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Intra Company Transfer (ICT) visa guide

A Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer Visa enables an employee to transfer to the UK from an overseas branch of a multi-national company to work in a sponsored role or to join a graduate training programme. It is a visa category that not all UK employers are fully aware of, but it can be very useful. Here, we explain what the Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer Visa is all about and answer your questions on how to apply for an ICT Visa.

What is an intra company transfer?

The Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa category allows existing overseas non-EEA employees of multinational employers to be transferred to the UK company branch to fill a vacancy or to participate in training.

After the end of free movement and the introduction of the new UK points based immigration system, EU citizens working for multinational companies will also need to apply for a Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer Visa (ICT Visa) if they are subject to immigration controls and need to transfer to the UK branch of a multinational employer company for work or training purposes.

The point to emphasis about the ICT Visa is that it is available for existing employees of multinational companies. The overseas company employing the ICT Visa applicant must be linked by common ownership or control to the UK branch of the company.  

Although the ICT Visa is about transfer of existing overseas employees to the UK branch of a company for work or training purposes you, as the employer company, will still need to have a Home Office issued sponsor licence and will need to sponsor the Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer Visa applicant. For more information on Home Office sponsor licences read our guide to sponsor licences.

How does the intra company transfer visa process work?

There are two types of ICT Visa:

  1. Long-term staff 
  2. Graduate trainee

For each type of ICT Visa your employee has to meet the ICT Visa requirements, namely:

  • The relevant salary threshold.
  • Have a Certificate of Sponsorship from your UK company branch.
  • Have a minimum level of personal savings to evidence that they can support themselves in the UK.
  • Able to show their travel history over the last five years.
  • Prove that they have worked for your overseas company for a minimum period. The length of the minimum period depends on the employee’s salary, whether they are long term staff, and/or whether they are a graduate trainee.
  • Have tuberculosis test results if the employee is from a listed country where a tuberculosis test is required. The listed countries can be found here.

The emphasis on the Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer Visa is on the word ‘transfer’ of an existing employee. If the employee hasn’t worked previously for your multi-national company then you will need to look at other recruitment options, such as a Tier 2 (General) Visa or if your company works in a specialist field, employing a non-EEA national on a Global Talent Visa. Here is our guide to the Global Talent Visa.

What you need to know about the ICT visa application process

What you need to know about the ICT Visa application process and what your employee needs to do and to prove depends on whether they are a long term staff applicant or a graduate trainee.

What constitutes long term staff?

A long-term staff applicant is defined as an employee who is transferring into a role that requires the employee to have had previous experience working for the company for more than twelve months. The exception to this work experience with the company is if your employee is going to be paid a salary of at least £73,900 gross a year to work in the UK.

The graduate trainee applicant visa route is for graduates who are recent graduates and who have been employed by your overseas company for at least three months. The idea behind the graduate ICT Visa is to enable graduates to transfer into and benefit from graduate trainee programmes for specialist roles.

Although the UK has not yet introduced its new points based immigration system, the ICT Visa is already a points based visa category. To secure an ICT Visa your employee will need to secure sixty points. Business immigration solicitors say that the points aren’t as difficult to achieve as you might imagine. Points are awarded for things like your employee having a Certificate of Sponsorship. The best way to demonstrate the points application is using the table below:

Award of points Points awarded
Your employee has a Certificate of Sponsorship from your multi-national company holding a UK sponsor licence 30
The employee meets the salary threshold 20
The employee meets the maintenance requirement 10
Total 60

The Certificate of Sponsorship isn’t a piece of paper but an electronic document. Although the Certificate of Sponsorship may not look impressive it is necessary for your company to be able to provide one to your employee. For employees to enter the UK on an ICT Visa you will have to successfully apply for a sponsor licence and then comply with the sponsor licence management and recording duties. Failure to do so could result in the suspension or revocation of your sponsor licence. Here is our guide to sponsoring Tier 2 workers.

When it comes to the salary threshold of ICT Visa applicants, the salary requirement will depend on the type of ICT Visa being applied for. The thresholds are summarised below:

Type of Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer Visa Salary threshold Employment requirement
Graduate trainee £23,000 or, alternatively, the appropriate rate for the job offer (whichever is the higher)   Employed by the overseas company for at least three months
Long term staff £41,500 or, alternatively, the appropriate rate for the job offer (whichever is the higher)   Employed by the overseas company for at least twelve months
Long term staff £73,900 or, alternatively, the appropriate rate for the job offer (whichever is the higher) No minimum employment period

In addition to having a Certificate of Sponsorship and meeting the minimum salary threshold a sponsored employee also must have had at least £945 in their bank account for ninety days before they make their ICT Visa application. This money is required to prove that the visa applicant has the funds to financially support themselves. The maintenance requirement is waived for the employee if you hold an A rating sponsor licence and it is confirmed on the Certificate of Sponsorship allocated to the employee.

What documents are needed for an ICT Visa application?

The documents an employee will need for a successful ICT Visa application include:

  • The Certificate of Sponsorship reference.
  • Passport or travel documents.
  • Evidence that the maintenance requirement is met – this can be a bank statement or letter that shows the employee has held the savings for at least ninety days.
  • TB test results if relevant to your employee.
  • Evidence of travel history going back five years from the date of the ICT Visa application. 
  • Proof that the employee has worked for the overseas company for the requisite period. Evidence can consist of historical wage slips and bank statements. 
  • Certified translations of any documents that aren’t in English or Welsh.

The Home Office has produced guidance on Tier 2 visa applications.

How much does a Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer Visa cost?

When you are thinking of moving graduates or senior employees to the UK to work for the UK branch of a multinational company the bottom line is whether it is cost effective to move staff on an ICT Visa or to recruit UK citizens or settled workers.

