Tier 2

The Tier 2 route is for skilled workers who wish to work in the UK long-term or permanently.

Tier 2 Categories

The Tier 2 scheme is divided into:

  • Minister of Religion – for people coming to work for a religious organisation (for up to 3 years)
  • Sportsperson – for elite sportspeople and coaches who will be based in the UK
  • General
  • Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) – for employees of multinational companies which need to be transferred to the UK temporarily
    •  Long Term Staff issued for a maximum of 5 years (subject to exceptions) – for those of have worked for their organisation for at least 12 months directly prior to being transferred to the UK to undertake a skilled job in a post that cannot filled by a settled worker – the 12 months pre-employment requirement does not apply to those who will be paid £73,900 or more per year
    • Graduate Trainee issued for a maximum of 12 months – for those who have recently graduated and how are being transferred to a UK branch of their organisation for the purpose of training


To enter or remain in the UK as a Tier 2 General or Intra Company Transfer (ICT) Visa an overseas national must have been issued with a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from a Tier 2 Licensed Employer/Sponsor.

A Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is a database record in the UKVI’s Sponsor Management System.

The Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is the point-based system’s replacement of the work permit scheme, which existed under the previous employment immigration route.

A Sponsor will have to satisfy themselves that all mandatory Tier 2 employment requirements have been met, such as, for instance, the resident labour market test (RLMT) was carried out in line with the UKVI’s guidance, before assigning a live CoS to a migrant worker.

A CoS takes the form of a 10 digits Certificate of Sponsorship reference number, which the migrant worker will need to apply for a visa or a leave extension. Although not strictly compulsory, Entry Clearance and Immigration Officers tend to insist on being provided with a hard copy of the long version of the certificate’s contents rather than relying on the CoS number.

For further information please contact us.



What is a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)?

A Certificate of Sponsorship (referred to as a CoS) is a virtual document, which confirms that a UKVI licensed employer is sponsoring an overseas national to come or remain in the UK to work.

It is pivotal that the CoS is issued correctly if the worker is to be granted a visa or an extension of their leave.

Errors on the CoS may result in the visa or leave extension application being refused.

Mistakes may also be picked up during a UKVI compliance visit, which could have negative and very costly repercussions.

Sponsors found non-compliant may be fined and have their licence downgraded or even revoked.

What is the difference between a restricted and
an unrestricted Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)?

There are two types of CoS:

  1. Restricted, AND
  2. Unrestricted

As a general rule restricted CoS are used for most out of country visa applications. Unrestricted CoS’s on the other hand are used in support of in country leave extensions, which are not subject to the immigration cap.

What are Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship?

Restricted Certificates are subject to the immigration cap.

They are granted by the UKVI on a case by case basis.

To obtain a restricted CoS a Sponsor must submit an application to the UKVI by the 5th of the month. If granted the Sponsor will be able to assign the CoS to their selected migrant worker.

The award of restricted certificates is ruled by a points-based system.

  • Priority is given to the roles listed on the Shortage Occupation List, THEN
  • Roles which require a PhD and is in the research field, THEN
  • Roles with higher level salary for which the Resident Labour Market has been tested (i.e. the role has been advertised in line with the relevant code of practice). 


What are Un-restricted Certificates of Sponsorship?

Tier 2 Sponsors are granted an allocation of unrestricted Certificates of Sponsorship on a yearly basis. The allocation is based on their usage of the scheme in the previous year and their forecast for the year ahead.

Unrestricted Certificates of Sponsorship can be assigned to:

  • Intra Company Transfers (where a Tier 2 ICT license is held)
  • Existing migrants who are extending their employment with the same employer within the UK under Tier 2 General or ICT;
  • New employees (Tier 2 or Work Permit Holders) who are moving to a new employer within the UK under Tier 2 General;
  • Those seeking admission into the UK to fill a vacancy attracting a salary of £159,600 or more as a Tier 2 General
  • Tier 4 graduates who are switching into Tier 2 General within the UK;
  • Tier 2 Sports People; and
  • Tier 2 Ministers of Religion.


I have made a mistake on the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), how do I make the necessary correction? 

Sponsors can use the ‘sponsor note’ field on the SMS to amend minor errors identified after the certificate of sponsorship has been assigned. Examples of acceptable amendments are corrections to a mistyped name or date of birth.

If the main details are incorrect, the Sponsor must cancel the certificate and assign a new one so that to ensure that the information are the same as the one in the migrant worker’s application.

According the UKVI’s guidance, new certificate must be assigned when for example:
▪ the SOC code or tier/category is incorrect; or
▪ more than one of the migrant’s identifiable details need to be changed – such as a full change to the date of birth and nationality, or to the surname and date of birth.

