer — for those being transferred overseas by their current employer
While you are in the UK on a Tier 2 visa, you are only permitted to work for the employer who sponsored your visa application. If you leave the job for which you were sponsored, then you have to find another employer to sponsor you or leave the UK.
Quick Links and FAQs
- Is the Tier 2 sponsorship visa the right one for me?
- Do I qualify for a Tier 2 visa?
- Your sponsorship certificate
- Shortage occupations
- English language skills and maintenance funds
- What happens if my sponsorship certificate becomes invalid?
Unless you are offered a job in a shortage occupation, it is not easy to find a sponsor for a Tier 2 visa from outside the UK. If you are not in a shortage occupation and wish to apply for a visa from outside the UK, then Tier 1 (general) or Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) could be better options for you. In certain industries, a recruitment agency may be able to help you find a sponsor. A UK visa through sponsorship is also a common route for working holiday makers who wish to continue working for their current UK employer when their Tier 5 working holiday visa expires. Gaining sponsorship with a UK employer is generally easier when you are already in the UK mainly because they can meet with you in person.
Tier 2 (general) is points-based. You must score 70 points to qualify for UK sponsorship, including:
- 50 points for Attributes (30 for being assigned a certificate of sponsorship and 20 for being paid the appropriate salary)
- 10 points for English language skills
- 10 points for having enough funds in the bank (£800 for 90 days) or if your sponsor is ‘A rated’
You must also be over 16 years old, and cannot be a national of the European Economic Area or Switzerland.
The sponsorship certificate is the responsibility of your sponsoring employer in the UK. It isn't actually a paper certificate, but a digital certificate from which your employer will provide you with a reference number and other information such as the agreed upon wage.
Your sponsor will need to be registered as a licensed sponsor with the UK Border Agency and apply for a certificate of sponsorship for you. The certificate will act as an assurance that you intend to undertake a particular job. There is more information for sponsors on the UK Border Agency website.
Make sure you have made a final decision on intending to work for a potential employer before giving your personal information to them. Only one sponsor can assign a certificate to you, and once a sponsorship certificate is arranged you cannot be sponsored by any other employer for the period noted on the certificate.
If you get a sponsorship certificate, it does not guarantee that you will secure a Tier 2 visa. You must meet all the other requirements for this visa.
If you are qualified for an occupation that is listed on the Skills Shortage List you will automatically receive 30 points for the Attributes section of the Tier 2 visa application. You will still need a sponsorship certificate that shows you will be paid the appropriate wage. The Skills Shortage List includes specific job titles and currently includes certain engineering positions, medical practitioner positions, teaching positions, social worker positions and chef positions. You can view the current list on the UK Border Agency website here. There is a separate Skills Shortage List for Scotland.
As with other UK visas, when you apply you will have to prove your English language skills and show that you have enough money to support yourself when you arrive. To be awarded points for English language skills, you must either pass an English test approved by the Border Agency, come from a majority English-speaking country, or hold an undergraduate degree that was taught in English. When you apply for a Tier 2 visa, you will also have to show that you have £800 in personal savings (called ‘maintenance funds’) and that you have held these funds for a period of three months. The evidence you provide (such as original personal bank statements) must be dated no earlier than one month before the date of your application.
Your sponsor is obligated to tell UK immigration if they no longer employ you or if there is a significant change in your job or salary. These circumstances may mean that your sponsored visa is not valid and you will no longer have permission to work in the UK.
If you have been approved for a Tier 2 visa, you can apply to change employment, either within the same organisation or with a new organisation. The application will be treated as a new application and a new sponsorship certificate will be required from another licensed sponsor. However, having been sponsored already will give you and your new employer confidence that approval is very likely.