The costs of securing an ICT Visa depend on the nature of the ICT Visa and are set out below:

Type of ICT Visa Applicable UK Visas and Immigration fee
Graduate trainee £482 unless the trainee is from Turkey or Macedonia. If so, the fee is £427
Dependants of a graduate trainee £482 for each dependent
Long term staff staying up to three years in the UK and applying for the ICT Visa from outside the UK £610 unless the applicant is from Turkey or Macedonia. If so, the fee is £555
Dependants of long term staff staying up to three years £610 for each dependant
Long term staff staying up to three years in the UK and applying to extend or switch in the UK £704 plus biometric information costs
Dependant of long term staff staying up to three years in the UK and applying to extend or switch in the UK £704 for each dependant
Long term staff staying more than three years in the UK and applying for the ICT Visa from outside the UK £1,220 unless the applicant is from Turkey or Macedonia. If so, the fee is £1,165
Dependants of long term staff staying more than three years £1,220 for each dependant
Long term staff staying more than three years in the UK and applying to extend or switch from within the UK £1,408 unless the applicant is from Turkey or Macedonia. If so, the fee is £1,353. The biometric fee is also payable
Dependant of long term staff staying more than three years in the UK and applying to extend or switch from within the UK £1,408 for each dependant

In addition to the above UK Visas and Immigration fees the immigration health surcharge is also payable. The government has produced a calculator to help you calculate the amount of the immigration health surcharge you will incur.

If you are in a hurry to secure an ICT Visa and your employee is applying to extend or switch in the UK, an extra £500 fee can be paid for the priority service to make sure that the ICT Visa application is determined within five working days. If that isn’t quick enough there is a super priority service costing £800 where you will get a decision on the Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer Visa application within one or two working days.

How long can an employee stay in the UK on a Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer Visa?

You will naturally want to know how long you can sponsor a graduate trainee or a member of long-term staff for on a Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer Visa. This will help you determine if it is worthwhile to invest the time and money in transferring an existing employee to work in the UK branch rather than recruiting a UK or settled worker or employing and sponsoring a worker under a Tier 2 (General) visa.

The maximum stay for each type of Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa are set out below:

Type of employee Maximum length of stay
Long-term Staff who earns more than £120,000 a year Nine years
Long-term Staff who earns less than £120,000 a year Five years one month
Graduate trainee Twelve months

An employer can arrange for an employee to come to the UK on an ICT Visa for up to the maximum stay allowed on the visa type or for the maximum period on the Certificate of Sponsorship, whichever is the shorter period.

What can an employee do whilst on an ICT Visa?

The Immigration Rules say that a sponsored employee on an ICT Visa can:

  • Work for your sponsoring company but their job must match the job description in the Certificate of Sponsorship
  • Carry out work in a second job in the same profession and at the same level as the employee’s main job. Your employee can't work in the additional job for  more than twenty hours per week
  • Carry out voluntary work
  • Study provided that the study does not interfere with their employment
  • Travel overseas and return to the UK.

Can an employee on an ICT Visa bring dependants with them to the UK?

An employee who secures an ICT Visa can be accompanied by dependants. A dependant is defined as a:

  • Husband, wife or partner
  • Child under the age of eighteen
  • Child over the age of eighteen if the child is currently living in the UK as a dependent

Can an employee settle in the UK after entering on an ICT Visa?

It is natural to assume that an employee on an ICT Visa will be able to use their time on the visa to meet the residence requirement to be able to go on to settle in the UK. However, unlike the Tier 2 (General) visa, time spent in the UK on an ICT Visa doesn’t count towards the Indefinite Leave to Remain residence requirement, unless the ICT Visa was issued before the 6 April 2010.

Can an employee switch from an ICT Visa to a Tier 2 (General) visa?

If your employee wants to settle in the UK you may be willing to sponsor them on a Tier 2 (General) visa and to agree to them switching to a Tier 2 (General) visa from their ICT Visa. However, the Immigration Rules say that in most scenarios an employee cannot switch from the ICT Visa to the Tier 2 (General) visa.

Furthermore, if your employee tries to switch employer to a UK based employer who is willing to offer a Certificate of Sponsorship under a Tier 2 (General) visa, there is a cooling off period of twelve months before they can apply to switch from an ICT Visa to a Tier 2 (General) visa unless they:

  • Earnt £120,000 or more whilst on the ICT Visa
  • Will earn more than £159,600 or more if they switch to a Tier 2 (General) visa
  • Held a graduate trainee ICT Visa 

How could intra company transfers benefit your business?

Intra company transfers can benefit your business because:

  • Graduate trainee programmes can be arranged in the UK rather than held in a number of countries where the company graduate trainees are based. This can not only reduce company overheads but enhance the graduate trainee experience and help your graduate trainees understand the multinational aspects of your business.
  • If an existing member of staff is transferred to the UK branch of the company then they will bring a wealth of experience from the overseas operation of the  company and, unlike a new recruit on a Tier 2 (General) visa , they will already be familiar with the company and its mode of operation.
  • The transfer of an existing employee to the UK on an ICT Visa can take place very quickly, especially if your company uses the super-premium service. If you adopt similar work practices across the multi-national company your employee can quickly adapt to working in the UK branch of the company.
  • With the end of free movement and the introduction of the new UK points-based immigration system, UK employers may find it hard to recruit suitable UK or settled workers after January 2021. Therefore, the ICT Visa route is an option that should be considered by multi-national companies.

What next?

If you are an employer and you need advice about Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer Visas or you need information on applying for a sponsor licence our business immigration law solicitors can help. Call us on 0800 689 1700, email us at enquiries@hjsolicitors.co.uk or fill out the short form below.

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