Leave to remain (visa) application process

Once a Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship is issued to a migrant, they must apply for leave to remain (visa) within three months of the date that their Certificate of Sponsorship is issued, or before their existing visa expires, whichever is sooner. This applies to all in-country 'initial' and 'extension' Tier 2 applicants. After three months the certificate will lapse and can no longer be used to support a visa application.

With effect from 6 April 2015 those applying for a Tier 2 visa from within the UK, and their dependants, will have to pay the NHS Surcharge in addition to the relevant visa application fees when submitting their visa applications. The NHS Surcharge is based on the duration of the visa applied for and is charged as a separate payment when submitting a visa application. If the NHS Surcharge is not paid the visa application will be refused. More information in relation to the NHS Surcharge can be found in the Cost and payment of applications page and in the Home Office Immigration Health Surcharge Factsheet (83kb) and Immigration Health Surcharge Q&A (162kb).

Please note that those applying under this category will be subject to a "genuineness test".

Those applying from within the UK are issued their visa in the form of a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) (a credit card sized plastic visa card). Guidance in relation to BRPs for in-country applicants can be found on the Home Office website.

Leave to remain (visa) application process

PLEASE NOTE with effect from 6 April 2015 paper Tier 2 visa application forms will no longer be available and online visa applications must be made instead.

Tier 2 online visa application process

It is the responsibility of the migrant to complete the online leave to remain application form, although the Staff Immigration Team can offer guidance on this. The online application system is intuitive and only asks for the required information applicable to the application being made.

Please note the relevant NHS Surcharges for the main applicant and their dependants must be paid before they draft their online visa application(s) as the NHS Surcharge payment reference is required at the start of the online application process.

When making an application the applicant is first asked to provide an email address and password. A unique hyperlink is then emailed to the address provided on exiting the application. This hyperlink enables the applicant to draft the application and return to it later. A .pdf can be created of a partially completed application at any point in the application process.

The Staff Immigration Team will, where possible, check .pdf summaries of draft Tier 2 leave to remain visa applications from in-country applicants (and from their dependants, where applicable) before the visa fees are paid and the application(s) submitted. An application cannot be amended after the visa fees have been paid and the application submitted.

Please note that NHS Surcharges must be paid in addition to the relevant visa fees when submitting a visa application as otherwise the application will be refused.

When the visa fees and NHS Surcharges have been paid and the online application submitted a .pdf summary of the application is generated. A list of original supporting documents, which must be submitted to the Home Office by post to complete the visa application, is also generated. Advice should be sought from the Staff Immigration Team if there is any uncertainty around which documents need to be submitted. A copy of the .pdf visa application summary and list of supporting documents should be sent to the Staff Immigration Team in order that it they be held for future reference, and if assistance is required in the event that any issues with the application arise after submission. Guidance and the link to the online application can be found in Home Office Tier 2 guidance.

Please note that the Staff Immigration Team cannot guarantee the successful outcome of any leave to remain application since this decision is made by the Home Office and not by the University.

Where possible, the .pdf of the draft online leave to remain visa application should be submitted to the Staff Immigration Team for checking no later than 8 weeks before the migrant's visa is due to expire (for 'extension' applicants), or no later than 8 weeks before they are due to commence their new post (for 'initial' applicants), to allow sufficient time for the draft application to be checked, issues resolved, and for the applicant to then submit the application and original supporting documents to the Home Office.

The Staff Immigration Team cannot guarantee to be able to check any .pdf draft leave to remain applications received later than three working days before the migrant's visa is due to expire. In such circumstances, the Staff Immigration Team will, where possible, work with the applicant to ensure all is in order with the application and supporting documents before they are submitted to the Home Office.

Departments and colleges should note that migrants applying from within the UK under the following circumstances are not permitted to start their new post with the University until their leave to remain (visa) has been granted for the new post:

  • currently on a Tier 2 or old-style work visa sponsored by another organisation
  • currently on a Tier 2 or old-style work visa sponsored by the University, but who will be changing jobs within the University to a different type of role (e.g. a researcher taking up a new post as a University Lecturer)

Note, however, that this rule does not apply to most student visa holders, who can be employed full-time for up to four months after completion of their studies, pending course results (providing their student visa is still valid). If a student submits a Tier 2 leave to remain application within this four month period, they may continue to work until a decision is reached on their work visa application.