The sponsor note field can only be used to notify changes on a live certificate of sponsorship. Certificates that have expired or been used or cancelled cannot be amended.

For the resident labour market test, can I advertise a large salary range?

When we approached the policy team, they confirmed that there are no rules to preclude a large salary range. However, they indicated that they would expect the range to be qualified in some way. Such as:

‘Pay dependant on experience and as per the published pay scales as agreed with the [union / governing body / government department / etc.]

And not ‘Pay dependant on experience’

They warned that without this qualification of pay, there could be an issue with the genuine nature of the vacancy.

The sponsor might fall foul of age discrimination etc with DWP if they can’t justify their experience requirements.

For the resident labour market test, regarding the salary range advertised, the minimum amount quoted on the advert does not meet the minimum requirements as per the codes of practice. Will this be a problem?

Yes, if using a salary range, the minimum pay stated in the advert must meet the minimum requirement as stated in the rules as per the relevant codes of practice.

Can I bring the start date on a restricted certificate forward?

You could alter the start date using a sponsor note after assigning, as long as the amended start date continues to meet the requirements for sponsorship (for example, the RLMT is only valid for 6 months from the advertisement first being placed and the individual can only apply up to 3 months ahead of the start date input).


EMPLOYEES – FAQs on Tier 2:

I wish to work permanently in the UK, how do I go about getting a work permit?

Except for those who qualify under the investment / entrepreneurial routes, to work in the UK you will most probably need a Tier 2 visa.

If you already work for an organisation overseas, which has a presence in the UK, you might qualify as a Tier 2 Intra Company transferee. If not, you will most probably need a Tier 2 General visa.

Your first port of call should be to look for a role that is sufficiently skilled to qualify under the Tier 2 scheme.  Sufficiently skilled here means a job which is regarded being at Level 6 of Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) as stated in the codes of practice, or if the job is a creative sector occupation, it must be at level 4 RQF.

Then you may also want to check whether your potential employers are already registered as licensed sponsors. As the process to register can be costly and time consuming, employers who often appear keen to start with, soon lose their enthusiasm when faced with the prospect of having to register as a sponsor.

Unless you are a Tier 4 and have recently graduated in the UK or the role is on the list of shortage occupations or the salary offered is £159,600 or over, in addition to registering as a sponsor, your employer will also be required to demonstrate that they have not been able to find a suitable resident worker before offering you the role. To do so, the role will have to be advertised in a very specific manner for at least 28 days. In most cases, the advertising used to identify you will be unsuitable and a new advertising campaign will have to be launched to meet the Home Office’s strict requirements.

So, unless the role is sufficiently skilled, your employer is already registered or willing to register as sponsor, and there is a shortage of your skills in the UK, your chances of being issued with a Tier 2 visa will be slim.

How long does the Tier 2 process take?

Assuming that your employer is already registered as a sponsor.

  • For Tier 2 ICT, if your sponsor has an annual allocation with at least one unrestricted certificate of sponsorship, the process should not take more than 3 to 4 weeks
  • For Tier 2 general, it could easily take 2 to 4 months.


I am already in the UK, can I switch/extend into Tier 2 General?

If you are in the UK as a Tier 4 visa holder, you can only switch into Tier 2 General if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are currently, or have last been, sponsored by a Tier 4 sponsor which is either: a UK recognised body or a body in receipt of public funding as a higher education institution 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; or
  • an overseas higher education institution, and were sponsored to undertake a short-term study abroad programme in the United Kingdom,


  • you have completed a course leading to a UK recognised bachelor’s or master’s degree, Postgraduate Certificate in Education or Professional Graduate Diploma of Education or have completed a minimum of 12 months’ study in the UK towards a UK PhD during your current period of leave or a period of continuous leave 1 which includes your last grant of leave; and
  • you studied for the eligible award at a UK institution that is a UK recognised or listed body, or an education provider which holds a licence for sponsoring students under Tier 4 of the Points-Based System; and
  • your periods of UK study and/or research towards your course ‘have been undertaken whilst you had entry clearance, leave to enter or leave to remain in the UK that was not subject to a restriction preventing you from undertaking it; and
  • if you undertook the study for the qualification whilst holding leave as a Tier 4 student, you have undertaken the study at the institution which is the Tier 4 sponsor, and not through supplementary study; and
  • you are applying from inside the UK


Please note that Professional Graduate Diploma NOT of education are not included.

You can also switch /extend into Tier 2 General if you are in the UK as a Tier 1 or Tier 2 General (working for another sponsor) or dependant partner of Tier 4 visa holder or a representative of an Overseas business.

For further information please contact us.