The below is an excerpt from the latest government review of the Tier 2 visa found here.
Tier 2 of the Points Based System is the primary route for economic migration to the UK. Broadly, the route is for skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who have an offer of employment in the UK in an occupation classed as skilled to NQF6 or above and consists of four routes: Tier 2 (General), Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer), Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) and Tier 2 (Sportsperson). However we have not examined the smaller minister of religion and sportsperson routes in this report.
1.8 Tier 2 (General) applies to two categories of skilled workers: those coming to fill jobs that have been advertised under the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), and those coming to take up jobs on the Government’s Shortage Occupation List (SOL). Since April 2015, all Tier 2 (General) migrants must earn an annual salary of at least £20,800.There are also occupation-specific minimum thresholds and where these are greater than £20,800 they provide the minimum salary requirement for that occupation.
There is an annual limit of 20,700 on the number of CoS that can be issued to out-of-country main applicants under the Tier 2 (General) route. However, most in-country switchers into Tier 2 (General) are not covered by this limit and are therefore unrestricted.
1.9 The Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) route allows multinational companies to transfer key personnel from their overseas branches to the UK for temporary periods, rather than to fill permanent UK vacancies. There is no annual limit on the number of CoS that can be issued under the Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) route.
1.10 There are four categories of user of the intra-company transfer route:
- Long-term staff – These are transferring into the UK for up to five years into a role that cannot be filled by a UK worker.
- Short-term staff – These are transferring into the UK for up to and including 12 months into a role that cannot be filled by a UK worker.
- Graduate Trainee – These are transferring into graduate trainee programmes for specialist roles.
- Skills Transfer – These are transferring into the UK to gain skills and knowledge needed to perform their role overseas, or to pass on their skills to UK colleagues.
1.11 As with Tier 2 (General) there is an overall minimum threshold for each sub route (£41,500 for long-term staff and £24,800 for the short-term, graduate and skills transfer routes) alongside occupational specific minimum thresholds.
1.12 Tier 2 migrants are entitled to bring dependants (specifically children under the age of 18, spouses, civil partners, same sex partners, and unmarried partners) into the UK, providing the applicant can support them without claiming benefits. Dependants granted leave to enter or remain in the UK can generally take on any employment but are not entitled to access public funds.
1.13 The relative strength of both the UK economy and labour market underpins the current trend of increasing net migration. However, in recent years, the broad increases in skilled employment have been driven predominantly by those born in the EU and not those who would have been eligible for Tier 2. As a result, any changes to non-EU skilled work flows may be limited in their impact in the overall context of net migration.
1.14 In 2014, Tier 2 accounted for an inflow of 52,478 main applicants, representing just under half of all work visas issued that year. Of this, approximately one-third were granted the restricted Tier 2 (General) visas and two-thirds the unrestricted Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visas. Including inflows of their dependants and extensions of stay for existing main applicants and dependants, this figure rises to 151,659 over the same period.