Contractors' Questions: Can I be an IT temp via my old Tier 2 Visa?

Contractor’s Question: I moved from New York to London this year to join my English girlfriend who is a British citizen. I'm here on a Tier 2 Visa (skilled worker) but the company sponsoring my Visa is no longer able to employ me. I'm searching for a new job in London but want to earn money in the short term.

Am I able to freelance on a temporary or contract basis here in the UK? Would I need to at least be a sole trader first? Or can I just start temping in IT straight away, given that I’m still in the country thanks to my Tier 2 Visa which was issued correctly?

Expert’s Answer: No, you are not able to freelance or work on a contract basis. Secondly the fact that your employer is no longer able to employ you means that your Tier 2 visa will be cancelled and no longer valid. Your Tier 2 visa relates to the job you were sponsored to do; if you are no longer required for this job then your visa will be curtailed by the Home Office. As a sponsor licence holder, your sponsor has a duty to report to the Home Office that they no longer wish to employ you. The Home Office should then send you a letter providing you with 60 days to either switch your visa into another visa category or leave the UK.

So what are your options? You will have limited time (60 days) in which to either find another job and another sponsor or switch into another category. As I stated above your current Tier 2 visa only relates to your existing sponsor. Even if you do find another job and the company have a Tier 2 licence and follow the steps in order to employ you, you will need to apply for a new Tier 2 General visa.

If you want to set yourself up as a sole trader you can switch into the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category. However, you must be able to show that you have £200,000 to invest into a UK business. This money can come from a third party.

Another option is that you make an application based on your relationship with a British national. If you are not married, as seems the case here, you must be able to show that you are in a genuine and subsisting relationship akin to marriage and have been living together for at least 2 years. This visa will allow you to work without the requirement of a sponsor.

As a general note, Tier 2 General visa holders are only able to work in a second job if their main place of work is their Tier 2 sponsor and the second job is in the same sector and at the same level as their main job for up to 20 hours per week. This does not include freelance work or working on a contract basis.

The expert was Sana Hussain, a solicitor at Redfern Legal LLP.

Tuesday 2nd February 2016