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Tier 2 (General) Worker

The Tier 2 (General) visa route is for people seeking permanent employment in the UK. This advice guide is aimed at current students holding a Tier 4 visa, who are considering working in the UK after they complete their studies from the RCA.


To apply for a Tier 2 visa, you need to show you have  the following:

  • A Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from an employer who is a Tier 2 sponsor. 
  • Meet English Language Requirements 
  • Have £945 in savings for 90 consecutive days

Switching from a Tier 4 to Tier 2

You can switch from a Tier 4 to a Tier 2 from within the UK if :

  • You have a  valid Tier 4 visa and are applying from within the UK
  • Have a valid Tier 4 visa in the UK
  • Have been offered a graduate level job at ( RQF level 6 or above ) with Tier 2 sponsor and be paid the approriate salary for that job  ( check if online if the employer is on Tier 2 & 5 registered sponsor list)
  • Have completed your degree programme or be within 3 months of the official programme end date as stated on your CAS
  • You are a PhD student who has completed 12 months of your PhD
  • Have permission from your government sponsor or international sponsor to remain in the UK to work. ( a written letter must be provided)
  • Meet the maintenance requirements
You can also switch to a Tier 2 (General) visa if you’re:
  • a dependent partner of someone with a Tier 4 visa
  • a representative of an overseas business

Level of job and salary

  • If you apply in the UK and you still have leave remaining on your  Tier 4 visa:
  • The job must be at graduate level, or a job on the shortage occupational list. 
  • Your employer must pay you a minimum of £20,800 as a 'new entrant' ( maximum of three years) or £30,000 or above as an  'Experience Worker' (maximum of five years) 
  • Your employer must issue you a Certificate of Sponsorship ( CoS) 

Exemptions as a Tier 4 student

Your employer will be exempt from conducting a Resident Labour Market Test.

  • The Resident Labour Market Test is an obligation that the employer advertises the job in order to give workers who have settled status in the UK a chance to apply and appoints a settled worker who meets all of the selection criteria for the job role if such a candidate should apply (rather than someone who needs to a visa to work in the UK).

Your employer will be able to generate an unrestricted CoS for your Tier 2 application.

  • This means that as long as an employer has enough CoS in their annual allocation (and your job is at the appropriate level and salary), they can generate it for you and you can use it for your Tier 2 application. This is different to a restricted CoS, where the employer has to apply to UKVI for the CoS before they can issue it to you. There is a monthly limit on how many restricted CoS applications the UKVI will approve.

Your employer will be exempt from theIm migration Skills Charge.

  • For any Tier 2 (General) CoS assigned after 6 April 2017, an Immigration Skills Charge of £1000 per employee per year needs to be paid by the Tier 2 Sponsor at the time of assigning the CoS. This charge cannot be passed on from the Tier 2 Sponsor to the employee. A Tier 2 Sponsor issuing a CoS to someone switching from Tier 4 in the UK is exempt from this charge.

You will not need to provide an overseas criminal record certificate.

  • From April 2017, anyone applying for Tier 2 (General) from outside the UK in order to work in the education, health and social care sectors is required to provide a criminal record certificate as part of their visa application. Applying from within the UK exempts you from this requirement.

NB: Employers wishing to recruit someone who has to apply for Tier 2 from outside the UK are subject to undertaking all of the above. This makes recruiting you, an international graduate from a UK university, more attractive.

The shortage occupation list: Where these rules refer to jobs which appear on the Shortage Occupation List, this means only those specific jobs within each Standard Occupational Classification code where stated, where the further specified criteria are met.

Reading the employers guide for Recruiting International Graduates will be useful it’s aimed at employers, but it highlights some of the concessions made for new graduates switching into this category and looks at misconceptions employers have. Just search “Recruiting-International-Graduates-A-Guide-for-Employers” you will find this information on The Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) website.

How to apply

Before applying you should read the Tier 2 Policy Guidance carefully.

  • CoS from your employer
  • Bank statements in your name, showing the required maintenance for at least 90 consecutive days leading up to the date of your Tier 2 application
  • Original degree certificate from the RCA (If your degree certificate is unavailable, you will need to visit Registry to obtain an academic reference on headed paper from the RCA confirming one of the following:

  1.  the date that you completed your course, having sat all exams and presented all academic papers
  2. that you have studied more than 12 months of a PhD
  3. that you are within 3 months of your expected course end date + what that course end date is.

NB: if you obtain this letter in advance of your expected course end date and use it to support your Tier 2 visa application, do note that your work rights will only change once your Tier 2 visa has been granted.

  • Letter of consent to remain in the UK, if you were fully sponsored for your studies by an official financial sponsor
  • Completed online application form:
  • Current valid passport + current valid visa / Biometric Residence Permit

Decisions are usually made within eight weeks for the standard service. Priority services are also available for quicker processing times.

How long can I stay in the UK

The visa will be issued for up to five years depending upon the length of your employment. You can apply to extend for a further period of leave if you are still employed at the time of your visa expiring.


You can have your dependent(s) with you in the UK on Tier 2 (General) Worker visa.

Information on financial requirements and how to apply can be found on the Home Office website.


How much you pay for a Tier 2 (General) visa depends on the type of visa and where you are.

  • For up to three years:  £704 Standard Service in the UK
  • For more than three years: £1,408 Standard Service in the UK
  • For faster decision priority and super-priority service applies as below

Healthcare surcharge

You’ll also have to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your application. Check how much you’ll have to pay before you apply. 

Please note: the  Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) will increase from £400 to £624 a year starting October 2020 for Tier 2 General

If you’re applying to extend or switch in the UK

Once you have submitted your online application and you’ll need to use UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) for:

  • your biometric information (fingerprints and photo) You will need to 
  • supporting documents for your application

You’ll be told if you need to use UKVCAS when you apply.

You’ll need to pay £19.20 to have your biometric information (fingerprints and a photo) taken.

The processing time

Decisions are usually made:

  • within 8 weeks of your application date if you use the standard service
  • within 5 working days of your UKVCAS appointment if you use the priority service you can pay an extra £500 for the priority service to get a decision within 5 working days providing.
  • You can pay an extra £800 for the super priority service to get a decision by the end of the next working day of your UKVCAS appointment is on a weekday or 2 working days if your appointment is on the weekend.


  • For up to three years:  £704 (each person) Standard Service in the UK
  • For more than three years  A – £1,408 (each person) Standard Service in the UK
  • For faster decision priority and super priority service applies as above 

For further information please contact Student Support.


Group Sessions are available once a month. To book a session please contact the International Student Adviser. Information packs are also available on Moodle (Student Support) for our current student students.

Student Support Office
+44 (0)20 7590 4140
[email protected]



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