The Tier 2 (General) subcategory enables UK-based employers to sponsor people from outside the EEA to come and work in the UK.
Applicants for entry clearance are subject to an annual limit; the Home Office restricts the number of Certificates of Sponsorship (COSs) which sponsors can issue in any one month.
Employers wishing to sponsor Tier 2 (General) applicants therefore have to apply to the Home Office for a proportion of the monthly allocation. A further points-scoring system has been established to determine which employers will succeed in obtaining Certificates of Sponsorship at each monthly allocation.
Applications for leave to remain in the UK are not subject to any limit. Neither are applications for entry clearance if the applicant is to earn £150,000 or more annually.
To succeed in their applications all applicants must be sponsored to do work for which they will be paid a minimum salary of £20,000. Moreover, the level of salaries must be consistent with the Home Office's published codes of practice relevant to defined areas of work.
The Home Office also publishes a list of "shortage occupations". People who intend to work in these areas do not need to satisfy a "resident labour market test".
Certificates of Sponsorship issued to applicants seeking to work in the UK in areas outside the shortage occupations must indicate that a resident labour market test has been carried out to demonstrate that there is no domestic labour available to fill the proposed employment. The Home Office's published codes of practice determine the salary level at which any job must be advertised in order to comply with the necessary resident labour market test.
The codes of practice also stipulate the organs of the trade press in which a particular job must be advertised.
Similarly, Tier 2 (General) migrants seeking to extend their leave to remain and who are continuing to work for the same employer do not have to satisfy a resident labour market test.
All applicants must also satisfy an English language requirement, demonstrating that they have a command of English at an "intermediate" level. The level is B1 of the Council of Europe's Common European Framework for Language Learning:
"Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans."
Applicants for leave to remain who were granted entry clearance under the pre-April 2011 Rules are exempt from the requirement to satisfy level B1 of the Council of Europe's Common European Framework for Language Learning.
Details of how applicants must meet this language requirement, as well as which applicants are exempt from it (due either to their coming from English-speaking countries or to their having obtained certain qualifications), are set out in Appendix B of the Immigration Rules.
All applicants must satisfy a maintenance requirement. Applicants for entry clearance must show that they have funds of £900 or more at the time of their applications. Applicants whose Tier 2 sponsors certify in the Certificate of Sponsorship that they will maintain and accommodate the applicant for the first month of the applicant's employment if necessary are exempt from this requirement, as are applicants seeking to extend their existing leave to remain under Tier 2.
There are detailed transitional arrangements whereby Tier 2 (General) migrants, and those in the immigration categories which preceded Tier 2 (such as work permit holders) who are already in the UK under the Immigration Rules in place before 6 April 2011, are able to apply to extend their stay without being subject to the annual limit, the new graduate-level job requirement, the new salary threshold or the new English language level. This applies whether they are extending with the same employer or changing employers.
Successful applicants for entry clearance will be given leave to enter the UK for the duration of their employment plus 1 month, up to a maximum of 3 years plus 1 month.
The amount of leave to remain given to successful applicants for further leave to remain varies according to the nature of the applicant's previous leave to remain. Applicants who previously had leave to remain under the immigration categories which preceded Tier 2 will generally be given sufficient leave to remain to take their aggregated leave to remain to a total of 5 years. Where the applicant is a Tier 2 migrant and is working for the same employer and doing the same job as he or she was doing when previously granted leave, the amount of leave to remain will be for the period of employment plus 14 days up to a maximum of 2 years. Everyone else will get leave for the period of their employment plus 14 days, up to a maximum of 3 years.
Applicants granted leave to enter or remain must not have recourse to public funds and must not work for any employer other than their Tier 2 sponsor.
Statement of Changes HC 1888 has also implemented stringent new provisions in the Immigration Rules whereby the leave to enter or remain granted to any Tier 2 (General) migrant who does not turn up for the work for which he or she is sponsored must be curtailed.