Tier 2 ICT and Tier 2 General: extension, switching and settlement

Based on the recent enquires, we understand that there is some confusion as to whether it is possible to extend a Tier 2 ICT (Long-Term Staff) visa (“Tier 2 ICT”), switch to Tier 2 General visa category or/and subsequently obtain settlement in the UK.

We hope that this article would be helpful to understand the difference between Tier 2 ICT and Tier 2 General visa categories and what you can or cannot do.

In brief, Tier 2 General visa category caters to migrants who have a position on offer from a UK-based employer that cannot be filled by a settled worker. Tier 2 ICT visa category, however, is for existing employees of multinational organisations, who are required to be transferred by an overseas organisation to a UK entity, which is linked to that overseas organisation by common ownership or control.

Very often, multinational organisations obtain the UK Sponsorship License in both Tier 2 General and Tier 2 ICT categories and choose to bring employees over to the UK under the Tier 2 ICT rather than under the Tier 2 General route. There is no difference in the UKVI fees between these two visa categories; however, the immigration requirements for Tier 2 ICT migrants are slightly easier. The crucial difference between these two visa categories is ability to settle in the UK.

According to current UK Immigration Rules, only those migrants, who were granted Tier 2 ICT visa under the Rules in place before 6 April 2010, can switch to Tier 2 General visa category and/or settle in the UK.

Those migrants, who come to the UK under the Tier 2 ICT/Established Staff sub-category after 6 April 2010 and before 6 April 2011, are able to switch to Tier 2 General visa category but not settle in the UK.

Having applied under Tier 2 ICT visa category on or after 6 April 2011, it is not possible to switch to Tier 2 General visa category or settle in the UK.

Moreover, from 6 April 2011 Tier 2 ICT Long-Term Staff workers are limited to a maximum of 5 years visa with an extension permitted after this date only if a level of gross-annual package in the UK is £120,000 or higher. In which case, the maximum time an intra-company staff migrant under the long-term sub-category can remain in the UK is 9 years. There is no limit on a maximum time a Tier 2 ICT migrant can stay in the UK having entered the country under this route before 6 April 2011.

The immigration requirements are more straightforward for Tier 2 General applicants; whereby they are able to settle in the UK having spent 5 continuous years in the UK under this visa category. Having said that, that the maximum period a Tier 2 General migrant can remain in the UK is 6 years.

The good news is that it is still possible to apply for indefinite leave to remain under the long residence (10 years route) combining different visa categories including Tier 2 General and most importantly Tier 2 ICT.

So, what happens to Tier 2 ICT migrants who wish to remain in the UK after 5 years and whose gross annual salary isn’t £120,000? Here is where the frustration comes. Very often Tier 2 ICT migrants are not properly advised before entering the UK under the long-term sub-category of Tier 2 ICT route; hence, they would not be aware that after 5 years of continuous residence in the UK they would be required to go back to their country of permanent residence. Especially, it might affect children of Tier 2 ICT workers who might have been engaged in studies in the UK.

Here is some clarification. If a migrant has been sponsored under Tier 2 route and their leave has expired, they must leave the UK and wait 12 months (the “cooling-off period”) before applying again under any Tier 2 visa category. There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, the cooling-off period would not apply to someone, whose prospective gross annual package would be £159,600 or above under Tier 2 General category or £120,000 or higher under the Tier 2 ICT visa category.

As an alternative, Tier 2 migrants might consider switching to or applying from outside of the UK under any other visa categories.

Should you require any further clarification or an immigration advice on your particular case scenario, please do not hesitate to contact our immigration team.

Please note that the information on this page is for general purposes only and is not intended to replace legal advice.