A Tier 4 student visa holder awaiting the outcome of an application to switch into Tier 2 (General) which was submitted before their Tier 4 visa expired can fill a full-time permanent vacancy as long as they have successfully completed a course at degree level or above and they are employed in the role for which they are applying under Tier 2, otherwise a temporary contract of employment should be issued to the student worker until their work visa has been granted.

Please refer to the Switching from a Tier 4 vsia into Tier 2 General webpage for further information.

Migrants are strongly advised not to make any travel plans until they have received their passport and visa back from the Home Office. Once an application is made, the Staff Immigration Team cannot request a progress update from the Home Office unless the application has been outstanding for more than six months (although applications rarely take longer than 8 weeks).

On average, we find that postal applications take 6-8 weeks to be processed by the Home Office, but the date of return of a migrant's documents cannot be guaranteed.

If the migrant has a spouse or children who are applying along with the main applicant, their details can be included in the online application to form a family group application which will mean that separate applications for each dependant will not need to be submitted. The online application will ask whether any dependants are applying and the details are added by specifying whether they are a 'dependant partner or spouse' or a 'dependant child'. Please note that when applying as a family group the combined visa fees for all those applying must be paid as one amount, as do the combined NHS Surcharges.

Where dependants are applying from within the UK separately from the main applicant each dependant will need to submit their own separate online 'dependant partner' or 'dependant child' application as appropriate. Guidance and the links to separate online dependant applications can be found in Home Office Tier 2 guidance for Family members.

Migrants will be required to show that they have extra maintenance funds available for each dependant, unless evidence has already been submitted in a previous Tier 2 application.

Please see the Tier 2 leave to remain (visa) application guidance (in-country) (324kb) for details of the supporting documents that will be needed for Tier 2 leave to remain (visa) applications for both 'initial' applicants and 'extension' applicants applying from within the UK. The relevant guidance document will be sent to the migrant by the Staff Immigration Team by email together with their Certificate of Sponsorship number.

5 year Tier 2 leave to remain (visa) - a Tier 2 leave to remain (visa) can be granted for a duration of up to 5 years instead of the standard 3 year maximum. A higher fee is payable for a Tier 2 visa application for over 3 (up to 5) years. Please note that for those initially granted a Tier 2 visa since April 2011 the maximum duration for which they can hold a Tier 2 visa is 6 years. While the normal Tier 2 requirements apply where an application is being made for longer than 3 years the applicant is considered to be an 'Experienced Worker' and the higher salary threshold applies, regardless of whether they would otherwise meet the criteria to be considered as a 'New Entrant'.

Priority Postal Service applications

The Home Office's Priority Postal Service considers in-country Tier 2 applications in a much shorter timeframe than the standard postal route. This service aims to provide a decision within ten working days of their receipt of an application although applying using this service does cost more.

The fee for an application made using the Priority Postal Service is the relevant standard fee plus £300 per person.

Only a limited number of Tier 2 Priority Postal applications (currently 30) are accepted by the Home Office each day (excluding weekends & bank holidays) and a request for an application slot must be made through the Staff Immigration Team and approved by the Home Office before a priority application can be made.

In order to use this service migrants must:

  • make a request to the Home Office through the Staff Immigration Team for an application slot by completing and emailing a Tier 2 Priority Postal Service Request for inclusion form to the Staff Immigration Team;
  • submit a Tier 2 Priority application online and send supporting documents to the Home Office by post using Royal Mail Special or Recorded Delivery within 24 hours of confirmation of an application slot from the Staff Immigration Team which will provide a reference number issued by the Home Office which must be used when applying;
  • submit their Biometric information through the Post Office within 2 days of receiving their letter from the Home Office inviting them to enrol their biometric information.

Please consult the Home Office's Tier 2 Priority Service webpage where the Tier 2 Priority application guidance (for main applicants and dependants) can be found.

