UK Visas & Immigration overview

In 2019 we can be certain that our immigration system, along with much else about UK politics, is about to have a shake up.  Theresa May’s ‘Hostile Environment’ policy ends with her premiership, and, if EU27 citizens are going to be treated the same way as those from Australia, NZ, the USA & India, we can be pretty certain that ever-tighter regulations of recent years will begin to be relaxed.  Some innovative policies have already been floated, but, for the moment, we are still living with the ‘Old’ system. Here is a quick summary

Tier 2 (General)

This is the main ‘UK Work permit’ visa & the dominant UK visa route for skilled workers coming to the UK to take up employment.

So that expats are not used as cheap labour, there are minimum salary requirements that are set by role.  There is also an absolute floor on Tier 2 expat pay: generally £30,000pa, though “new entrants” under the age of 26 may be hired on as little as £20,800 per annum.

Employers are not allowed to sponsor close relatives (Parents, children, aunts, uncles, etc)

Tier 2 General staff are not allowed to have more than a single-figure shareholding in the UK business that sponsors them (this rule, as are many others, is waived for ‘High Earners’: those being paid a guaranteed £159,600+ per annum).

For an individual,  to apply for this visa, you must:

  • Have a job offer and a certificate of sponsorship from a UK employer with a valid Tier 2 sponsor licence.
  • Meet the ‘English Language requirements’. By coming from an English-speaking country, or having a UK degree, or having an overseas degree taught in english AND a NARIC letter certifying acceptability, or having a suitable English language qualification
  • Have suitable ‘maintenance funds’ (£945 if you are a single person, more if you have dependent family members) to tide you through till your first payday. OR have an employer that ‘certifies maintenance’ for you  

Tier 2 visas are employer-specific.  To change employers it is necessary to apply for a new Tier 2 visa.  This need not be a long or complex process if you are already in the UK, and the new employer already has a sponsor licence.

Initial Tier 2 General visa status can be conferred for up to 5 years and 14 days.  With extensions, an individual may remain in the UK on a Tier 2(general) visa for a maximum of 6 years.  Thereafter, if you want to stay, you need a different visa type, or to leave the UK and wait 12 months before returning.  However, it is not as bad as it seems as, most individuals are eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain after 59 months and 2 days (ie twenty-eight days before they have been here for five years).  But, to be eligible, you must have a minimum salary of £35,800pa (this minimum rises to £36,200 for those applying on or after 6 April 2020, and further rises each year should be expected)

Commonwealth Contractors has four main resources for Expat professionals needing UK Tier 2 General visa sponsorship:


Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)

A Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)  visa holder, can work as an employee or as the director/proprietor of a UK business, or can be self employed:


Entrepreneur visa (Start Up)

If you are an Entrepreneur with an idea for an innovative new business, the new (March 2019) ‘Start Up’ visa may be for you:


Entrepreneur visa (Innovator)

If you are an established professional or Entrepreneur, and want to start or join a business in the UK, the new (March 2019) ‘Innovator’ visa may be for you:


Visa for Sole Representative an overseas company

If you are a company wanting to send a Representative to the UK, or are an individual looking to enter the UK here is everything that you need to know: