This section summarises switching to the Tier 2 (General) route for skilled employment.
The government confirmed in a Statement of Changes to the immigration rules on 22 October 2020 that the Tier 2 (General) route will be replaced by a very similar new Skilled Worker route from 09:00 on 1 December 2020. Related guidance for applicants, sponsors and Home Office staff will be published later. The Home Office has previously published several documents with details of its plans for the Skilled Worker route, itemising the planned key changes from the Tier 2 route. We have included in this guide the most significant proposed changes, drawn from those Home Office publications. When the guidances are published, we will analyse both the Rules and the guidances and update this information accordingly.
This information is for those who are applying in the UK to ‘switch’ to a General work visa (Tier 2). Tier 2 also includes specific routes for Intra-company transfers (those who are employed by a multi-national company outside the UK which has a UK branch), Health and Care workers, Sportspersons and Ministers of Religion. For full details of the additional eligibility for these specific routes and any differences in the application or fees, get advice from your employer and see the Home Office's information.
The job market in the UK is already competitive, and the ongoing effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on the UK economy are severely affecting recruitment. It is a challenging time to search for a job, and you will probably need to have a "Plan B" in place, just in case you do not find a job with Tier 2 or Skilled worker sponsorship by the end of your current permission. If that happens, you will need to leave the UK. There is no time limit for applying in your home country for a Tier 2 or Skilled worker visa for returning to the UK for work. Any application made on or after 1 January 2021 will be under the new Skilled worker route, not under Tier 2. For more information, see these recent guides aimed at 2020 graduates:
It is important to read the Tier 2 policy guidance before you apply. Your employer will have checked and confirmed your eligibility for Tier 2 sponsorship before issuing the Certificate of Sponsorship, but you need to check for yourself that you meet all the requirements. The information here will be helpful, and you can also get advice from the employer and/or from an immigration lawyer who specialises in Tier 2 immigration applications. The international student adviser at your higher education provider specialises in student immigration applications and is unlikely to be able to offer one-to-one advice on Tier 2 applications.
Our September 2019 blog post Tier 4 to Tier 2: no more tears? looks at some recent changes that have made the logistics of switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 more straightforward.
You can also switch into Tier 2 without leaving the UK if you have or were last granted leave under be in the UK under as the partner of a Tier 4 migrant. Tier 1 migrants, those under the Startup or Innovator scheme, and people with some other work-related immigration statuses can also apply in the UK to switch into Tier 2. If in doubt, speak to your employer. If you have immigration permission in a different category, you will need to leave the UK and apply for entry clearance to come to the UK under Tier 2.
For Tier 4 dependant partners and for anyone applying from outside the UK there are some extra issues or requirements for both the applicant and the employer. These can include a restricted certificate of sponsorship (CoS), the Resident Labour Market Test, the Immigration Skills Charge, and whether the job is considered a PhD level job or a shortage occupation. We have explained all these matters at the end of this section. The Home Office website has details of how to apply outside the UK. You can access the online application form here.