The UK Skilled Worker Visa replaced the Tier 2 General visa and opened to individuals of all nationalities who have an offer of an eligible skilled job in the UK from a Home Office-approved sponsor from 1 January 2021. The route can lead to settlement and applicants can be joined by dependent partners and children.
In order to secure a UK Skilled Worker Visa they will need to be sponsored to do a specific job, which meets certain skill and salary requirements, by an employer that has been licensed by the Home Office.
Skilled Worker visa: Main requirements
They are aged 18 years or over;
They have a job offer and a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from an organisation based in the UK that holds a sponsor licence;
The role represents a genuine vacancy;
They possess the suitable skills and experience for the role;
The role is at the relevant skill level (RQF level 3 or above) and they will be paid an appropriate salary for the role that is equal or exceeds both a general salary threshold and the ‘going rate’ for the occupation;
The sponsor has paid any required Immigration Skills Charge;
They meet the required level of English language (currently B1 of the CEFR);
They have sufficient funds to maintain themselves (if maintenance is not certified by the sponsor);
They have a TB certificate, if required;
They have a criminal record certificate, if required; and
They do not fall for refusal under the general grounds for refusal.
Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)
In order to obtain a UK Skilled Worker Visa you must have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), for a specific job in the UK. Your CoS will need to have been issued by an employer that is authorised by the Home Office to sponsor the job under the UK Skilled Worker route.
Your sponsor must have A-rated status and listed on the Home Office’s register of licensed sponsors.
Your CoS must have been issued not more than 3 months before the date of your UK Skilled Worker application.
Your Certificate of Sponsorship must include certain mandatory information, including:
Their name, job and salary;
Start date which is no more than 3 months after the date your Skilled Worker visa application;
Confirmation that the CoS has not been used in a previous application which was either granted or refused and has not been withdrawn by the sponsor or cancelled by the Home Office;
Genuine Vacancy Requirement
You will need to satisfy the Home Office that you are being sponsored to undertake a genuine vacancy and are capable of undertaking the role for which your Certificate of Sponsorship has been assigned.
If there are reasonable grounds to believe that the job does not exist, is a sham or has been created then your application will be refused.
Immigration Skills Charge Requirement
Your sponsor must also have paid Immigration Skills Charge.
The Immigration Skills Charge is a charge for each foreign worker that a sponsoring employer seeks to employ. The Immigration Skills Charge must be paid each time a sponsoring employer assigns a Certificate of Sponsorship to a migrant.
Appropriate Skill Level Requirement
In order to qualify for a UK Skilled Worker Visa, the job must be at or above a minimum skill level and skilled at least RQF level 3, which is roughly equivalent to A-level standard. Which means the skill level of the job that you will be doing will determine whether the threshold is met.
The Home Office sets out eligible jobs, along with their skills levels, in an Appendix to the Immigration Rules. Each eligible job has an occupation code. You must be sponsored for a job in an eligible occupation code listed in the Appendix.
The Home Office will assess whether your sponsor has chosen the most appropriate occupation code, they will consider factors such as a genuine need for the job described, the appropriate skills, qualifications and experience needed to do the job and the sponsor’s history of compliance with the Sponsor Management System (SMS).
English Language Requirement
You will need to demonstrate English language ability on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in all 4 components (reading, writing, speaking and listening) to at least level B1 (intermediate).
Prospective employees applying for entry clearance or leave to remain as a UK Skilled Worker will satisfy the English language requirement if they:
Are a national of a majority English-speaking country;
Have passed a Secure English Language Test;
Have been awarded a degree taught in English;
Obtained a GCSE/A Level or Scottish Highers in English while at school in the UK; or
Have already shown they met the requirement, of level B1, in a previous successful application for entry clearance or permission to stay.
Salary Threshold Requirement
Employers recruiting under the UK Skilled Worker route must pay their skilled workers a salary which equals or exceeds both a general salary threshold and the ‘going rate’ for the occupation (as set out in the relevant occupation code mentioned above), whichever is higher.
The general salary threshold under the Skilled Worker route is £25,600 a year. A UK Skilled Worker Visa employee must be paid a salary which equals or exceeds £25,600 a year and 100% of the going rate for the occupation, whichever is higher. The assessment of salary is based on guaranteed basic gross pay.
