Leave to remain (visa) application process

PLEASE NOTE: Travel is not possible while an application is being processed
While applicants will retain their documents, or have them returned by the Home Office, a recent change in the Immigration Rules has clarified that travel outside the Common Travel Area (UK, Ireland, Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey) is not possible, as it would automatically result in the application being withdrawn.

The Staff Immigration Team email a Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to the applicant and Personnel contact. This email includes the Tier 2 leave to remain (visa) application guidance (in-country) (385kb)and a .pdf copy of the CoS details.

Upon receipt of the email the applicant must submit an application for leave to remain (visa) from within the UK. The application process, for themselves and each dependant (if applicable), is undertaken in three stages. Firstly an online application, secondly the submission of supporting documents, and finally the enrolment of biometric details.

Once the application is approved by the Home Office, the applicant and each dependant is issued with a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), which is a credit card sized plastic visa card.  Further information on the BRP can be found on the Home Office website.

Timing an application

An applicant must apply to the Home Office for leave to remain (visa):

  • Before their existing visa expires: By submitting a valid application before their visa expires, their current immigration status is extended until a decision is made on the application. If their visa expires whilst their application is pending, this prevents them from becoming an overstayer. AND
  • Within three months of the date that their Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is issued: After this period the CoS will automatically expire and can no longer be used to support a visa application.

Travel plans

Applicants must not travel outside of the UK until they have received a decision on their application.  If they travel outside of the ‘Common Travel Area’ (UK, Ireland, Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey) before a decision is made on the application, the application will be treated as withdrawn.

Applicants should therefore allow around 10 weeks from submitting the online application to receiving their new Biometric Residence Permit, during which time they must not travel outside of the UK.

Applicants who have urgent travel plans will need to consider the priority services available. For further details refer to the Priority Services section below.

Start date

A Tier 2 extension application can be processed up to a maximum of 3 months prior to the applicant’s current visa expiry date. The start date on the new CoS will align to their current visa expiry date.

Applicants applying for a ‘change of employment’ under the following circumstances are not permitted to start their new post with the University until their new BRP has been received and a right to work check has been undertaken:

  • those currently on a Tier 2 visa sponsored by another organisation
  • those currently on a Tier 2 visa sponsored by the Univeristy, but who will be changing jobs within the Univeristy to a different type of role (e.g. a Researcher taking up a new post as a Lecturer)

This rule does not apply to most Tier 4 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 Tier 4 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 Tier 2 visa has been granted.

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


Applicants and each of their dependents will incur a visa application fee, NHS surcharge, biometric enrolment fee and any additional fees for priority services.  A full table of costs can be found here on cost and payment of applications page.

See our guidance on the reimbursement of visa costs & visa loan scheme webpage.

Application process

Step 1: Online application

The applicant will need to complete the online leave to remain application for both themselves and any dependants.

For extension applications, guidance and a link to the online application can be found on the Home Office Tier 2 ‘Extend your visa’ page.

For switching applications (for example student (Tier 4) visa holder) guidance and online application can be found on the Home Office Tier 2 ‘Switch to this visa’ page.

The applicant, first provides an email address and password. A unique hyperlink is then emailed to the address provided. This hyperlink enables the applicant to draft the application and return to it later.

The system is intuitive and only asks for the required information applicable to the application being made. 

The Staff Immigration Team is happy to provide guidance on the completion of the application and encourages applicants to email a downloaded .pdf of the drafted application to be checked before submission. An application cannot be amended once the ‘declaration’ section has been completed so a draft .pdf should be downloaded once the applicant reaches the ‘document’ section. 

When the visa application fees, biometric enrolment and NHS surcharge have been paid, two .pdf documents are generated; a summary of the application and a supporting evidence checklist.

These two .pdf’s should be sent to the Staff Immigration Team for future reference, and to help the team provide assistance if any issue with the application arises after submission.

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.

Step 2: Supporting documents

The online application will direct applicants to upload scanned copies of the supporting evidence and to book an appointment to register their biometric details via the Home Office’s commercial partners (Sopra Steria) website.

The supporting evidence checklist provides the list of documents applicants will need to scan and upload. These documents can be uploaded under the ‘Document upload’ section prior to their biometric enrolment appointment.  Alternatively the original documents can be taken to the appointment to be uploaded and scanned. Those applying at a Core Centre as detailed at Step 3 will be charged additional costs for utilising the scanning service. 

If any applicant requires assistance with scanning and uploading documents ahead of their appointment or has any uncertainty around which documents need to be submitted, they should seek support from the Staff Immigration Team.

Step 3: Biometric enrolment

Applicants will need to book and attend an appointment with the Home Office’s commercial partner Sopra Steria to have their biometrics (fingerprints and photographs) taken before a decision is made on their application.

There are UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service (UKVCAS) Centres arount the UK:

  • 7 core services which offer free appointments (Belfast, Cardifff, Croydon, Glasgow, Liverpool, Sheffield and Solihull)
  • Approx. 50 enhanced service centres, which charge an additional £60 per applicant. This fee includes biometric enrolment and scanning of documents
  • 1 premium lounge (London)

Applicants and their dependants will all need to attend an appointment, and children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by the responsible adult named in the child's application.

Applicants will be told what they need to take to the appointment when making the booking, this will include:

  • Appointment confirmation
  • Passport or travel document
  • Supporting evidence (even if scanned and uploaded in advance, it is advisable to take these documents to the appointment in case they need to be reviewed or re-scanned)

Additional information can be found on the Sopra Steria UKVCAS Website

Step 4: Decision

The Home Office will issue a decision letter via Royal Mail, and the new Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) is delivered by courier within 10 working days after the decision.

Guidance in relation to BRPs for in-country applicants can be found on the Home Office website.

Priority services

Applicants can select the following priority services to accelerate the processing time of the application from the standard 8 weeks. When the application is submitted online, the cost is paid in addition to the visa application fee.

ServiceProcessing timeCost per applicant
Priority Service

5 working days

Following biometic appointment

Super Priority Service

1 working day

Following biometric appointment


The Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) will not be available immediately, this is couriered to the applicant within ten working days of the approval decision.

Dependants (Family Members)

If the main applicant has a spouse or children who are applying along with them, 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'.

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.

Applicants 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.