So You Want to Live and Work in the UK: Switching Sponsors on Tier 2 (General), Part 2

This blog is a continuation of the Part 1. Click here to read about the first part of my experience changing sponsors on a Tier 2 (General) visa.

  1. I attended an in-person expedited visa approval appointment with my application and documents

Because of my travel plans, I asked Deloitte for same-day service for my visa appointment. There are four options (speed-wise), but all four of them require you to submit your BRP card for a varying length of time. The Premium Service Centre option allows you to keep your passport, whereas you have to submit your passport for all other options. Technically, you’re not supposed to travel anywhere without your BRP, and while I’ve rarely been asked for my BRP at the border especially since I now use Registered Travellers e-gates, this was not a risk I wanted to take, so I did not travel whilst my new BRP was being processed. Below I’ve broken down the options:

Option Fees Location Estimated Processing Time

Super Premium Service

£10,500

+ fee of visa type (<3 yrs £677 / > 3 yrs £1,354)

+ immigration health surcharge (IHS)

Courier comes to you to collect Decision – Within 24 hours

BRP – not specified

Premium Service Centre £610 (inclusive of booking fee)

+ fee of visa type (<3 yrs £677 / > 3 yrs £1,354)

+ immigration health surcharge (IHS)

List of service centres Decision – 2 hours and 30 minutes

BRP – 7 to 10 working days

Tier 2 Priority Service £1,136 / £1,813

(<3 yrs / >3 yrs)

+ biometrics from Post Office fee

+ immigration health surcharge (IHS)

Via post Decision – 10 working days

BRP – 10 working days from decision date

Standard Mail £677 / £1,354

(<3 yrs / >3 yrs)

+ immigration health surcharge (IHS)

Via post

Decision + BRP – Up to 8 weeks

It is also much easier to book an appointment with the non-London service centres, so I was able to book an appointment slot 2-3 days from the day I booked online. I went out to the centre in Croydon and the entrance looks like this – don’t get confused by the staff entrance which does not look like this.

IMG_4754

  1. My visa was approved and I received my new BRP card

My appointment time was for 8am which is considered an “out of hours” appointment. (NB: You have to pay an extra £75 for “out of hours” appointments before 9am and after 4pm). I went in, queued for a counter that validated that I had all the documents I needed (my original passports, 2 x UK passport-sized photos, my BRP card, my application form, and my proof of IHS payment), and they gave me a number. I sat back down with my documents and waited to be called to a counter. Once I was called to a counter, they accepted and processed my documents and I was sent back to the waiting area to wait again.

Had it not been for a silly mistake that Deloitte had made on my application that required some time to clarify, I would have been approved within the hour. After approval, they called my number again and asked me to go into the Biometrics part of the office, and took my biometric details. Shortly after, I received a physical letter which confirmed the approval of my visa and stated that I should expect my new BRP to be mailed to me at the address I specified on my application form in 7 to 10 working days.

8 working days later, I received my new BRP in the mail to the address specified on my application form.

  1. I handed in notice to my old employer

When should I resign?

In the UK, at my level of seniority, the notice period was 3 months. This was something I was not used to as in North America, it was 2 weeks! This is an important, if not, critical point for timing between when your employer expects you to start, when you get your new visa, and when you resign.

Visa approval and processing takes up to 8 weeks, and you can apply for a visa up to 3 months before the day you’re due to start work in the UK. A sponsor of a Tier 2 worker has a duty to report to the Home Office within 10 days of a worker’s contract ending. From the date of your contract ending, you would have 60 days to obtain a new visa.

All of this is to say, on the assumption that there are no issues having your visa approved, you could time your resignation to coincide with your notice period / your negotiated notice period if you think you can bring it down or the max processing time estimated for the application type you’ve chosen, whichever is longer. However if your notice period is more than 3 months and is non-negotiable, then you have to resign before you are even able to apply for your visa.

What’s worthwhile noting is that if you resign before you apply for your visa, if there are any issues processing your visa, you have the remaining time left on your notice period in addition to the 60 days after your last day to sort your new visa out. Otherwise, if you are unable to sort out the new visa by the end of the 60 days after your last day at your old job, you’ll have to go back to your home country and abide by a 12-month cooling off period before you can be sponsored in the UK again. Therefore, there is a risk that you won’t be able to stay in the country if you resign before your new visa is sorted; however, in my anecdotal experience, my friends have not had any issues getting their visa approved.

  1. Finish your notice period and start your new job!

Premium Service Centre Processing Dates / Times:

  • Offer Letter from New Employer Received: 26/01/2018
  • Offer Letter from New Employer Signed: 28/01/2018
  • Contact Initiated with Deloitte: 29/01/2018
  • Documents Gathered, Form Compiled, Unrestricted CoS Issued: 02/02/2018
  • Application Submitted, In-Person Premium Appointment Booked: 07/02/2018
  • Resignation Submitted to Current Employer: 08/02/2018
  • In-Person Appointment Attended: 13/02/2018 (approximate approval time: 1 hour; total appointment duration: 2 hours)
  • New BRP Received: 23/02/2018
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So You Want to Live and Work in the UK: Switching Sponsors on Tier 2 (General), Part 1

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to provide immigration advice; I am merely sharing my personal anecdotal experience to shed light on what you might encounter in the process.

Before I begin, if you are on a Tier 2 ICT visa, this blog is not for you. As many of my friends who transferred to the UK with their employers on an ICT, you cannot switch from a Tier 2 ICT visa to a Tier 2 General visa without leaving the country for a 12-month cooling off period. There are few exceptions to this.