More information in relation to the Biometric enrolment process can be found below, however, please note that for a priority application Biometric information must be submitted within 2 days of receiving the invite letter rather than the usual 15 days.

Please note that due to the 24 hour deadline within which Tier 2 Priority Postal applications must be submitted migrants apply at their own risk as the Staff Immigration Team is not able to check or submit these applications on their behalf.

Applying in person

Migrants may submit the supporting documents for their Tier 2 Leave to Remain visa application in person at one of the Home Office's Visa Premium Service Centres although this does cost considerably more. The advantage of applying in person is that the applicant retains their original documents and should receive a decision on their application the same day.

When applying in person the appointment booking reference number is required in order to complete the online Tier 2 visa application as this must be listed by the applicant along with the Premium Service Centre they will attend. The applicant must take a printed copy of their application summary to their appointment and ensure they have copies of confirmation of their visa fee, NHS Surcharge payments, and booking reference numbers.

The fee for an application made in person is the relevant standard fee plus £400 per person (this includes a £100 appointment fee paid at the time of booking which may be retained if the applicant fails to attend their appointment without good reason, the appointment is cancelled without good reason and not rebooked, or the application is withdrawn before the appointment).

Please note that from 15 November 2013 where the migrant has booked the appointment themselves the £400 'in-person' fee in respect of each application to be submitted on the day must be paid in full online when the appointment is booked, however, this does not apply if the Staff Immigration Team have secured the appointment as in this case these fees can be paid in full on the day.

Where a migrant is paying the 'in-person' fee(s) on the day of the appointment payment can only be made via Credit or Debit card. If payment is being made on the day using a credit or debit card that is not in the migrant's own name the person named on the card must be present to authorise the transaction, and the card must be 'chip and pin' enabled. We would recommend that migrants contact their bank before attending the appointment in person to make them aware that a large payment will be taken in order to avoid the payment being queried or refused.

The nearest Premium Service Centres to Oxford are in Croydon and Solihull, Birmingham.

Information on how to book an appointment at these centres online can be found on the Home Office website.

When applying in person, the applicant should receive a decision on their application the same day. However, their Biometric Residence Permit (equivalent to a visa) will not be available immediately, and will be sent to the applicant within ten working days of the date of their appointment.

Biometric enrolment process

Migrant workers (and their dependants) applying for Tier 2 leave to remain (visa) from within the UK will need to have their biometrics (fingerprints and photographs) taken before a decision is made on their application. Migrants will be issued with a Biometric Residence Permit, rather than a work visa or vignette in their passport.

Once the Home Office receives a Tier 2 leave to remain application, the migrant (and any accompanying dependants) will be identified as needing to provide their biometric details, and will be sent a letter inviting them to do so within 15 working days of receiving the letter. Migrants can find more information about enrolling their biometric information on the Home Office's website.

Migrants who have submitted their visa application by post or online may enrol their biometric information at one of the Post Office branches offering this service across the UK, information about this process can be found in the Home Office's Biometric Residence Permits guidance. Please note that the Post Office charges a fee for each person enrolling their biometric information. There is no need to book an appointment at the Post Office as it is a walk-in service but you can only use the service after you have received a letter inviting you to do so. The Post Office is open from 09:00 - 17:30 Monday to Saturday.

Migrants who have made an appointment to submit their application in person will enrol their biometric information at the time of their appointment.

When enrolling their Biometric information migrants must ensure that they take the following information with them:

  • the complete original letter from the Home Office inviting the migrant to submit their biometric information (including the back page which contains a barcode and the applicant's case reference number, full name and date of birth) , the Post Office will not be able to proceed with their enrolment if the complete letter is not presented;
  • sufficient payment for the service (when enrolling your biometric information through the Post Office fees can be paid by cash or debit card only).

Any applicant under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a responsible adult. If the responsible adult is the parent, they must take either the letter they received from the Home Office inviting them to use the biometric enrolment service, or photo identification such as a UK photocard driving licence, passport or national identity card. If the responsible adult is the child's legal guardian or someone else who is not a parent, they must take one of the forms of photo identification listed above, as well as a letter confirming that they are a responsible adult who has a close connection to the child and who has been authorised to accompany him or her to the biometric enrolment centre.