Working in the UK on a Tier 2 visa
What is a Tier 2 visa?
A Tier 2 (General) visa allows UK employers to recruit workers from outside the UK and EEA (European Economic Area) to fill vacancies which they have been unable to fill with a UK or EEA worker.
Non-UK or EEA doctors who wish to work in the UK will need a Tier 2 (General) visa to give them permission to work in the UK, unless they have indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
Who is eligible to apply?
To be eligible for a Tier 2 (General) visa, you must meet the following criteria:
- You must already have a job offer in the UK at an appropriate salary (see below)
- The job offer can only be made if it meets the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), unless certain exemptions apply
- You need to be sponsored before you can apply to work in the UK. This means you need a certificate of sponsorship. A certificate of sponsorship (also referred to as a CoS) is a document from a licensed Tier 2 sponsor, which will be your employer
- You must meet the relevant points criteria for maintenance and English language
How long can I stay in UK on Tier 2?
The maximum you can stay on a Tier 2 (General) visa in the UK is six years in total.
A Tier 2 (General) visa will be given for the same length of time as your certificate of sponsorship. The maximum length of stay for this type of visa is 5 years and 14 days, or the time given on your certificate of sponsorship plus one month - whichever is shorter.
Certificates of sponsorship can be given for up to five years. This may apply to doctors on run-through training contracts.
Once your initial visa is coming to an end, you can apply for an extension of your visa provided you fulfill the criteria below:
- You have the same job as when you were issued your previous visa
- You are still working for the employer who assigned your certificate of sponsorship
- You are still earning an appropriate salary – this depends on what grade you are on. You can find the relevant minimum salary level in the Appendix J of the Immigration rules: codes of practice for skilled work published by the UK government. The occupational code for Medical Practitioners is 2211.
- You must be in the UK to extend your visa.
- You must still meet the points criteria.
After five years, unless you apply for indefinite leave to remain (settled status), you will have to leave the UK.
If you are considering this option and you are a BMA member, email us or call one of our advisers on 0300 123 1233
Check the points criteria
Can I stay in the UK on a visa for more than six years?
No. The rules prevent visa extensions beyond six years.
If you wish to continue working in the UK at the end of your Tier 2 (General) visa, you will have to apply for settlement and will have to meet the minimum pay threshold (currently £35,000 before tax per year), and other criteria for settlement.
If you do not wish to apply for settlement, or do not meet the settlement criteria then you will have to leave the UK at the end of your visa. You will have to wait 12 months before applying to return to the UK under Tier 2 (General) again.
This is known as a cooling off period and applies in order to prevent repeat periods of leave under Tier 2.
Tier 2 Genuineness Test for visa applications
A Genuineness Test has been introduced which applies to Tier 2 (General).
Entry Clearance Officers and Home Office case workers are now able to refuse Tier 2 applications where they have realistic grounds to believe the vacancy and job offer is not genuine.
The Home Office needs to be satisfied that you intend to work in the role that is on your Certificate of Sponsorship and that you hold the correct skills for the role. In order to assess this the Home Office may request additional evidence and information, and refuse your application if the evidence is not provided.
Documentation requested by the Home Office needs to be received within 28 working days. The Home Office may also request you attend an interview, and refuse your application if you fail to comply with the request.
When making an assessment of ‘genuineness’ the Home Office will consider your:
- knowledge of the role
- relevant experience relative to the skills required to do the role
- knowledge of your Sponsor in the UK
- explanation of how you were recruited
- any other relevant information.
When you submit your visa application make sure you can answer the genuineness questions. This will assist you if you are then contacted by the Home Office to provide evidence.
If I leave the UK while on a Tier 2 visa, can I come back in?
Not straight away. The government has introduced a 'cooling off' period which applies to any Tier 2 migrant who leaves the UK and applies for a new Tier 2 visa, regardless of when your previous leave was granted.
It also applies if you switch out of Tier 2 to get a different visa - for example, study purposes - and then wish to re-apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa while you are still in the UK.
This is particularly important to note if you wish to leave the UK to take an Out of Programme (OOP) experience, or if you wish to move back into Tier 4 to undertake further study.
In that case you will need to wait for 12 months from either the date you left the UK, or the expiry of your previous Tier 2 visa, before you may apply for a new Tier 2 visa. This is called a cooling off period.
Cooling off period
If you do not apply for settlement at the end of your Tier 2 (General) visa, you must spend a period of 12 months outside the UK before you may reapply for another Tier 2 (General) visa to enter the UK. This is known as the ‘Tier 2 cooling-off’ period.