“Individuals who entered the UK under Tier 2 (ICT) on or after 6 April 2011, or those who entered before then but have since made an application for entry clearance from abroad, will have to leave the UK for the 12 month Tier 2 cooling off period before they can return under Tier 2 (General). The only exception to this rule is if the individual has been offered a new role and will be paid a salary at the ‘higher rate'(this is currently £152,100 but it will be increased to £153,500 on 6 April 2014).”

After consulting my friend who is an immigration barrister, it seems the only way around this might be if your spouse were a dependent on your visa, and he / she got sponsored on a Tier 2 General, and then you became their dependent. In any case, that would require that you were married, and I would advise you to speak with an immigration lawyer if this is something you wish to pursue.

Onto the main topic: switching employers on a Tier 2 (General) visa.

This blog has been split into two parts: The first part will cover the process of finding a sponsor / role as well as documents required for application, the second part will cover off the actual application process and timing considerations.

Employers Willing to Sponsor

I was fortunate enough to be in an industry and skill set where I did not find it too difficult to find another Tier 2 sponsor to hire me so that I could switch jobs. I took the approach of looking for my next job via regular recruiting means, making it clear that I required sponsorship, and generally receiving the feedback that this would not be a problem.

When people ask: “Is it easy to switch jobs on a Tier 2 (General) visa?”, my answer is (as usual), it depends. It depends on what industry you’re in (and the supply / demand in that industry), your skill set, your seniority / salary, and the size of company / type of role you’re targeting. Generally, the more niche / in-demand your skillset, the higher paid you are, and the larger the company, the chances are it is much easier to get continuation of sponsorship on Tier 2 (General). If you’re thinking about switching jobs on the Tier 2 (General) visa and want to get a better idea, the easiest thing to do is to speak to recruiters and actively start looking – you’ll get a sense from recruiters soon enough as to whether your requiring sponsorship is a barrier with employers. As always, do consult the Register of Sponsors for a list of companies who are already eligible to sponsor you, which simplifies the process.

Offer to Visa Paperwork – Process Overview

The employer who took on my sponsorship is a multi-national company, so they were very well versed in the regulation and what is required to sponsor me, and gave me a lot of support throughout. The process played out like this:

  1. The company outreached to me regarding an opportunity for which they conducted the required RLMT in the process

I turned on my “open to new opportunities” feature on LinkedIn as one of my avenues of looking for a new job which resulted in an outreach message from a recruiter at this company. The job posting was available on multiple websites, and at this point, I can only presume they were interviewing other qualified candidates and following the requirements of the RLMT. In my initial call with the recruiter, I made it clear to her that I required sponsorship, but she said it was not a problem.

  1. I interviewed with the prospective employer and received an offer

I had my first and second round interviews within a month and shortly after, received my offer of employment with them for their London office.

  1. I clarified the visa / sponsorship process with them (i.e. whether they had done it before, what the process was like, and likely timelines)

Within the contract, the terms of employment are obviously conditional on my receiving sponsorship / passing necessary checks. However, the recruiter verbally reassured me that were almost never problems with the process (they are such a big company, they probably have a direct line into the Home Office!), and that they would make sure they did everything that they could to work out any unlikely issues.

If you’re being sponsored by a smaller company, it would be particularly advisable to ask them about the sponsorship process, since it might take longer than you might anticipate (or shorter, if fewer approvals are required!). I’ve heard anecdotally that some big companies can take a while.

  1. I accepted their offer formally, signed documents, and negotiated a start date

The new employer was aware that my notice period was 3 months, so they asked if there was any chance that I could negotiate the notice period down with my current employer. When I told them that this was unlikely, we put in a tentative start date in the system taking into account my notice period and holiday. However, at this point, I had not resigned. See section in part 2 on “When Should I Resign?” for more information about timing to protect your status in the country.

  1. The company put me in touch with their internal immigration team and Deloitte, the firm who handled my application on my behalf

Big multinationals tend to outsource the visa application process to third party firms such as Deloitte; however, the application process is not too different from the initial Tier 2 application process which I worked with my current smaller employer to submit. Therefore, if your sponsor is a smaller firm where you’ll have to fill out the form yourself, don’t be alarmed.

  1. I provided supporting documents and verified the details of the application before Deloitte booked an in-person appointment on my behalf. At this stage, fees were paid (see part 2 for details on fees), and the new sponsoring company issued me a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).

Documents scanned and uploaded:

  1. Copy of my current passport, bio page and visa page
  2. Copy of my current BRP, back and front
  3. Copy of my previous passport (now expired), bio page and visa page
  4. Copy of my registered traveller’s card, back and front

Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS):

You will recall that when you applied for your first Tier 2 General Visa, you will have had a CoS issued to you. This CoS is known as a restricted CoS as it applies to Tier 2 (General) workers currently abroad who will be paid less than £155,300 a year. When you are already on a Tier 2 General Visa and move to a new company, a new CoS will need to be generated for you by your new company. However, this new CoS is a different type of CoS known as an unrestricted CoS which applies to individuals who are already in the UK on Tier 2 (General) but switching sponsors.

There are a limited number of restricted certificates available each month. Applications are considered on the first working day after the 10th day of the month. This is called the “allocation date”. If you apply after 5th day of the month then your application will be held until the next month’s allocation dated. All CoS, restricted or unrestricted must be assigned within six months of the date the vacancy was first advertised.

However, there is no limit on how many unrestricted CoS-es a company can get, though they have to provide evidence annually that the quota they request is justified.

It is reasonable to assume that if you’re working for a large company and they are accurate in their unrestricted CoS estimations, they will be able to easily issue you an unrestricted CoS as soon as you need it for your visa application, which was the case for me.

Click here for Part 2 which details the appointment process and overall timing