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Work Permit Extensions

The work permit arrangements were replaced on 27th November 2008 by Tier 2 of the Points Based System.

In order for an employer to extend the stay of a work permit holder, the matter will need to be dealt with through Tier 2 of the Points Based System. This means that the employer will need to hold a Sponsor’s Licence, and will then need to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship to the individual (this also applies where the employer wishes to make any significant changes to the role of a work permit holder). Once the Certificate of Sponsorship has been issued, the individual will need to make an application for Further Leave to Remain under the Tier 2 category. It is essential of course that the application for Further Leave to Remain is made before the individual’s current visa expires.

If the employer does not hold a Sponsor’s Licence, then they will need to obtain a licence, and issue the Certificate of Sponsorship, before the individual can apply to extend their stay. Employers should normally allow around 3 months to obtain a licence, including preparation before the application, and the processing of the application by the UK Border Agency. If a work permit extension is required, we would invite the employer to contact us regarding Sponsor Licensing, or complete our online assessment form.

If the employer already holds a Sponsor’s Licence, then the first step to extend the stay of a work permit holder will be for them, or their representatives, to issue the Certificate of Sponsorship, before the individual then goes on to apply for their visa.

On 6th April, new rules were introduced for the Tier 2 category. These changes introduced the concepts of Restricted and Unrestricted Certificates of Sponsorship.

  • In order to obtain a Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), Sponsors need apply to the UK Border Agency. There is an annual limit of 20,700 CoS available to Tier 2 sponsors. The UK Border Agency will award CoS to those applications that score the highest number of points in a specific published points test.
  • In order to obtain an Unrestricted Certificates of Sponsorship, the process is more straightforward and there is no annual limit on the number of CoS available. Employers need to make a one off request for an annual quota of CoS. The Sponsor can issue Unrestricted CoS to migrant workers in certain situations.
  • Where Work Permit holders with valid leave need to extend their stay or change employer, the Sponsor will not need to apply for a Restricted CoS that is subject to the annual limit. The Sponsor should issue an Unrestricted CoS for the applicant.

From 6th April, Tier 2 was restricted to ‘Graduate Level’ jobs or, more specifically, in order to qualify for a Certificate of Sponsorship, the role must be deemed to be at or above NVQ level 4. Please note, however, that this rule is not relevant for Work Permit holders extending their stay or changing employer. A job at NVQ level 3 is adequate in this situation.

As is always the case, the employer will need to ensure, when issuing the CoS, that the correct procedure has been followed in each situation. This, combined with the other “self-policing” requirements of holding a Sponsor’s Licence, may mean that it makes sense for employers to consider outsourcing the management of their affairs under the Tier 2 of the Points Based System.

If a person has spent at least 5 year in the UK as a work permit holder and / or a Highly Skilled Migrant (under the HSMP or Tier 1 (General)), then they may qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain, as a possible alternative to an application under Tier 2. This may depend however on continuity of employment, and the number and length of absences from the UK.

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