The UK Border Agency made some significant changes in 2012 to the sponsorship requirements for migrants sponsored by UK entities under their sponsor licence.

These changes include:

  • Cooling off periods –now apply to Tier 2 General as well as Tier 2 ICT
  • Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes – roles now minimum NQF6 level (graduate level roles)
  • Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) relaxed for £70k+ and PhD roles
  • No RLMT for migrants in the UK on Tier 4 (Student) visas where student has completed UK degree or 12 months of PhD programme
  • No RLMT for migrants in UK on Tier 1 (Post Study Work)
  • Settlement tightened – new minimum salary of £35,000 from 2016
  • From 6 April 2011 Tier 2 General migrant can only stay in the UK for 6 years if they do not qualify for settlement
  • Maintenance levels increased to £900 for main applicant and £600 for each dependent. Employee either has to show these funds held for 90 days or sponsor certifies maintenance.

The two changes that may pose problems for sponsors are the cooling off periods and the increase in the skill level of roles that qualify for sponsorship.

The cooling off periods mean migrants cannot apply for a Tier 2 visa until 12 months have elapsed from the date their previous Tier 2 visa expired. Only exceptions to cooling off period are:

  • if migrant is in UK on Tier 2 and extending their stay
  • if migrant was previously on Tier 2 ICT short term, skills transfer or graduate trainee then can apply for Tier 2 ICT Long Term


  • Migrant granted leave to enter the UK as a Tier 2 ICT – Long Term Staff valid from 1 December 2011 to 30 November 2013
  • Migrant’s assignment ends early and leaves the UK on 1 December 2012
  • Earliest migrant can return to the UK under any Tier 2 category is 30 November 2014

The key tip is to always check if the migrant has held any Tier 2 visas or residence permits for the UK previously and when they expired.

From 14 June 2012 roles must be NQF6 level. Transitional arrangements are in place for migrants sponsored prior to 14 June. Roles below NQF6 removed from sponsorship in June 2012 include:

  • 1142 Customer care managers
  • 1152 Office managers
  • 1222 Conference and exhibition managers
  • 3131 IT operations technicians
  • 3539 Business and related associate professionals
  • 3543 Marketing associate professionals

The impact of this change will mean that unless the role is highly skilled it will not be possible to sponsor migrants in the UK or transfer staff from overseas offices to the UK. A full list of the SOC codes that qualify for sponsorship can be found at: