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An employer’s sponsorship licence guide: Tier 2 and Tier 5

Employers that wish to employ persons from outside the European economic area will need a sponsorship licence. 

Tier 2 and Tier 5 visas

There are two types of licence that an employer can apply for, depending on which type of worker they intend to employ. The Tier 2 licence allows an employer to employ long-term permanent staff whilst the Tier 5 licence allows an employer to take on temporary staff on a short-term basis.

What are the subdivisions within the visa?

The licences split up into further subcategories. Under the Tier 2 subcategories, there is ‘General’, which is the most common category under Tier 2 and is where a person’s role fits into the standardised job roles listed on the Home Office website at Appendix J and Appendix K of the Immigration Rules. ‘Intra-company’ transfer, is for multinational companies who need to transfer employees from overseas offices into the UK. ‘Minister of religion’, allows people to come to the UK to work in a religious organisation for up to 3 years. Finally, the ‘Sportsperson’ category, which allows for sportspeople and coaches to come to the UK if this is where they are to be based.

Tier 5 is for temporary skilled workers. The categories for Tier 5 are firstly ‘Creative and Sporting’ which allows the sportsperson to come to the UK for up to one year or an entertainer or artist to come to the UK for up to two years. Charity workers can also come to the UK under the Charity worker category, under this category, work must be unpaid, and leave is granted for a maximum of one year. The Religious worker category is for those doing preaching, pastoral or non-pastoral work and allows for leave to enter or remain of up to two years. The Government Authorised Exchange category allows for people in certain professions to come to the UK for research projects or training. These visas are granted for a maximum of two years. There is also a category called ‘International Agreement’ where workers are coming to the UK to do a job which is covered by international law, for example, employees of an overseas government.

What must employers do?

It’s very important that an employer ensures that the correct licences are obtained and that applications are made in the correct subcategories.

The Tier 2 general applicant, for example, will usually be granted three years or five years initially with the ability to either extend their leave, if they’re granted in the three-year route or obtain indefinite leave to remain. Both the three years and the five-year visa allow for indefinite leave to remain after residence in the UK of five years. The Tier 2 Intra-company transfer employee will not have the same rights. The Intra-company transfer employee coming to the UK will be employed in one of the subcategories of ‘long-term staff’ or ‘graduate trainee’.

Long term staff on £120,000 per year and over can stay for a maximum of nine years. Long-term staff on less than £120,000 a year and stay up to a maximum of five years and one month. Crucially, no role in the Intra-company transfer category leads to settlement.

Compare this to the Tier 2 General and indefinite leave to remain can be obtained after five years. Since it is not possible for the tier 2 Intra-company transfer worker to move over to Tier 2 general, it is important that you take into account the applicant’s expectations at the outset, so they are aware that if they are on the intracompany transfer route will be unable to change.

Contact our expert business immigration legal team

Westkin can give you an assessment of your needs for no charge to establish the correct licence to apply for.  

Get your free assessment by calling 020 7118 4546 or email 

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