In the thymus, strongly self-reactive T cells may undergo apoptotic deletion or differentiate into Foxp3+ T-regulatory (T-reg) cells. Mechanisms that partition T cells into these two fates are unclear. Here, we show that IL-2 signalling is required to prevent deletion of CD4+ CD8– CCR7+ Helios+ thymocytes poised to upregulate Foxp3. The deletion prevented by IL-2 signalling is Foxp3 independent and occurs later in thymocyte development than the deletion that is prevented by Card11 signalling. Our results distinguish two bottlenecks at which strongly self-reactive thymocytes undergo deletion or progress to the next stage of T-reg differentiation; Card11 regulates the first bottleneck and IL-2 regulates the second.