Some workers applying under the UK Skilled Worker route may be paid less than the above amount, where they are awarded additional ‘tradable points’ for other attributes:
An applicant with a PhD qualification which is relevant to the job may be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both £23,040 per year and 90% of the going rate for the occupation;
An applicant with a PhD qualification in a STEM subject which is relevant to the job may be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both £20,480 per year and 80% of the going rate for the occupation;
An applicant with a job offer for a job in a shortage occupation may be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both £20,480 per year and 80% of the going rate for the occupation;
An applicant who is a new entrant to the labour market may be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both £20,480 per year and 70% of the going rate for the occupation;
An application for a job in a listed health or education occupation may be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both £20,480 per year and 80% of the going rate for the occupation.
The Home Office maintains a list of skilled roles where employers find it difficult to secure adequate numbers of workers with the required skills to fill their vacancies. If you have a job offer for a job on the shortage occupation list, the salary threshold requirement will be reduced.
New entrants to the labour market include employees under the age of 26 at the date of application (or switching from a Student Visa) and applying for a maximum of three years leave, those sponsored in postdoctoral research positions and those working towards professional qualifications, registration or chartered status. If you qualify as a new entrant to the labour market then the salary threshold requirement will be reduced.
You will be required to have cash funds of at least £1,270 available.
The funds will need to have been held for at least 28 consecutive days ending not more than 31 days before the date of your UK Skilled Worker Visa application.
You will be exempt from the financial requirement if you are sponsored by an ‘A-rated’ sponsor who is willing to meet your maintenance costs up to the end of the first month of your employment, to an amount of at least £1,270, if necessary. Your sponsor will need to confirm this on your Certificate of Sponsorship.
If you are applying for permission to stay and have been in the UK with permission for 12 months or more at the date of application, you will meet the financial requirement and will not need to show funds.
Criminal Record Certificate
If you are being sponsored for certain jobs such as jobs in the health, care, welfare and education sectors then you will need to provide a criminal record certificate for any country in which, since the age of 18, you have been present for 12 months or more (whether continuously or in total) in the 10 years before the date of your application.
Resident Labour Market Test
There is no requirement for employers under this route to undertake a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT). However, sponsors must still be seeking to fill a genuine vacancy.
Switching into the UK Skilled Worker Visa Route
If you currently have leave to remain in another immigration category, you may extend your stay by switching into the UK Skilled Worker route unless you have, or were last granted, permission as a Visitor, Short-term student, Parent of a Child Student, Seasonal Worker, Domestic Worker in a Private Household or outside the Immigration Rules.
Cooling off period
There is no restriction on when applications to enter the UK Skilled Worker Visa route can be made.
Duration of a UK Skilled Worker Visa
If your application for a UK Skilled Worker Visa is approved you will be granted entry clearance or permission to stay for a period ending 14 days after the end date of your Certificate of Sponsorship (which may be up to a maximum of 5 years after the start date of your Certificate of Sponsorship).
Under this category there is no restriction on the length of stay in the UK.
Settlement as a UK Skilled Worker
In order to qualify for Settlement as a UK Skilled Worker, will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that:
You have spent a continuous period of 5 years in the UK;
The 5-year continuous period consisted of time with permission on any of, or any combination of, the following routes: Skilled Worker, Global talent, Innovator, Tier 2 Minister of Religion, Tier 2 Sportsperson, Representative of an Overseas Business or as a Tier 1 Migrant (other than as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Migrant);
You have not been outside for more than 180 days during each year of the 5-year continuous period;
You have passed the Life in the UK test (unless aged 65 or over);
Your sponsor is still holding a Sponsor Licence (SPL);
Your sponsor still requires you to work for them for the foreseeable future;
You are receiving a salary or the going rate requirement according to the occupation code, whichever is higher.
ILR Salary Threshold
The following applicants need only demonstrate that they receive a salary of at least £20,480 per year or the ‘going rate’ for the occupation, whichever is higher:
If you were sponsored in your most recent application for a job in a shortage occupation or a specified health or education occupation code; or
If your 5-year qualifying period for settlement includes time as a Tier 2 (General) Migrant during which you were sponsored for a job in one of the following occupation codes: • 2111 Chemical scientists • 2112 Biological scientists and biochemists • 2113 Physical scientists • 2114 Social and humanities scientists • 2119 Natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified • 2150 Research and development managers • 2311 Higher education teaching professionals.
Other salary reductions permitted through tradable points do not apply to settlement applications.