The same rules apply if you switch out of Tier 2 whilst in the UK and later wish to reapply as a Tier 2 migrant. You will have to wait 12 months from the point you switch out of Tier 2 before making a new application.
If you wish to leave the UK in order to take an Out of Programme Experience or if you wish to move back onto Tier 4 to undertake any further study, you need to take this into account. You will need to wait for 12 months from the date your previous Tier 2 visa expired before you may apply for a new Tier 2 visa.
When is the 12 months in the cooling off period calculated from?
The 12 months is calculated from the time your Tier 2 sponsor notifies UK Visas and Immigration (formerly UKBA), that you have left the UK or from the time that you can provide evidence of having not been in the UK.
Acceptable evidence may include:
- travel tickets or boarding card stubs, but only if your sponsor, or previous sponsor also notified the UKVI at the time confirming that your employment in the UK had ended
- exit or entry stamps in your passport which confirms that you were not in the UK
- a letter from an overseas employer confirming the date you started for restarted work overseas, after returning from the UK
- any other evidence that shows you were not in the UK.
Read this Gov.uk guidance
If you think the cooling off period applies to you but aren't sure or you have more questions, BMA members can email us or call one of our advisers on 0300 123 1233.
What happens if I leave the UK to go on holiday or an out of programme placement (OOP)?
Your Tier 2 visa, which is your permission to stay in the UK, is attached to your job.
If you leave your job with your current employer to go on holiday or on an out of programme experience, your employer has to tell the Home Office that you have left the job.
Then what happens?
The Home Office will usually then write to you at your UK address informing you that they have curtailed (shortened) your permission to be in the UK. They will normally curtail your immigration permission to 60 days from the date they write to you, so that your permission to stay in the UK will expire after the 60 days.
If you want to return to the UK after your holiday or OOP, you will get caught out by the Tier 2 cooling off period.
This means that if you leave the UK and your Tier 2 visa therefore expires, you cannot return to the UK on a new Tier 2 visa unless 12 months have passed since your old Tier 2 visa ended.
After 12 months have passed, you will have to find a new training job in the UK, get a certificate of sponsorship for that job from your new employer and then apply for a new Tier 2 visa.
If you go on unpaid leave for one month or more, your employer has to tell the Home Office this, and the Home Office is likely to curtail your visa, so you will lose the right to stay in the UK. However this does notapply if you are absent from work because of sick leave, maternity leave, paternity leave or adoption leave.
What can I do to protect myself?
Consider taking holiday once you start your training with your new employer. You could even ask for unpaid leave if your employer agrees, provided you don’t go on holiday for longer than a month.
Alternatively, you could consider taking up a locum post, if for example, you are filling the gap between core training and specialty training, provided the locum post is with the same employer, and then take holiday once on the locum post.
But if you are thinking of leaving the UK for more than a month for any reason, you should get advice as soon as possible.
BMA members can email our immigration advice service
What happens if I leave my job, or lose my job, or it finishes early?
Your Tier 2 visa, which is your permission to stay in the UK, is attached to your job. If you leave your job or lose it, you lose your permission to stay in the UK under your visa.
If you are in the UK and the Home Office curtails (shortens) your permission to be in the UK, they will write to you informing you of that decision.
They will normally curtail your immigration permission to 60 days from the date they write to you, so that you will have to leave the UK once the 60 days expires unless you have managed to find a new job.
You may be subject to the resident labour market test when you apply for another job, so there may be limits on which jobs you are allowed to apply for. If you do not find a new employer you must leave the UK once your visa has expired or you will be deemed to be in the UK illegally.
Although the visa in your passport may say it is valid for a number of years, it is only valid while you are employed with the company that is sponsoring you.
If your job ends early, you will lose the right to stay in the UK, even if your visa says it has longer to run. Your visa will end after any ‘wrap up’ period following the new date your job ends.
Read our examples
|Imagine your job was due to end at the end of April 2019, but that date has been brought forward by your employer, which means your job is now due to end at the end of February 2019.
|You will have 60 days from the date of your last day of employment or until your visa expires, whatever is sooner to either find another job or leave the UK. You cannot travel in and out of the UK during this 60-day period.
If you think you may lose your job or that it may end early, get advice as soon as possible - email us or call one of our advisers on 0300 123 1233.
European Economic Area passport holders
If you are from the EEA certain rules about English language testing in order to register with the GMC, may apply to you.
See more information on English language testing